The main idea of this book is not that much to describe problems with current economic order of USA, as to analyze its causes that author identifies as suppression of small business by coalition of government and big corporate business and, most important, propose a very specific program of ideas how to bring America back to its original “bottom up” approach to economic order with small businesses again becoming the engine of growth and prosperity.
Here author starts with reminiscence of his childhood in Baltimore and his outgrowing inherited loyalty to Democratic Party due to its rejection of working and lower middle class and embrace of bureaucracy, welfare dependency, and international corporatism. It follows by brief review of economic history of USA over the last 40 years with stress on failures of the first years in XXI century. At the end of introduction author states his believe that we are at the infliction point and only Main Street could save us from mediocrity and continuously degrading economic future.
1 Growth Is (Almost) Everything
Here author refer to his earlier work “The world is curved” that was stressing dangers of globalization and disputed position of “Flat world” promoted by Washington’s Elite “thinkers”. He discusses financial crisis and massive state intervention that first created it and then somewhat eased economy out of it in process practically killing economic growth. This follows by panegyric to the growth that could fix practically any problem and call to return to Main Street innovative capitalism – the only economic system that could provide such growth. The next part of chapter reviews political affiliations and lack of bipartisanship. Author refers to the last significant period of economic growth during Reagan and Clinton presidencies and how in these two cases despite bitter political struggles both party found the way to be enough bipartisan in economic policies, making growth possible.
2 The Illusion of Certainty
This is about complexity and unpredictability of economy. It provides a bunch of funny examples of complete inability of experts to predict future economic development. It follows by discussion of Wall Street well rewarded failures and overall financial part of economy. The final part is somewhat of a lament of big platform corporations like Amazon creating a new form of monopoly based on lawfare use to suppress in the bud all potential competitor startups and, in cases when it fails, to buy them out. The end result is ossification of economy and lack of growth.
3 The Economy’s Turbocharger
This starts with an interesting anecdote about author being low-level staffer at Capitol who was promised a photo opportunity with Reagan as reward for overtime work. It took a few months, but he did get his picture. The point is that opportunities come and go so one had to catch them. These fast flying opportunities especially important in high tech area as it represented by Silicon Valley. Author stresses new jobs potential for Main Street created by innovation industry. There is a duality in this development: on the one hand new technology eliminates old jobs, but on the other hand it frees people and capital from old activities and allows investing them in the new ones. He refers to “mass flourishing” ideas of Edmund Phelps. Author believes that this dynamic process is the most promising option to maintain prosperity, but he clearly sees decline in the levels of innovation in USA and discusses reasons for this decline. These are:
- System rigged in favor of big against small
- Huge levels of public and private debt
- Political system frozen by partisanship preventing required reforms
- Globalization made world a frightening place with no one in charge.
4 Top-Down Frustrations in a Bottom-Up World
This chapter is about comparison of small economic entities vs. big where author provides multiple examples of inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of the big highly centralized economy and discusses contemporary political and economic conditions when government creates massive advantages for the big corporate entities. It hurts economic development because it practically removes the only way to find out what needs to be done to achieve economic success: unabridged competition between economic entities with failure being not only an option, but frequent occurrence.
5 The World’s Greatest Wager
This is about debt and bad consequences of it. One of the most important bad consequences is “learned helplessness”, which if applied to accumulation of debt means inability of society to balance spending and revenues. As it is usual for people disturbed by high debt author brings in children who will be overburdened by inherited debt. Author discusses 3 solutions for the debt problem: Inflation, Default, and Innovation / growth of economy. He believes that the only acceptable solution is growth and only reinvigorating Main Street economy could do it. Finally author discusses demographics and need for entitlements reform to get out of debt.
6 It’s Nobody’s Century (or Maybe Everybody’s)
In this chapter instead of concentrating on American political gridlock and ways out of it, author looks at alternative political-economic system that many Western leftists admire now – China’s. This starts with the description of author’s encounter with Chinese diplomat who was dismayed when question come to China’s financial system, debt, and cooling off of investor’s enthusiasm. It looked like these issues where perceived as a serious threat to Chinese advancement. From this discussion followed the question of which country or countries are really could be global controllers in the future with author concluding that usual consensus of the future China dominance or, at best, two-polar world of USA / China competition of equals, is incorrect and China will fade away similarly to previous candidates to end American century: USSR, Germany, and Japan. He seems to believe that China’s multitude of problems would lead to such development.
7 Americans Are Fighters
This is an interesting combination of litany of American decline and expression of believe in America and hope that it will be fine based, at least partially, on author’s experience in 1970s and then in 1980s when he participated in implementing Reagan’s tax cuts and dramatic economic recovery that followed. His current proposal is guarantied investment at child’s birth from government and matching by private funds. Overall author seems to believe that mass participation in investment would go long way to eliminate problems of inequality caused by increase of return on capital and decrease of return on labor (reference to Piketty).
8 A Nation of Dreamers and Discoverers
The final chapter refers to the past cases of recovery and presents 14 points program that author believe would initiate the new recovery for our time:
- Bipartisan Congress actually capable to legislate
- Allow companies repatriate money without taxing
- Global Debt summit to avert crisis
- Reform taxes to make financial services less profitable and job producing enterprises more profitable
- Invest in Youth
- Recreate global financial Architecture
- Encourage new Enterprises
- The 3.5 Solution: manage US government non-financial assets to achieve 3.5% return
- Raise minimum wage
- Increase worker mobility
- Welcome foreign geniuses
- Temporary suspend new regulations
- Fund Adult Technical Education
- Reform the patent system and modernize Civil Service
MY TAKE ON IT:
This book contains a good dose of critic of contemporary America, but it is most interesting parts are author’s specific proposals to improve situation. Unfortunately these proposals range from very unrealistic like bipartisan congress to mainly meaningless like “fund technical education”. I think that a lot of negative staff discussed in this book comes from natural development of welfare state as it was established in USA in 1930s and then greatly expanded in 1960s. The system of welfare state was a very reasonable response to industrialization that increased productivity to such level that significant number of population could not offer on the free market goods and services including labor that would provide returns proportional to expectations, leaving multitude of individuals without proper place in economic order of society. Welfare state kind of solved this problem by providing less energetic, uneducated, and passive individuals with welfare check, so they could survive, and creating multitude of well compensating bureaucratic positions for more energetic, educated, and active individuals who could not find good returns on free market. The big issue now is that we moving into the final stage of productivity growth when human labor would not be required anymore and, in order to survive, society will need complete restructuring of resource allocation and economic relationship between its individual members. The solution should be on the scale of the problem, which is comparable to switch from hunting/gathering to agriculture / militarism to industrial production / financial resource allocation. The author’s suggestions are by orders of magnitude below this level of requirements.
The main idea of this book is that massive transformations of institutions of society on the scale exemplified by embedding liberalism in 1930s and then disembedding it in 1980s does not occur purely on materialist basis or class realignments, but rather they are driven by ideas. These ideas usually take time to develop, then to be incorporated into thinking of significant amount of population, and only after that these ideas start moving political forces and become converted from abstraction to specific actions delegitimizing old and establishing new institutions.
PART I THEORY
1 Karl Polanyi and Institutional Change
This starts with reference to Polanyi’s ideas about end of self-regulating markets in early XX century and double movement: free market losers would use state protection and in process produce institutional change in the society. This pretty much covers all statist movements from Keynesianism to Nazism and Communism. This follows by discussion of the nature of institutional change overall and role of ideas in its implementation. Author provides plan of the book: it is build on the analysis of 3 main actors: state, labor, and capital. This analysis conducted first on theoretical level and then tracing actual development by using two examples: Sweden and USA.
2 A Theory of Institutional Change
This starts with brief review of literature about ideas and their influence. Author describes two schools of thought about it: Historical Institutionalism and Rationalist Institutionalism. After that he presents his theory of relationship between ideas, interests, and uncertainty deriving from it 5 hypotheses:
- In time of economic crises ideas (not institutions) reduce uncertainty.
- Following uncertainty reduction, ideas make collective action and coalition building possible.
- In the struggle over existing institutions, ideas are weapons.
- After delegitimation of existing institutions, new ideas act as institutional blueprints
- The ideas that follow institutional construction make institutional stability possible.
PART II CASES
This part is pretty much review of 5 historical cases when ideas practically modified or substituted existing institutions with the new ones.
3 Building American Embedded Liberalism
The first case is advance of American liberalism in 1930 and its elimination or severe limitation of previously dominant free market capitalism. Author looks at Hoover vs. Roosevelt policy noticing that they where nearly identical with the main difference of Hoover’s being limited by existing institutions, while Roosevelt’s breaking away from these institution. Author demonstrates how it was done: breaking down institution of free pricing and substitution it with government controlled pricing, massive government interference into business / labor relationship, and massively increasing government spending. This followed by construction of new institutions: Social security, pro-union Wagner Act, Financial regulations, and much more. The final part of the chapter is about period after war when some of the new institutions were curtailed due to their negative impact on economy and society, but overall new institutions survived and stabilized into the new environment of Embedded Liberalism.
4 Building Swedish Embedded Liberalism
Here author conducts similar analysis of Swedish development when driving force was Social democracy significantly to the left of American New Deal administration, but somewhat paradoxically more business friendly than it. The result was Swedish form of Embedded liberalism with quite a bit more control of government over people, but with massive support of middle class due to social spending.
5 Disembedding Liberalism: Ideas to Break a Bargain
This case looks at the first at the beginning of breakdown of Embedded liberalism in USA first with the Johnson administration attempt to have both guns and butter, and then as result of increasing stagnation and inflation caused by overregulation and direct government interference into economy. Author reviews ideas that impacted and undermined embedded liberalism, preparing it’s disembedding: Monetarism, Rational Expectations, Supply-Side, and Public Choice Theories. The stagflation of 1970s clearly demonstrated deficiencies of existing institution and opened way for advancement of these new theories into popular conscious.
6 Disembedding Liberalism in the United States
Here author going into the search of causes of Liberalism’s Disembedding mainly in movement of business into political sphere in its attempt to remove or at least minimize government intervention that made it incapable effectively compete with business of countries just recently recovered after WWII. It follows by detailed description of how business intervened into politics and successful delegitimized big government and its political representation (Democratic party). The chapter ends by discussion of Clinton’s administration movement away from big government idea under pressure of changed ideological environment in the country and republican legislature.
7 Disembedding Liberalism in Sweden
This chapter describes similar events in Sweden where big government led to economic hardship and disembedding of liberalism, albeit to the much smaller degree than it happened in America.
PART III CONCLUSIONS
In conclusion author revisits his 5 hypotheses, compares his ideological explanation of transformations with materialistic and institutional explanations, and looks at the possibility of future transformation.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I am generally supporter of idea that the words and ideas comes the first and transformation of society is logical result of implementation of ideas. However I think that before any idea becomes viable as source of future transformation, the old institutions should prove to the public that they do not work any more and that whatever calamity comes, they would not be able provide tools to overcome it. Somewhat contrary to the author I do not think that it happens because some individuals just come up with some ideas undermining existing societal setup in our case Monetarism or Rational Expectation or anything else. I think that the first comes increasing frustration with old institutions that results in their inability to live up to the promise of the future beneficial results. Whether it is inability to provide enough food instead of promised abundance in communist countries, or high misery index of combined inflation and unemployment instead of uninterrupted progress closely controlled by wise bureaucrats in USA as promised by New Deal, in all cases the failure to fulfill expectations creates general mood of frustration and inapplicability to the new environment. Only when the first step mainly completed and support for the old institutions mainly based on little more then inertia, the new set of ideas could become popular and even dominant, creating opening for the second step that would complete transformation: elimination of old and creation of new institutions.
The main idea of this book is that technology is changing society and environment in such profound way that current philosophical notions that were built into the foundation of contemporary society become obsolete. Consequently it would have to lead to the huge restructuring not only of societal organization, but also of individual consciousness leading to some new and unimaginable arrangement of individuals, societies, environment, and connections between them all.
1 The New Human Agenda
It starts with the statement that humanity achieved such level of development that it now can move from the main question of survival, to the much more interesting question: what to do with ourselves. In this chapter author looks a bit back at the biological poverty line below which humans could not survive, pathogens and other evolutionary pressures that kill humans by disease, wars and other forms of violent competition that humanity seems to be in process of finally overcoming. This follows by discussion of death and the new development when technology could possibly make it outdated. So the key issue is what is happiness and how to assure that everybody has right to happiness and actually capable to achieve it. In order to clarify his points author provides a nice analogy from the history of grass lawns, which used to demand an extraordinary amount of effort to maintain and therefore were a subject of competition between feudal lords to demonstrate their fitness. Now due to technological development a lawn become a simple part of American middle class live. At the end of this chapter author provides a general plan of the book.
PART I Homo Sapiens Conquers the World
2 The Anthropocene
This is obviously about era of humanity that started about 70000 years ago. There is a nice pie chart to demonstrate it purely by super simple measure of weight:
Author looks at ancient animalistic believes and then jumps to human use of other animals, which, while satisfying their minimalistic needs for survival, actually deprives them of natural habitat. Example provided: pigs in industrial environment. Next author discusses organisms as algorithms providing for the survival and genes transfer to the next generation. The rest of chapter is comparative analysis of agricultural and industrial ages, their ideological underpinning and similarity.
3 The Human Spark
Here author starts with human morality, which claims to be universal, but in practice is quite hierarchical on many levels with humans higher than pigs, but Americans higher than Afghanis. Author also discusses here Darwin and Evolution, which left humanity without soul. This logically leads to discussion of mind/ brain, live / non-live, and self-conscious / lack of it. Author looks at these philosophical issues using a bunch of nice examples from live of chimps, talking horse, lab rats, and communist dictatorships. Probably the most important in this part is a small piece on the Web of meaning – how people create and maintain social reality that only tangibly relates to objective reality.
PART II Homo sapiens Gives Meaning to the World
4 The Storytellers
This is a brief discussion of humans as storytellers with initial look at history of storytelling and then switch to exclusively human ability to create permanent storage of information outside of human brain, specifically on paper and other devices. Moreover the stories and information on paper become so powerful that it could decide issues of live and death as illustrated by the story of Portugal consul in France who saved thousands of Jews by issuing passports (pieces of paper). Another, even pore powerful example, is Holy Scriptures that moved to actions and defined lives of billions of humans. The final point that author makes is that he believes that in future even more powerful stories will be created and they will have even more force to move people and define arrangements in the societies.
5 The Odd Couple
This is about stories told by religion and science, which both are based on complex combination of truths and myths. One important point here is that religion is a tool for preserving social order, but so is the science, at least to the extent in supports social order. Author tries to put all this in order and provides a nice summation of religion as combination of three parts:
Overall, both religion and science are trying to provide truly correct representation of reality, but they use different method and obviously come to different conclusions. Author perceives contemporary perception of the reality as combination of science and one particular religion called humanism. These two approaches constitute mutually supporting covenant still effective, but more and more coming under pressure and seems to be moving to disintegration sometime in near future.
6 The Modern Covenant
This is detailed discussion of modern integrated science/humanist worldview. Interestingly enough the author starts this discussion with bankers and credit with interest – true engine of economic expansion specific for humans and not used by any other animals. From here he goes into discussion of economic pie that is growing if conditions are right and ecological problems that he considers the most probable reason for collapse of civilization. Dutifully regurgitating typical anti-capitalist ideas of market failure with, also typical, somewhat positive reference to market, author states that the salvation from capitalist horrors came from the new religion of humanism.
7 The Humanist Revolution
This chapter retells history of humanism from its beginning to the present time. The humanism itself defined as religious believes in humanity as substitute of god(s) with humanity giving meaning to the universe. Author provide an interesting formula for 3 different approaches to understand the world:
Religion: Knowledge = Scriptures x Logic
Science: Knowledge = Empirical Data x Mathematics
Humanism: Knowledge = Experiences x Sensitivity
This discussion includes quite interesting look at the representation of War in Art and how it changed with the development of humanism from stressing role of the leader to stressing role of individual member of masses. Author also looks at different branches of humanism: Nationalism, Evolutionary humanism, Socialism, and Democracy. All these branches in one combination or another were at war with each other for the most part of XX century, but now, at the beginning of XXI century the winner is combination of human rights, democracy, and free market. Author discusses current resurgence of Islam and religious war initiated by its adherents, but he does not consider it as a serious challenge. Much more challenging is combination of technological developments such as Automation, Artificial Intelligence, genetic Engineering, and others that taken together could lead not only to dramatic changes in the society, but to complete redesign of humans into something new and, probably not even comprehensible to us, superior entities.
PART Ill Homo sapiens Loses Control
8 The Time Bomb in the Laboratory
This starts with discussion of the philosophical problem of free will and all kinds of manipulation and conditioning of people by training and other forms of external influence. Then comes currently quite popular discussion of non-existence of individuality as something integral to the person. Finally author goes into a brief discussion of the meaning of the live ending with conclusion that current duality of popular scientific philosophers, who accept contradictory notions of self-direction and absence of self at the same time, being not sustainable.
9 The Great Decoupling
This is about human losing their value and that’s how author presents this idea:
The confirmation comes from discussion of robots substituting humans as producers, AI substituting humans in all kinds of intellectual efforts from Jeopardy to Chess and so on. Here is author’s summation of the logic of these examples:
Therefore the direction of humanity seems to be growing division into 2 classes: useless masses and small superhuman maybe even immortal elite.
10 The Ocean of Consciousness
This is about nature of consciousness and probability of emergence of new techno – humanistic religion pursuing merge of all consciousness into one entity inclusive of all possible mental states as presented in diagram:
11 The Data Religion
This is a description of one such techno-humanistic religion: Dataism. This is worshipping of Data with notion that the universe is just as collection of data flows. At the end author identifies 3 processes that overshadow all other problems and developments:
MY TAKE ON IT:
I also believe that the world is going to change quite dramatically due to completely new environment created by AI and many other technologies that will make humans redundant for all kind of economic activities. However I would make a very important point that there is only one entity that will always define objective of all these activities and it is a human being. All kinds of activities occur only because humans need product of these activities whether this product is food or poem and this directional role is going to remain human domain. It is quite conceivable that in a few years we can create computer program that will perceive itself as person and will act correspondingly. It does not matter; it will still be human even if it would not be based on DNA and organic material. It could have no other existence than a bunch of electronic impulses, but it will have memories, experiences, self-recognition, and all other quality that makes us human. However I doubt that it would go beyond experimental because there is no point of replicating humanity in other forms. As to body and mind modifications in order to become superhuman, it also does not make a lot of sense because with all external capabilities of technology who needs super muscles if one can use car or plain or heavy moving equipment? Similarly who needs super brain if Internet is always available and computer could calculate or analyze whatever needs to be calculated or analyzed. In short I think we humans will remain the way we are, may be just changing body at will and ridding off illnesses, death, and other unpleasantness of life. On other hand, who can prove that we now are not just impulses in some kind of computer, modeling human personalities for some second grade kid doing his homework?
The main idea here is that contemporary democracies are a product of wars that required mass mobilization of people and resources. The democracy is necessary because such mobilization is not possible without active support of population, which in turn requires political inclusiveness. From this point of view future and viability of democracy is not clear because new technology made mass armies obsolete, while typical democratic way of doing things is inefficient and is also often ineffective in political decision-making. It reasonably could be considered an impediment to increase in prosperity, so societies can conceivably decide to rid of it. On other hand democracy could be in and of itself a valuable luxury good that the vast majority of population will prefer to retain.
The introduction is about the main theme if this book: war, society mobilization it requires, and how different forms of society could provide for this mobilization. It is built around two graphs representing types of societies under review and military effectiveness of these types:
Chapter I The Twenty-First-Century Wars Without Citizen Armies
This is about contemporary military circumstances of democracies. The main characteristic is overwhelming superiority of conventional military power of democracies over any potential enemies removing need for mass mobilization and consequently leading to limitation of wars to small wars of choice like Iraq or Afghanistan with very limited and mainly political impact on society. Such wars have practically no consequences for majority of population great many people in which do not even know or care that country is actually at war.
PART I: FROM ANTIQUITY TO MEDIEVAL TIMES
Chapter 2 War and Democracy in Classical Athens
This is an interesting approach to ancient Greek democracies. It looks at military necessity of mobilizing high proportion of population to fight competing polities. Author is trying to identify circumstances when need for high level of mobilization lead to high demand for participation in decision making and consequently some form of democracy and when it leads to increase in central control and repression. Specifically author looks at Athenian democracy, its successes and accesses. Interestingly enough it looks at different level of democratization need for Army and Navy using Salamis and Marathon as test cases. The navy dependent heavily on poor who would participate by rowing triremes that did not require any investment on their part, while more affluent middle class citizens could buy equipment necessary for hoplite soldier of army. The democratic form of polity in Athens seems to be more effective military organization than competing oligarchies and monarchies.
Chapter 3 The Glory That Was Rome
The story of Rome had at first highly admirable period of republic with multiple checks and balances preventing ambitious aristocrats from taking full power. This was characterized by huge military success. However this success led to development of professional military class that eventually turned it into empire. The period of empire was based on alliance: Emperor and low-level masses often politically countered Aristocracy, while productive abilities of society heavily depended on slaves regularly produced by military class affiliated with Emperor. The success of farmer-soldier of Roman republic was substituted with top down control combined with bottom up loyalty, which eventually led to dissolution of empire into multitude of feudal polities constantly forming and dissolving new alliances and fighting each other.
Chapter 4 A Millennium of Landed Aristocracy
This is pretty much review of power plays in feudal societies, mainly in Europe, but also in China and Japan. Generally it came down to constant fight between different levels of landed aristocracies: barons and kings. One of the points here is that this political organization made peasants into permanent latent thread to existing order, depriving feudal polities of advantages of potential military mobilization against external enemies. Author also provides a very brief look at China and Japan of this period.
PART II: MONARCHY AND OTHER EXPERIMENTS
Chapter 5 The Emergence of Monarchy in France and Spain
This is about development of monarchy as more military effective form of polity organization. The competition between landed aristocrats was minimized by the use of overwhelming power of monarch who was able to raise and maintain more powerful force than any one or any group of aristocrats with strong ideological multiplier of masses believing in sacred nature of monarchy.
Chapter 6 War and Representation in England, the Netherlands, and Sweden
This chapter returns to the English history and shows how feudal fight of aristocrats led to Magna Carta: one of examples of attempt for some legal settlement to diminish cost of these fights. It shows how somewhat different historic development when nobody had upper hand brought much more participatory polity there than in France and Spain where kings were successful in acquiring overwhelming power. Even more participatory polities were developed in Netherlands and Sweden where small size of population and lack of English protection of being an island demanded much higher level of mobilization and therefore political participation.
Chapter 7 Italian Republics
This is another case of development of participatory polities where small Italian polities constantly competed between themselves economically and military. It is interesting that logistically challenging Venice with its lagoons providing some measure of protection to aristocrats from unifying despotic power, which was on display in other parts of Italy like Milan or Florence.
Chapter 8 Eastern Lands in Early Modern Europe
This is review of development in Eastern Europe were Holy Roman Empire devolved into multitude of small Duchies and Kingdoms based on culturally and linguistically diverse population. Somewhat different was development in Germany where Hanseatic League combined multiple free cities and provided military protection. However it was eventually dissolved by increasing power of autocracies forming all over the Europe.
Chapter 9 Mountain Republics
Another distinctive case is represented by Swiss confederation, which mountainous topography presented huge challenge to anybody who would aspire for conquest. The topography for all practical purposes removed military advantage in numbers and even technology, dramatically increasing military value of individuals. In such conditions any military viable polity should be significantly more participatory, which was exactly what happened with Swiss Confederation.
PART III: WAR AND DEMOCRACY
Chapter 10 The Nineteenth-Century Pivot
This is about XIX century change in the way countries conducted their wars. Starting with mass mobilization that allowed France not only to withstand massive attack of monarchical Europe, but also practically conquer the continent, clearly demonstrated that massive people’s army is by far superior to relatively small forces of armies of serves led by non-meritocratic aristocrats. Author reviews wars of France, Prussia, and Russia demonstrating that each time it led to increase in expansion of the franchise in society, even if it was in Russian case just cancellation of serfdom.
Chapter 11 Twentieth-Century Wars of Full Mobilization
This is continuation of review of the link between mass mobilization and democratization of society moving into XX century with its wars. It looks at countries participating in WWI, WWII, and Korean War demonstrating their impact on societies.
Chapter 12 War, Racism, and Civil Rights in the United States.
The final chapter looks specifically at USA and how its mass mobilization for WWII caused increase in self-respect of black population combined with increase of their respect by general population, which started include blacks into the group of us-Americans leading to initiation and eventually mass support for civil rights movement.
The conclusion not only summarizes ideas of this book, but also provides a number of useful graphical representations:
MY TAKE ON IT:
I pretty much agree with general idea of this book that democracy is product of evolution of military competition between societies and was developed when such competition required mass mobilization of population impossible without providing higher level of stakes in the society for practically everybody. However historically the highest known level of society mobilization was achieved not by democracies, but by totalitarian regimes of National Socialists in Germany and Communists in Soviet Union during WWII. Author does not discusses this period of history, consequently missing the point of ideological mobilization when masses in society while deprived of any meaningful political rights, perceive themselves as part of collective entity survival and prosperity of which is inseparable from their own survival and prosperity.
I think I am more optimistic about future of democracy, mainly because I believe that the stakes of individuals in society will continue to grow. The reason is that with huge development of technology the existential dangers to society could come not only from external competition from hostile society, but also internally from individuals within society who for some reason do not accept its rules and arrangements. Consequently every individual member of society will have serious concern and need not only participate in formulating and enforcing these rules and arrangements, but also assure that everybody else has opportunity to do it. I think it would lead to increase in demands for democracy going way beyond the representative democracy of XX century to the kind of society that is based much more on market with its inherent win-win type of game, than society on political win-loose type of game.