Free Will in History

Since 1945, democracy’s reputation has climbed so high that, by the beginning of the 21st century, democracy itself had become nothing short of an idol throughout much of the world.  This makes it difficult to imagine a time when democracy was widely regarded by political philosophers, writers, and artists not as the best but rather the worst form of government.  Yet that was the prevailing opinion from ancient times down to the end of World War II, when the victory of the “democratic” Allies over the criminal regimes of Europe seemed to vindicate democracy’s claims not only in absolute terms but in relative ones as well.  The modern world appeared to offer two stark political alternatives: democracy or totalitarianism—which, for civilized peoples, was no choice at all.  For the next 50 or 60 years, democracy was unchallenged outside a minority circle of new leftists and unrepentant old ones.  Beyond that circle, everyone—liberals, soft radicals, even “conservatives”—shared in the democratic consensus on behalf of “freedom,” “equality,” universal suffrage, “rights,” and most of the other benefits of liberal industrial capitalism, acclaimed by Francis Fukuyama in the early 90’s as the ultimate and unimprovable social, economic, and political ideal.  Thus, when I began reading up several...

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