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Giving Up on Democracy

hawksley100509.jpgThis comes from a book review published in the Financial Times of Humphrey Hawksley’s latest, Democracy Kills: What’s So Good About Having the Vote?  Funny how we always see Russia as the case study most often cited as why developing nations should give up on democracy, transparency, and reform – or so goes the conservative thinking.

The springtime of democracy in the last quarter of the 20th century will be noted by historians as a moment of hope and advance without precedent in world history. Democracy is difficult, messy, uneven and contradictory. But it’s also about hope, and the liberation of the human spirit to write, speak and organise economic and social relations as intelligently as possible.

It was too good to last, of course. The doomsayers of democracy are now gaining ground. Among them is Humphrey Hawksley, a model of liberal BBC journalism. He has reported from all over the world. He has poured his worries and fears about global affairs into a series of fine thrillers. Now he moves from fiction to fact.

His book has a dramatic title, Democracy Kills. But its contents do not ultimately make that case. His thesis plays into the growing conservative realpolitik pessimism that wants to turn its back on the intractable areas of the world where the act of casting a vote does not usher in peace, prosperity and progress – parts of Africa, Afghanistan, the Middle East or, increasingly, Russia.