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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 207

The Future of Freedom by Fareed Zakaria is a book that looks back at history to examine the changes democracy has gone through and its impact on politics and socio-economic relations in the present world. Zakaria points out the differences between liberty and democracy using examples from different countries, such as the United States, France, and Germany. He asserts that in the West, people do not know the distinction between liberalism and democracy.

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Throughout the book, Zakaria tries to enlighten the reader to the idea that the achievement of peace and economic prosperity is not entirely dependent on democracy. He states that for democracy to be present, individual liberty and economic prosperity must be achieved. Economic success for all means that power will be equally distributed among the people.

Zakaria further notes the importance of distributing economic power in the following quote:

Over the last half-century, economic growth has enriched hundreds of millions in the industrial world, turning consumption, saving, and investing into a mass problem. (14)

The author claims that economic growth has become a mass problem for the few that used to have this power. He holds the view that once people have equal opportunities to improve their quality of life, real democracy will be achieved.


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1805

The idea that democracy and freedom are not the same thing is a fairly old one. The French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville, author of the 1835 book Democracy in America, was interested in the question of why American democracy had not led to dictatorship, as it had in his native country. Part of Tocqueville’s conclusion was that effective democracy must rest on an existing social and legal system that is consistent with popular rule and that prevents majorities from becoming tyrannical. Fareed Zakaria restates this line of reasoning in modern terms, and he extends it by arguing that even in relatively successful democratic nations such as the United States, there can be too much democracy.

Zakaria identifies the current period in history as a democratic age. He points out that more nations than ever before create governments by popular vote and that the support of the people has become the only basis of political legitimacy in much of the world. The age is also democratic because the broad masses of people have more cultural and economic power than in previous times, as well as more political power. The word “democracy” has acquired the connotation of something that is always good and always desirable and that will always tend to produce free and just societies. News media suggest, for example, that the problems of former communist societies or of authoritarian nations can be cured if only sufficient democratization can be achieved.

As Zakaria sees it, however, democracy is not the universal solution. He is not opposed to popular rule, but he does see difficulties with the direct rule of the people. Democracy, he argues, only maintains individual liberty and works properly when it works within a regulated system of elected representatives with limited, legally defined powers. Further, protections of individual liberty must generally be created first, in order to establish a workable liberal democracy.

He begins to support his argument with a quick and rather breathless look at the history of human liberty. He argues that liberty in the Western world does not spring from Greek democracy but from the split between the eastern and western parts of the Roman Empire, which eventually freed the Roman popes from imperial control and made the popes competitors with the secular rulers of Europe. Liberty, then, began in the space created by the struggle between church...

(The entire section contains 2012 words.)

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