The Future of Freedom by Fareed Zakaria is a political classic that focuses on numerous global issues that obstruct the growth of liberal democracy. The book analyzes the variables that allow a liberal democracy to flourish and the pros and cons of the global focus on democracy as the building block of a more stable society rather than liberty. Zakaria coined the term “illiberal democracy” to describe countries that are potentially democratically backsliding.
Zakaria argues that the power behind the forcefulness of democratization can be traced to technology, wealth, the expanding middle class, the elimination of communism, and the rise of globalization. He also warns that an election may not result in liberal democracy but could easily result in theocracy or a ruling cabal defined largely by ethnicity.
The book offers insight into what has happened to democracy at home since September 11 and informs the debate about the future of democracy in regions in which the Bush administration is intent on bringing about “regime change.” Zakaria suggests that the focus should be on establishing constitutional liberalism rather than pushing for quick elections.
Useful takeaways from the book include:
- The importance of understanding the difference between democracy and liberty
- The potential dangers of illiberal democracy and the need to protect individual liberties
- The role of technology, wealth, and globalization in the forcefulness of democratization
- The need to establish constitutional liberalism rather than pushing for quick elections in regions undergoing regime change.
What I Liked
I read this book in college – I really liked it then and, in 2023, fully appreciate how smart and right on it was. It’s still relevant today (even for the United States itself unfortunately).
What I Did Not Like
Nothing – brilliant book.