Why is it that so many people around the world appear willing to give up freedoms in return for either security or prosperity? For the past 60 years it had been assumed that capitalism was intertwined with liberal democracy, that the two not just thrived together but needed each other to survive. But what happens when both are undermined?
Governments around the world -- whether they fall into the authoritarian or the democratic camp -- have drawn up a new pact with their peoples. These are its terms: repression is selective, confined to those who openly challenge the status quo, who publicly go out of their way to 'cause trouble'. The number of people who fall into that category is actually very few. The rest of the population can enjoy freedom to travel, to live more or less as they wish, and to make and spend their money. This is the difference between public freedoms and privatefreedoms. We choose different freedoms we are prepared to cede. We all do it.
Freedom for Sale will set a new agenda. Mixing narrative from different countries around the world, it breaks new ground in revealing the extent to which the old assumptions and securities have died. It will crucially ask why so many intelligent and ambitious citizens around the world, particularly among the young, seemed prepared to sacrifice freedom of the press and freedom of speech in their quest for wealth.
A new world order may well be upon us, and in this gripping and devastating book John Kampfner reveals how it may just be too late to stop it.
Democratic values are on the retreat across the globe, according to Kampfner (Blair s Wars), former editor of the New Statesman. Kampfner attends to established democracies (England, the U.S.) and to nations with no democratic tradition (China, the United Arab Emirates), in each case asserting that the citizenry has entered into an unspoken pact with the government, giving up certain rights and liberties in exchange for greater prosperity or the perception of better security. The forms and severity of the restrictions change from place to place: in Singapore, critics of the government are slapped with bogus but costly defamation lawsuits, a relatively benign method compared to the assassinations that have become common in Russia. While generally measured in tone, Kampfner has harsh words for his fellow Britons, who he describes as all too ready to acquiesce as the country has become a surveillance state, home to 20% of the world s closed-circuit security cameras. Crisply written and smartly argued, this global tour of civil liberties in decline from India to Italy is an unnerving, urgent, and very persuasive wake-up call.