Review: The Coming Democracy–New Rules for Running a New World

4 Star, Civil Society, Democracy, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform)

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Governments Broken, New Combinations with Business & Civil Society Needed,

November 22, 2006
Ann Florini
A great deal of hard work went into this volume, and as I went over the notes to see who was quoted and who was not, I had to competing thoughts: first, that we really need to start encouraging authors and publishers to do footnotes rather than endnotes to increase the integrated value of the whole; and second, that this is an East Coast publication, representing an important but incomplete slice of the literature.

I would say that this book is essential reading for wonks and academics as well as policy staff, and not for the general public. J. F. Rischard’s HIGH NOON: Twenty Global Problems, Twenty Years to Solve Them, is a much better book for the public, for policymakers, and for staff wanting a quick but comprehensive overview.

The author is at the forefront among those who understand that governments are either broken or partisan, and that only new combinations of government, business, and civil society can devise new means of governance.

The two most important words in this book are governance, and transparency.

The most important concept in this book is the need for citizens to demand, receive, and exploit full access to all relevant information from governments, organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and others, including corporations.

The author worries that the center will not hold–that the polarization of wealthy versus poor may obviate the long-standing role of the center. George Soros has recently stated that the banks and Wall Street have to radically alter their economic and social contracts with the middle class and the poor “or risk losing everything,” this author does not go so far, but the bulk of her work supports the Soros proposition.

The book is consistent with the slowly emerging consensus that human security must be understood in its broadest terms, but being published in 2003, does not reflect the findings of the High Level Threat Panel of the United Nations (LtGen Dr. Brent Scowcroft being the American member), to wit, that poverty, infectuous disease, environmental degradation, inter-state conflict, civil war, genocide, other atrocities, proliferation, terrorism, and transnational crime are all demanding of concerted global action.

The book does not grapple with the even harder issue of identifying and integrating the twelve policies (agriculture, debt, diplomacy, economy, education, energy, family, immigration, justice, security, social security, water), nor does the book attempt to discuss how the eight challengers–the other 900 lb gorrillas in the world system (Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Wild Cards such as Turkey, South Africa, Catholicism, and Islam) might be persuaded to test the author’s great faith in harnessing collective identities to support collective actions that are often opposed by the traditional stake-holders, namely governments and multinational corporations.

On balance, I would put this book in the top 25 on the topic, but not as the easiest, most relevant, or most comprehensive. The index is marginal, and the book would have benefitted greatly from both a conversion of the endnotes to footnotes–the author has done a first-class job on notes–and inclusion of a proper bibliography.

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