Guus Bosman

software engineering director

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The Future of Freedom

When I visited Washington, DC for the first time many years ago, I was impressed by the many books and magazines about politics and current affairs in Barnes and Noble. There is a lively and very public debate in the US on public affairs, and books play an important role in it. Coming from the Netherlands, where there is less of such a culture (if only because the book market is significantly smaller than in the US), this was impressive.

One of the first nights that we were in DC after moving from North Carolina we went to the bookstore to pick up something to read. The Future of Freedom grabbed my attention, and it turned out to be a good choice. The book discusses a tension between democracy and liberty. Zakaria makes that case that too much democracy is not a good thing, and using examples in the Middle East, developing countries and in the United States he argues essentially for less (direct) democracy.

The main value of his book is that he brings the old discussion that the Founding Fathers of the US had up-to-date with very modern examples. Of course, the book was written in 2003 and is a little dated, certainly with the new developments in the Middle East over the past year, but this does not diminish its value. Zakaria argues that the increasing tendency to democratize everything in society makes the political system less effective and, with the goodness that democracy and openness brings, it also destroys valuable old institutions that are not easily replaced.

In the last chapter he elaborates on his proposed solution against too much democracy: delegating powers to committees. They are overseen by the elected bodies, but only on a high level (up or down vote), not on every nitty-gritty detail. This would give more power to those pesky "unelected bureaucrats", but Zakaria argues that this is not a bad thing, as governing requires specialized knowledge.

I'm not sure if I follow him totally into his conclusion, but the book is interesting, thought-provoking and very well written.

Fareed Zakaria

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