Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

"Democratic Providentialism"

Michael Ignatieff has an interesting piece on "Democratic Providentialism" in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.

While he begins and ends with a not-very-compelling discussion of the President’s belief that freedom is God’s gift to humanity, the meaty middle is worth the price of admission.

Here’s a sample:

But while you may not like the providential aspect of democratic providentialism, it remains true that the promotion of democracy by the United States has proved to be a dependably good idea. America may be more unpopular than ever before, but its hegemony really has coincided with a democratic revolution around the world. For the first time in history, a majority of the world’s peoples live in democracies. In a dangerous time, this is about the best news around, since democracies, by and large, do not fight one another, and they do not break up into civil war. As a result -- and contrary to the general view that the world is getting more violent -- ethnic and civil strife have actually been declining since the early 1990’s, according to a study of violent conflicts by Ted Robert Gurr at the University of Maryland. Democratic transitions can be violent -- when democracy came to Yugoslavia, majority rule at first led to ethnic cleansing and massacre -- but once democracies settle in, once they develop independent courts and real checks and balances, they can begin to advance majority interests without sacrificing minority rights.

Much of what he has to say comes from a new book, The Democracy Advantage, by Morton Halperin and others. Despite its provenance in the Clinton Administration, it looks like it’s worth putting on your Christmas wish list.

Oh, to curl up next to a roaring fire and read!

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