How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

Summary (Penguin Random House)

Review
Written in a highly divisive and partisan age, How Democracies Die overviews authoritarian figures rise over the past 100 years giving examples throughout Europe and South America. The book is full of historical facts and hard truths but lacked an unbiased overview of what has caused the great divide in its entirety, which in my humble opinion only adds to the discourse. People want facts and a path forward without seeing the author’s own views. I had great hopes for finding that in this book but was left severely disappointed when the end was wrapped by pushing and advocating for progressive policies- hints the total one sided narrative.I thought the raw points in this book were phenomenal but the push to the left and obvious personal views of the authors left me questioning if this book, of such great importance and needed today, isn’t just a piece of partisan propaganda itself. If you want to consume a book that feeds your own beliefs, this is for you. If you want a broader intellectually honest read- pass.As a non-fiction, specifically political, current events and history, lover I will continue to search for the type of overview of world events that I am looking for. Constantly consuming one’s own beliefs and politics adds to the great divide. I try very hard to not let my own views saturate what I write and put out into the world, I look at the entire landscape as a whole, genuinely desiring to see each individual and their feelings, needs, and concerns. If we as a society could read and consume more of a big picture narrative perhaps we would be more compassionate towards one another and build a bridge between our seemingly great differences.

The book does make some very valid thought provoking points such as the number one cause of authoritarian figures rise is economic instability. I am significantly concerned with this factor for the future. With automation and artificial intelligence inevitably and increasingly becoming a predominate factor in our economy, the already dwindling middle class jobs will one day in the not so distant future be sparse. I don’t personally know how we’ll fix this issue. Progressives push for more government (which historically always leads to authoritarian control and abuse itself) with such policies as universal basic income, universal healthcare, etc. Conservatives push for a freer market, where competition is the answer to the growing price of everything. Of course capitalism also has its flaws; you cannot foresee someone’s heart and whether or not they will be money hungry and greedy. See what I just did? I look at both sides of the argument.

One of my biggest frustrations is that intellectuals, pundits, and politicians alike all seem to believe that the public as a whole is so persuaded by propaganda that we peons are incapably of seeing what is right, what is true, and what is in our own best interest. For this reason, you often hear me advocate for self-education. Read, and read more. Read the left and read the right. Read what you hate, as well as what you hold true. Watch CNN, watch MSNBC and watch Fox. Start conversations with people who you don’t agree with.

The authors are right about one thing, we used to all believe and hold some basic self-evident truths and values- the bill of rights, mutual respect and basic decencies; all of which held our Republic together and was/is the unsaid reason democracies work and last. All of which seem to be gone, at least for the time being. We have to bridge this gap or I’m afraid that the problems and tension we have now will continue to grow and God help us if we cannot open our hearts and eyes.

3/5

Jessica

(This book was provided to me for review from Blogging for Books. Opinions as always are my own.)

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