The Atlantic

Why Do Democracies Fail?

A new book points to the importance of strong conservative parties—and warns about the consequences when they fall short.
Source: Joshua Roberts / Reuters

Why do democracies fail?

It’s suddenly a very urgent and important question. Daniel Ziblatt’s new book arrives just in time to deliver a powerful and supremely relevant answer.

Don’t be misled by the aggressively unsensational title, the careful prose, or the hyper-technical charts (“Median and Distribution of Conservative and Liberal Party Seats Across Varying Levels of Agricultural Districts in Germany and Britain in Years of Suffrage Reform”). Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy is written in fire. It delves deep into long-forgotten electoral histories to emerge with insights of Tocquevillian power, to illuminate not only the past but also the present and future.

The non-rich always outnumber the rich. Democracy enables the many to

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