Summary of Democracy's Good Name

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Michael Mandelbaum looks at the complex political concepts and historical forces that shaped the rise of modern democratic nations. He explicates the origins of modern democracy and how it is changing in today’s globally interconnected world, and explains the relationships between historical and current events. Although you may not agree with some of his assumptions – about the interdependence of free markets and democracy, for example – his book is thought-provoking and illuminating. getAbstract recommends it to managers and executives whose responsibilities cross borders, and to history buffs and others who wish to understand current political developments.

About the Author

Michael Mandelbaum is the Christian A. Herter Professor of American Foreign Policy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. He is the author of 10 books, including The Ideas That Conquered the World and The Case for Goliath.

 

Summary

Individual Rights versus Popular Sovereignty

Between 1975 and 2000, 30 nations adopted democratic forms of government. By 2005, 119 countries around the world counted themselves as democracies, making democracy the most practiced form of government in the world. The growth of this form of government, prompted by visionary world leaders, is the “most important political development in a century.” Modern democracy’s founders were heads of state as various as George Washington, Winston Churchill, Mikhail Gorbachev and Jawaharlal Nehru.

Most countries strive to become democratic – but not all achieve that goal. Adolph Hitler rose to power in a democratic political system. More recently, the U.S. has tried, with only limited success, to promote democratic practices in Somalia, Haiti, Iraq and the Balkans.

The reason only some countries succeed in instituting democracy is that citizens in democracies must possess two types of political power: individual liberty, including the right to own private property, and “popular sovereignty,” or rule by the people rather than by a king or dictator. At one time, advocates of individual liberty feared that popular sovereignty, ...


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