The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad Over the summer I choose to read The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria, published by W. W. Norton& Company Inc. New York, New York © 2007. This is a unique and intricately assembled collection of 270 pages of opinions, facts, and theories depicting the authors view on what else, democracy in its past present and future state at home and abroad. Democracy is a word with a million meanings: free and equal representation of the people; political and social equality; and a tool or system for trade and economy.
Zakaria starts by briefly explaining how democracy has come about, and its origination in the west, and how geographical features such as location (for example the move of the capital to Constantinople), along with its long history and ever changing politics have led to be the building blocks of what we see democracy as today. Liberal institutions and culture were just as important to the growth of freedom in the West as democracy. I also took note that the democracy in terms of what I see and have been taught to view as, is that with democracy comes happiness and equality, each person is important and has a say in our government.
Although this book has really opened my eyes in the sense it showed me that democracy wasn’t and isn’t always the right tool to use when trying to fix or setup a government and its policies and is certainly not the ticket to freedom. Civil society was a key element in the stability and development of freedom and democracy; also that economic freedom and political freedom are intertwined. Each government and country was formed differently, not one I don’t think has the exact same history, politics, culture, or philosophy.
Sometimes the idealistic features tacked onto democracy don’t always flow correctly in sync with human growth, nature, and cultures. “Geography and history combined to help shape Europe’s political structure” wrote Zakaria, but also “The lands most like England were its colonies in America” meaning a crucial highlight in this book is that geography and history, markedly in the United States as well, combined to help shape political structures not just in Europe, but all around the world.
Another point I found important was that from depicting moments from the past’s revolutions, he says “The people were supreme…liberty now depended on the whims of the citizens, represented of course by the leaders of the revolution. ” The way I interpreted and applied this is that as a democratic nation, we as citizens have representatives who should be the leaders in a spreading, not just democracy, but freedom.
On the topic of the United States position in all of this, well for most of the nineteenth century we were the envy of the world, in scholars terms our democracies were formed through an ideal type, with of course a few bumps, but less and in a more timely fashion than others. Then on the other hand you see countries like China where they have an autocratic ruler who has liberalized their economy, but not their society. He explains, usually with the liberalization of the economy, comes forced liberalization in the society.
When countries rush into democracy thinking it will be a solution to their problems, they are quickly distressed when they find that often when a countries economic growth and stability aren’t secure; its young democracy fails or spirals out of control. Throughout the book he often refers to example of freedom in economic systems in the west strengthened political freedom. Another important highlight in the book is the question he is trying to address specifically with America; what are the problems with America’s democracy, if it is even a true democracy?
Fareed’s opinions, supporting facts and analysis have led to conclusions that the problem with American democracy is that there is not enough authority. This poses the question does more democracy equal better government? Out of the book comes the statement “First a government must be able to create order with the governed, then it must be able to control itself”, in my view after putting parts of this book together is that America has is democracy on the right track, but we need authority to focus the democracy on certain areas.
The author tackled a wide, complex, and intricate spectrum of political theories and views in the book, and in general gave me personally a different view on the world, different cultures, freedom, democracy, and human nature. With so many different objectives and themes, arise universal lessons. Take this quote for example: “To keep the realm needs many soldiers, horse and foot; to keep these soldiers needs much money . To get this money, the people must be rich; for the people to be rich, and the law must be just.
If one of these is left undone, all four are undone; if these four are undone, kingship unravels. ”-Yusuf. When you put this in any circumstance, for anything to better humanity, each step of system in itself must be fair and just, or at least accurately feasible. “If there is any hope for the future of the country it must fulfill three conditions to become a functioning liberal democracy it must avoid major ethnic, religious or economic strife, form trustworthy structured foundation, and abide by the rule of law”.
If a person, family, or group of any people followed these same conditions, avoiding economic or religious strife, build it on trust and structure, and make everyone accountable in the eyes of the law and they will have a basic outline for success. Although this book had a very interesting and has a great insight with a fresh perspective, I personally disliked this book, not because of its content, but its long complex formatting. I’m not going to lie, it was a challenge I have never faced before, the ideas and points were hidden among tons of information that had my brain whirling causing me to re read and left me making inferences .
Along the lines of inferences I find the thing that was missing is even though Fareed finds the unseen problems through his unique lens on politics and culture, he doesn’t really have good supportive solutions to these problems. In my opinion he looks negatively on the possibilities of solutions, kind of like its hopeless cause, but I know behind some corner in the future, we will find a solution. Lastly I would like to conclude my paper with its prime purpose, in connection to AP Human Geography as a Class, by tying in the 5 themes of geography. A region is an area that is defined by certain similar characteristics.
Those unifying or similar characteristics can be physical, natural, human, or cultural. In this book region plays a key role in his explanations for why things like economies, political setup, and so on, are the way they are. These things caused by almost destined physical, natural, human, or culturally. Movement refers to the way people, products, information and ideas move from one place to another. Another key idea I picked out of this book’s big picture is that the way information and ideas travel throughout society has a great impact on how they are read and perceived.
Finally, place; it describes the human and physical characteristics of a location. Once again when he uses his great comparisons and explanations he describes in depth the unique qualities found in land use, architecture, forms of livelihood, religion, food and ways to transportation as well as communication networks. In conclusion this is a fascinating, difficult to analyze at times, complex book, with its biggest intrigue being its highly unique examination of economies, cultures, freedom, theories, political sciences and the prospect of all that is democracy.