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Commentary By Theodore Dalrymple

Making Democracies?

But are citizens made as, say, China ornaments are made? Or do they develop spontaneously, organically, without conscious direction or design? This is an important question: for if you can lead a man to freedom, you can’t necessarily make him free. He may be wearing what Blake called “the mind-forg’d manacles.”

In Brook Manville and Josiah Ober’s The Civic Bargain, the authors try to establish the conditions in which political democracy first emerges and then survives. They do so by examining four historical cases: ancient Athens, Rome, Britain, and America. They claim to have distilled seven necessary conditions—in fact, the seven necessary conditions—from these examples; they do not test their conclusions by considering the history of such countries as Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

Continue reading the piece here at Law & Liberty


Theodore Dalrymple is a contributing editor of City Journal and a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

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