NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Democracies Without Liberty

November 18, 1997

The spread of democracy around the world has not been accompanied by a corresponding spread of constitutional liberty, says Fareed Zakaria, managing editor of Foreign Affairs. He argues that many democratically elected leaders have used their legitimacy to justify restricting freedoms.

  • He writes that 118 of the world's 193 countries -- with 54.8 percent of the world's people -- now are democratic.
  • But he cites Freedom House statistics to argue that half the countries which have adopted democracy are illiberal -- denying their citizens substantive civil liberties.
  • Even the 15 democracies of the European Union have been turning over substantial powers to the European Commission, which is beholden to no true parliament -- only to ministers of the member states.
  • In the U.S., there was the recent disturbing spectacle of the White House commandeering FBI files on American citizens for political purposes.

Mr. Zakaria points out the proliferation of federal police forces -- with 2,439 armed police being added by federal agencies last year alone. That brings the total to nearly 60,000.

Bureaucratic confiscation of property and abuse of search and seizure powers -- in the name of protecting the planet or preserving law and order -- have some critics suggesting that the U.S. itself is becoming an illiberal democracy.


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