Freedom for Sale: Why the World Is Trading Democracy for Security

Overview

Democratic liberalism v. authoritarianism ? the ideological divide that defined the twentieth century. But when the cold war ended, ?the end of history? was proclaimed. Soon the fire of freedom would burn worldwide, the experts said. And where markets were freed, human rights would inevitably follow.

Or not. In the last twenty years, nations including India, Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates have disproved the idea that capitalism and democracy are inextricably linked. ...

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Freedom for Sale: Why the World Is Trading Democracy for Security

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Overview

Democratic liberalism v. authoritarianism – the ideological divide that defined the twentieth century. But when the cold war ended, “the end of history” was proclaimed. Soon the fire of freedom would burn worldwide, the experts said. And where markets were freed, human rights would inevitably follow.

Or not. In the last twenty years, nations including India, Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates have disproved the idea that capitalism and democracy are inextricably linked. Emerging middle classes have proven themselves all too willing to sacrifice certain democratic rights – including free speech, an open media, and free elections – in exchange for prosperity. But they are not alone. We are all doing it. Alarmingly, Western democracy has adopted some of the attributes of that authoritarianism.

Combining boots on the ground reporting with incisive analysis, award-winning journalist John Kampfner describes this alarming trend – one which has only been exacerbated by the global economic meltdown – and what citizens must do to counter it.

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  • Freedom For Sale
    Freedom For Sale  

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Sunday Times (UK)
“Marx was wrong, according to John Kampfner. It is not religion that is the opium of the people, but capitalism. Give them good shopping opportunities and they will forget about liberty, equality and fraternity, and cease to care about who governs them and how…. Kampfner’s book is original, persuasive and ­disquieting, and fills a gap in our understanding of the post-Cold-War world.”

The Guardian (UK)
“A pungent thesis, argued with verve and an abundance of telling detail…. The fundamental questions of Freedom for Sale [are] often posed with a clarity that makes you wince.”

Publishers Weekly
“Crisply written and smartly argued, this global tour of civil liberties in decline from India to Italy is an unnerving, urgent, and very persuasive wake-up call.”

Roll Call
“[A] bold new analysis…. Kampfner dissects the geopolitical and social economic dynamics of Italy and seven other countries…to reveal the compromises a citizenry would endure for security and consumer independence…. [T]horoughly researched and intriguing.”

The National Interest
“[Kampfner] is a successful print and television journalist who can write sharply as well as vividly…. Freedom for Sale is an easy and enjoyable read.”

Providence Journal-Bulletin
“Freedom for Sale elaborates an intriguing thesis through a global survey of governments and societies.”

Steven Levingston
The assumption among free-market proponents over the past 20 years has been that the globalization of wealth would inspire a growing middle class to lead a march toward ubiquitous democracy. Kampfner takes the reader around the world with him on an engaging first-person journey packed with interviews of locals and finds such optimism sorely misplaced. "It sounds good in theory," he writes, "but it has not worked out that way."
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Democratic values are on the retreat across the globe, according to Kampfner (Blair’s Wars), former editor of the New Statesman. Kampfner attends to established democracies (England, the U.S.) and to nations with no democratic tradition (China, the United Arab Emirates), in each case asserting that the citizenry has entered into an unspoken “pact” with the government, giving up certain rights and liberties in exchange for greater prosperity or the perception of better security. The forms and severity of the restrictions change from place to place: in Singapore, critics of the government are slapped with bogus but costly defamation lawsuits, a relatively benign method compared to the assassinations that have become common in Russia. While generally measured in tone, Kampfner has harsh words for his fellow Britons, who he describes as all too “ready to acquiesce” as the country has become a “surveillance state,” home to 20% of the world’s closed-circuit security cameras. Crisply written and smartly argued, this global tour of civil liberties in decline from India to Italy is an unnerving, urgent, and very persuasive wake-up call. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
A British journalist examines our disposition to surrender freedoms in return for security and prosperity. When the Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago and the Soviet Union imploded shortly thereafter, the future seemed bright for liberal democracies. After a year spent interviewing politicos, journalists, intellectuals and regular folks in eight countries, former New Statesman editor Kampfner (Blair's Wars, 2004, etc.) submits an alarming report about the limits of our fealty to liberty and about how democratic involvement has not necessarily accompanied the creation of globalized wealth. The past two decades have witnessed the rise of authoritarian capitalism in nations like Singapore, where civil liberties are nonexistent and the populace, soothed by material comforts, refuses to rock the boat. In China the Communist Party uses opinion polls and focus groups to gauge the public mood and shudders to submit their economic miracle and the stability of their state to the vote of 800-million illiterate peasants. Russia's regime has delivered just enough political stability and economic growth to appease a public resigned to the skimming of oil wealth by the "gold-digging elite" and the criminal underworld. The United Arab Emirates, busy building pleasure domes for tourists, cuts deals with Western governments and academic institutions that turn a blind eye to the ruling families' repression of their subjects. In India the forms of democracy are observed, but globalization's abundance has yet to trickle down to the vast majority of citizens. Most alarming, perhaps, is the author's report from Britain and America, where in the wake of 9/11 citizens have permitted a diminution of civil liberties inexchange for promises of security. Will the worldwide economic downturn force any reconsideration of what's been sacrificed during the drive for prosperity and swapped for illusions of safety? Not if-as Kampfner chillingly demonstrates-even in so-called free societies, our impulse to willingly obey appears to exceed our professed devotion to liberty. Sophisticated reporting full of unsettling revelations. Agent: Emma Sweeney/Emma Sweeney Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465015399
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 1/26/2010
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

As Editor of the New Statesman magazine from 2005-2008, John Kampfner won a number of awards, including Current Affairs Magazine Editor of the Year. He is the author of Blair’s Wars, selected as a book of the year in 2003 by the Times, Sunday Times and Observer. For nearly a decade Kampfner was correspondent for Reuters and the Daily Telegraph in Moscow and Berlin, before becoming political correspondent and commentator for the Financial Times and the BBC. He lives in London.

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