The Future of Freedom | Fareed Zakaria

Summary of: The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad
By: Fareed Zakaria


Embark on a journey exploring the rise of democracy and its implications on liberty as you delve into ‘The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad’ by Fareed Zakaria. Discover the key factors driving democratization, such as technology, wealth, and the decline of communism, and learn how this power shift influences global relations, smuggling, and terrorism. Analyze the differences between democracy and liberty and the importance of constitutional liberalism for securing individual rights. Take a closer look at the challenges faced by countries such as Russia, China, and those in the Middle East, as they struggle to balance democracy, liberty, and economic development.

The Rise and Challenge of Democratization

Democratization, the powerful political trend of the last century, has spread globally, driven by technology, wealth, and the expanding middle class. However, democratization and liberty are not the same, and the spread of democracy has reduced the power of governments in favor of corporations, NGOs, and capital markets. This power shift has contributed to growing struggles with centralized state power, including smuggling and terrorism. Despite its challenges, democratization is here to stay, and its power continues to be fueled by technology and cultural shifts that decentralize control and grant greater power to the individual.

The Roots of Liberty

The rise of the Christian Church in Rome after 324 A.D. marked the beginning of the origin of liberty. The church gained public control, challenged and influenced the state, and was exempt from taxes. The Magna Carta outlined boundaries between royalty, aristocracy, the church, and towns. The advent of trade fairs and capitalism created a middle class in England and led to the growth of wealth and power. In America, the basics of consumerism, entrepreneurship, and liberal democracy were already in place. The link between liberty and democracy was often broken in nineteenth century Europe.

Link between Wealth and Democracy

Weak economic development is the biggest threat to global liberty, as per capita income of a country contributes to liberal democracy. Social scientist Seymour Martin Lipset proves that the mortality of democracy is directly linked with the riches of a country. A rich country brings a power base of middle class and business community that is not subject to political or state sponsorship hence providing a reliance on formalized laws and being more responsive to society’s needs. Countries with poor economic growth endanger liberties. Countries like Romania, Croatia, Turkey, Iran, and others with higher per capita incomes can develop democracies. Economic liberalization is one such concept, which is being tested on a grand scale in China. Although the Communist Party still controls political power, China has opened its economy to capitalism, resulting in per capita income rising from $1,394 in 1980 to $3,976 in 2000, lifting some 170 million people out of poverty.

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