Wilson, James Lindley. Democratic Equality. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019. ix + 397 pages. Hardcover, $39.95; Kindle, $39.95.
When democracy in the world has been measurably declining, this book is globally significant and academically useful. James Lindley Wilson (political scientist) asserts that "democracy in one form or another is virtually unchallenged among both citizens and political philosophers as the best form of government" (p. 1). Our doubts are justified whether regular people routinely prioritize democratic attitudes and behaviors over other concerns and occasions. Freedom in the World has recorded global declines in political rights and civil liberties for consecutive years from 2005 to 2018, when Lindley would have been wrapping up this book. To date, the global numbers for democracy have been declining each year, and countries with declines have been outnumbering those countries with improvements in this regard. Democracy in practice is scuppered by the demos. Are we defaulting to Winston Churchill's famous characterization (November 11, 1947) of democracy as the "worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time?" Democratic equality seems hypocritical to those who observe and experience politics of mockery, hate, lies, divisiveness, and settling scores. People ask, "equality of what?" Declines in democracy and rises in autocracy argue for the need for this book.
Wilson says he wrote this book "with uncertainty about the extent to which it matters" (p. 13). He is correct that "it would be a great shame if some people found they could put some answers to use...only to discover that there were no such answers available and adequate to their need" (p. 14).
Democratic Equality is ready for such needs. Wilson sifts and sorts myriad answers, suggests angles of analysis, and weighs alternatives in various contexts. The Index reveals the answer. The Index is comprehensive and detailed, very useful to inquirers who wish to follow particular propositions, principles, and opinions throughout the book. The old technique applies here of counting inches and lines in newspaper coverage of current events. Appropriate Consideration has lengthy indexing. Only Citizens and Political Equality are lengthier, and both say to "see" or "see also" Appropriate Consideration--and all indicate where the gravity of the book is. As Wilson avers, "Responding appropriately to others' claims of...