Is Democracy Worth It?

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Photograph: In the notorious Port-au-Prince slum of Cité Soleil, voters cast their ballots in Haiti’s 2006 national elections. CHARLES ECKERT / REDUX

One after another, arguments that non-Western countries are not “ready” for democracy have been upended by experience.

Larry Diamond
Photo: Enough votes: Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev greets supporters in 2011 after being reelected with 96 percent of the vote. YURI KOCHETKOV / EPA / CORBIS

Recent history in the countries of the former Soviet Union suggests that the appetite for freedom may not be as strong everywhere as we assume.

Joshua Kucera

Three Afghan women write about violence and shelter, the Taliban, and getting to vote.

Norwam, Mariam, and Nasima

In a process almost unnoticed by the rest of the world, Africa has become significantly more democratic since the early 1990s. Its transition toward political freedom offers both inspiration and cautionary lessons.

Steve McDonald

If Washington seems to get much less done than it once did, it is partly because it is trying to do so much more.

R. Shep Melnick

In Essence

THE SOURCE: “Autism and the Technical Mind” by Simon Baron-Cohen, in Scientific American, Nov. 2012.

Photo of Shakespeare's First Folio via Wikimedia Commons

THE SOURCE:“What Is a Rare Book?” by Fred C. Robinson, in The Sewanee Review, Fall 2012.

THE SOURCE: “The Long-Term Impact of Physical and Emotional Trauma: The Station Nightclub Fire” by Jeffrey C. Schneider, Nhi-Ha T. Trinh, Elizabeth Selleck, Felipe Fregni, Sara S. Salles, Colleen M. Ryan, and Joel Stein, in Plos One, Oct. 2012.

THE SOURCES: “The Problem With the Pivot” by Robert S. Ross, in Foreign Affairs, Nov.–Dec. 2012; “The Turn Away From Europe” by Josef Joffe, in Commentary, Nov. 2012; and “Asia’s New Age of Instability” by Michael Wesley, in The National Interest, Nov.–Dec. 2012.

THE SOURCE: “Some Consequences of Having Too Little” by Anuj K. Shah, Sendhil Mullainathan, and Eldar Shafir, in Science, Nov. 2, 2012.

THE SOURCE: “Unnecessary Roughness: The Moral Hazards of Football” by Benjamin J. Dueholm, in The Christian Century, Sept. 19, 2012.

THE SOURCE: “What Tragedy? Whose Commons?” by Fred Pearce, in Conservation, Fall 2012.

THE SOURCE: “Where Do India’s Billionaires Get Their Wealth?” by Aditi Gandhi and Michael Walton, in Economic and Political Weekly, Oct. 6, 2012.

THE SOURCE: “The Few, the Proud, the Infantilized” by Bruce Fleming, in The Chronicle Review, Oct. 8, 2012.

THE SOURCE: “The Politics of Consumer Debt: U.S. State Policy and the Rise of Investment in Consumer Credit, 1920–2008” by Louis Hyman, in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Nov. 2012.

THE SOURCE: “Longer-Term Impacts of Mentoring, Educational Services, and Learning Incentives: Evidence From a Randomized Trial in the United States” by Núria Rodríguez-Planas, in American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Oct. 2012.

THE SOURCE: “Military History on the Electronic Frontier: Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812” by Richard Jensen, in The Journal of Military History, Oct. 2012.

THE SOURCE: “Enlightenment in Global History: A Historiographical Critique” by Sebastian Conrad, in The American Historical Review, Oct. 2012.

THE SOURCE: “Bureaucracy Does Its Thing, Again” by Frances Z. Brown, in The American Interest, Nov.–Dec. 2012.

Book Reviews

Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play.
By James C. Scott. Princeton Univ. Press. 169 pp. $24.95

An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare From Ancient Times to the Present.
By Max Boot. Liveright. 750 pp. $35

The Men of the Harvard Grant Study.
By George E. Vaillant. Harvard Univ. Press. 457 pp. $27.95

Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity.
By Andrew Solomon. Scribner. 962 pp. $37.50

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