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Michael Mandelbaum, Democracy's Good Name: The Rise and Risks of the World's Most Popular Form of Governement

Michael Mandelbaum, Democracy's Good Name: The Rise and Risks of the World's Most Popular Form of Governement, Public Affairs, New York 2007

In the history of the world, democracy as we know it has not been around that long and, as with all systems of governance, has some failings. Still among all the imperfect systems, democracy serves best - delivering security, peace and prosperity to the societies that truly embrace its most essential principles.

 

 

To his credit, Mandelbaum notes that democracy spreads by the power of example. He calls it a "brand," a choice that cannot be forced on people who lack the settings or features that nurture its growth. He warns about power concentrated within family and people giving up rights to achieve an illusive sense of security.

 

 

 

Mandelbaum deftly analyzes the necessary conditions for genuine democracy to thrive: property rights, legal systems that provide fair and equal treatment, a free-market economy, a lively press and citizens who seek out information. Democracy requires trust and cooperation, even among those who disagree.

 

 

A democratic system must combine popular sovereignty and individual liberty, two political traditions once deemed incompatible. Mandelbaum warns that popular sovereignty alone - the mere "tyranny of the majority" described by John Stuart Mill - can lead to oppression, fascist leaders like Hitler and war. Combined, the two traditions contribute to democracy's good name, promoting peace, stability, innovation and economic opportunity.

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