Democracy Deficits and Foreign Policy

Democracy Deficits and Foreign Policy

Who Speaks for America?
By Eric Alterman
Cornell University Press, 1998, 224 pp., $25

Probably no important area of public policy presents such a daunting challenge to the theory and practice of democracy as foreign policy. Not only does foreign policy virtually escape popular control, but it will be difficult, and perhaps even impossible, to rectify this enormous democratic failure—or, to use the expression many Europeans apply to the European Union (EU), the “democratic deficit” in the way foreign policies are made.

Although others have dealt with the problem, in Who Speaks for America? Eric Alterman provides an impressive body of evidence and a vigorous argument intended to show how fully this failure applies to the experience of the United States. As Alterman shows, the democratic deficit in making American foreign policy is no recent phenomenon. Indeed, it has existed virtually from the founding of the republic.

Robert Dahl is the author of numerous books about democracy, of which the most recent is the forthcoming On Democracy.

*James Fishkin presents the ...

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