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 A former CIA analyst hunts unsuccessfully for the reason why, if democracy seems so triumphant in the wake of communism's collapse, democratic nations such as the US, Japan, Germany, and the UK are suffering from angst and domestic discord. As a longtime veteran of perhaps the world's greatest intelligence bureaucracy, Kennon naturally sees the expert, or bureaucrat, as the apex of the political-bureaucratic-business triad that has been indispensable to the nation-state. The expert serves as an honest broker between politicians, who are ever ready to be compromised or corrupted, and the private sector, which if left unchecked can sink into an almost Hobbesian war of all against all characterized by the shifting conflicts among businesses, tribes, castes, and religious sects. The modern world has become so complex, notes Kennon, that politicians have ceded the handling of major issues to specialists and nonelected officials with technical competence. In the US, Kennon points to the Federal Reserve's influence on monetary policy and the Supreme Court's adjudication of abortion rights. In contrast, he points to newly industrialized countries (NICs) such as Singapore, Taiwan, Peru, Indonesia, and Mexico, where dictators insulate economic policy-making from popular democratic pressures by turning it over to their bureaucrats. This insulation enables the NICs to make the transition from the instability of the Third World to membership among the developed countries. Kennon's theories, while often sound on the sources of political unrest, echo those thinkers who earlier hailed Mussolini for keeping Italy's trains running on time and the Soviet Union for achieving phenomenal industrial growth rates. He also ignores the fact that the authoritarian NICs, far from providing order, can unleash chaos through sheer megalomania (e.g., the Shah of Iran, to bolster his military forces, was instrumental in raising oil prices in the 1970s). Kennon implies that economic progress without democracy is sufficient for national success. But his is a technocratic vision of national well-being.

Pub Date: Jan. 12th, 1995
ISBN: 0-385-47539-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1994