At the dawn of the twenty-first century, three ideas dominate the world: peace as the preferred basis for relations between and among different countries, democracy as the optimal way to organize political life, and free markets as the indispensable vehicle for the creation of wealth. While not practiced everywhere, these ideas have--for the first time in history--no serious rivals. And although the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, were terrible and traumatic, they did not "change everything," as so many commentators have asserted. Instead, these events served to illuminate even more brightly the world that emerged from the end of the Cold War.
In The Ideas That Conquered the World, Michael Mandelbaum describes the uneven spread (over the past two centuries) of peace, democracy, and free markets from the wealthy and powerful countries of the world's core, where they originated, to the weaker and poorer countries of its periphery. And he assesses the prospects for these ideas in the years to come, giving particular attention to the United States, which bears the greatest responsibility for protecting and promoting them, and to Russia, China, and the Middle East, in which they are not well established and where their fate will affect the rest of the world.
Drawing on history, politics, and economics, this incisive book provides a clear and original guide to the main trends of the twenty-first century, from globalization to terrorism, through the perspective of one of our era's most provocative thinkers.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Michael Mandelbaum clearly explains that the liberal theory of history is made up of two tenets: 1. Free markets, through their workings such as constitutionalism, civil society, the rule of law, property-protecting and contract-enforcing state, entrepreneurship, competition and mass consumption, tend to promote democracy and enrich most of their economic agents over time (pg. 11, 234-237, 257, 268-274, 289-295, 313-318, 394). A responsible social safety net, however, is key to stability of free markets (pg. 299-304, 340-341, 402). 2. Democracies are inclined to conduct peaceful foreign policies (pg. 11, 237). Popular sovereignty, constitutionalism, civil society and political habit of compromise are key drivers of peace and minority protection (pg. 249-250, 259, 269). Furthermore, defense dominance and weapon system transparency are built on the recognition that the problem of collective security can only be solved through systemic cooperation nurtured over time (pg. 113-114, 129- 131, 231). The common denominator of free markets, democracy and peace is their focus on the individual (pg. 31). Illiberalism such as Communism and Fascism stresses the strength of the state through group cohesion and solidarity rather than the welfare of individuals (pg. 254, 336). Before WWI, this set of liberal ideas was not firmly established in the British Empire and the U.S. from which it came. Britain was the most fervent advocate of free trade but was clearly ambivalent about self-government beyond its White Dominions and dismissal of any limit to power projection. The U.S. was protectionist rather than a convert to free trade, was an impire rather than an empire until the 1890s and had not yet granted the benefits of democracy to all its inhabitants in spite of its unequivocal constitution (pg. 33, 87). At the Conference of Paris in 1919 just after WWI, President Woodrow Wilson could not convince the victorious empires how closely related were the rise of free markets and the devaluation of war. The high price of war to the victors and perhaps more importantly poor salesmanship from President Wilson himself in the U.S. and abroad ultimately led to the rise and dismissal of an emasculated League of Nations and disastrous economic protectionism in the 1930s (pg. 20-24, 359, 363, 393). The emergence of Fascism and Communism, two new murderous, inefficient rivals to Liberalism, was the bitterest legacy of WWI, the Conference of Paris and subsequent peace conferences (pg. 33, 41, 54-55). Liberalism succeeded in defeating and discrediting Fascism at the end of WWII in 1945 and Communism at the end of the Cold War in 1989 (pg. 253). The liberal theory of history has found its historical validation for example in the successful conversion of fascist Germany and Japan to Liberalism in the decades after their crushing defeat in 1945. These successful conversions to Liberalism demonstrate which way the lagging peripheral countries should go to ultimately emerge in the limelight (pg. 6, 79-86, 174-181, 279-280). Mandelbaum also reminds his audience that in the post-cold war era, the core countries have lost much interest in what is going on in the periphery (pg. 96, 198-199). China, Russia and the Middle East are three major exceptions to this loss of interest in the periphery (pg. 7). Core countries legitimately fear that undesirable developments in some peripheral countries, especially failed states, if left unchecked, could have a negative impact in their backyard (pg. 182-187). The Middle East is of interest to core countries due to its reserves of oil, the existence of weapons of mass destruction and the presence of fearsome terrorist networks on its soil (pg. 97-99, 199-230). Operation Iraqi Freedom is an expression of this interest in the region on behalf of a well-understood Liberalism (pg. 403-412). China and Russia remain a source of concern to the core countries because they have not y
On page 398, Mandelbaum provides what I consider the most significant words in his book: 'So a world of liberal sovereign states qualifies as the second-best solution, after WORLD GOVERNMENT, to the problems of nuclear war, economic collapse, and global climate change. If not the best of all imaginable solutions, it is the best of all feasible ones.' However, the greater the number of, and the more powerful, the illiberal states are, then the so-called best feasible solution becomes even more infeasible. There must be integrated frameworks or solutions for the enhancement of peace, democracy, and free markets, which happen to work only when they do, and only when they work together. But how do we get them to work as a triad, not individually ? This is the important question. I believe that the answer lies in any framework that promotes direct genuine people empowerment within each state. One way is the creation of positive composite institutions, or the transformation of the well-funded international foundations into positive composite institutions, the end-object of which is the promotion of direct people empowerment within the illiberal zones of their own countries, and within the less liberal states in the less-developed world. It is no longer a question of 'what' and 'object', but of 'how' and 'ways and means'. Veredigno Atienza 'Creating Systems of Justice: Philanthropy at the Highest Level'