Gregory Fossedal
Gregory Fossedal
The Democratic Imperative:  Exporting the American Revolution
ISBN: 0465098010
The Democratic Imperative: Exporting the American Revolution
Mr. Fossedal talked about his new book, The Democratic Imperative: Exporting the American Revolution. He discussed the advantages of democracy and the duty of the U.S. to "export" democracy around the world. He also analyzed recent events in countries such as the Philippines, Argentina, and Chile.
Search Audible
The Democratic Imperative: Exporting the American Revolution
Program Air Date: May 21, 1989

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Gregory Fossedal why did you call your new book "The Democratic Imperative: Exporting the American Revolution?"
GREGORY FOSSEDAL, AUTHOR, "THE DEMOCRATIC IMPERATIVE: EXPORTING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION?": Well I sh..I actually should give credit for the title to my editor who thought of it. I had been toying with the idea of something like "The Democratic Century" or "How Democracies Flourish." And I think what he saw and in a way what the book is getting at is that there is a democratic imperative. That means several things. It means there is an imperative in the world for countries to adopt democracy. As the world as communication has improved people have become more generally of political systems and with out what's like C-SPAN they know better what's going on within those systems. And it's become more competitive to use a common buzz word. So countries that don't want to fall behind have to adopt the one great efficient and humane system that mankind has discovered which is democracy.
LAMB: When you saw this book and the cover of it and it was finally finished what was your reaction?
FOSSEDAL: Oh I was relieved and delighted I guess. It..I spent five or six years working on it. And anyone who's done anything comparable whether it's in sports or school or raising a child or whatever I guess I don't want to compare it to raising a child which is a lot more important. But when you put that much time into something you are very gratified to see it finally come out.
LAMB: Is there a pure democracy anywhere in the world?
FOSSEDAL: No and I guess there never will be because democracies and peopled by men and women who are not perfect. That's probably the great insight of democracy or democratic republicanism to be more precise in my own language is that it doesn't have to rely on individual genius to keep the system going. It relies on the broader wisdom of millions of creative and free people.
LAMB: Name four or five of your favorite democracies.
FOSSEDAL: I like Switzerland the best because it has a remarkable foreign policy record. If you think about a country like that being able to remain neutral and stay out of war for 500 years. At the same time they have a very disciplined family and social structure. And they have a national referendum system. For the same reason I list my own current home state of California as great democracy. If were a country we'd be one of the top five or ten in the world. And California like Switzerland has a referendum system so if people get frustrated with the way the Congress or the Legislature is behaving they can put their ideas directly on the ballot and have a direct democratic test of them. I think..I admire all the emerging democracies of Asia. I guess I would put them third. Particularly look at Japan. They've just done one of the most difficult things there is to do. They've had to get rid of a Prime Minister who evidently he and his top people had disobeyed the laws. And really always one of the litmus tests of a democracy. An Japan or Korea and so forth do those painful things like switching power between parties or getting rid of someone who is the head of a party. I'm sure there are some..Jim Wright predicts out there smiling right now and wondering what will happen to the current Speaker. But I guess those are my are my three..the three that come to mind.
LAMB: What about the United States. Where does it fit in as a democracy?
FOSSEDAL: Well you know gee I should have put the United States up there. Maybe I'm being a little too humble pie about my own country. One of the things of the objections I encounter in the book and the whole idea that America should be seeking to spread democracies. That we don't want to impose our system on anyone. And I agree with that so I'm probably a little cautious about mentioning our own system. But it certainly one of the best. That doesn't mean that people like you and me are superior to other people around the world. Quite the contrary. Our democratic system in the United States is a gift that we all received from our ancestors and the founders. It's something that we should be grateful for not so much proud of as if we had built the whole thing. But it's a it's a elegant, beautiful gift that we have been given and I think that the United States belongs right up there.
LAMB: Here's what the book looks like. It's called the "The Democratic Comparative: Exporting the American Revolution." And our guest is the author, Gregory Fossedal. This is published by Basic Books. What's that?
FOSSEDAL: Well it's the publishing house actually is New Republic Books and New Republic is normally a magazine but they have a book division that puts out about 10 books a year. And they exist under the broader umbrella of Basic Books and Harper and Rowe. Usually a small publisher like New Republic Books has to do that because obviously they don't do enough volume to want to have their own printing facilities and so forth. So it's efficient for them and I think also there's a good editorial interaction between between the Basic people and the New Republic people.
LAMB: In the back you..well first of all you don't dedicate this book to anybody that I could find. Or did I miss it?
FOSSEDAL: Well I really think of it as dedicated to my wife, but I didn't I guess I didn't formally put the thing up at the front. But she's really the one that supported me throughout this. And our neighbors can tell you that along with our many lively discussions of other subjects in recent years we even had a few lively ones about the meaning of democracy and so on.
LAMB: You mean you and you wife. Discussion. Or your neighbors? I mean are you a conversationalist around the dinner table at night?
FOSSEDAL: Well yeah. We like wife's interested in politics. She's not as active as she was. We have two kids now. But she actually worked in the White House for a year under Bruce Chapman and we both met as I think as sort of fanatical of political aficionados.
LAMB: Where did you start getting interested in politics?
FOSSEDAL: I think it really happened in school. My parents always encouraged me to read a lot and I was interested in history. But I became more actively interested in it all at Dartmath.
LAMB: I see..and I started to tell you what I had read in the acknowledgements page and actually tell the audience. You start out by saying the initial inspiration for this work came from three men. And I want to name each of the three men and have you tell us why.
LAMB: First one, Jude Winiski an economic consultant, formal editorial writer at the Wall Street Journal. What impact did he have on you?
FOSSEDAL: Jude is both an intellectual and a personal inspiration. He's one of the most diverse people I know. He writes about all different sorts of issues with flair and liveliness. I guess he's now doing a guide to the media every year in addition to all his economic consulting and so on. And above all what has always impressed me and really I've tried to emulate in Jude is the way lives and writes in a very positive upbeat fashion. It's not Polyanish optimism. But Jude is just always looking for the positive thing that we should be doing. And there's a lot of energy spent on bashing even in this day and age and Jude is not a basher. He''s like the old story about the woman who somebody told her there was no such thing as a billion. So she spent the next 10 years counting up to a billion just to prove that there really was such a high number. That's not Jude and I really admire that an respect that in him. It's not easy to always be so focused on the positive.
LAMB: You say Winiski a joyous tinkerer in things desperate is better regarded as a sort of populace Lord Caines. Self described radical and wild man who's thinking is always fresh and his insights span every field of activity. What is a populace Lord Caines?
FOSSEDAL: Well Lord Caines was the great British economist who who formulated the thesis of Cainesism. Jude will probably never have a..there'll never a Winiski in economics but there is supply side economics. A term he coined. And Jude as much as any one else along with Jack Kemp and others at the Journal and Ronald Reagan in the 1980 campaign was in a sense was a late comer but the most important late comer of all. Jude really pioneered his own field of economics. At the same time unlike Lord Caines Jude is not of the British upper crust nobility. He grew up in a..his father I believe was a Pennsylvania coal miner. And Jude went out to exotic places like Alaska and Las Vegas where he made his early career in Journalism. He's equally at home having a Budweiser in front of the football game or debating the finer points of international economic policy with some Harvard economist. And that to me is a true intellectual. Somebody who is at home and has this sort of omnicurious attitude towards everything.
LAMB: Where'd you meet him?
FOSSEDAL: Jude and I met I think I was briefly working for the campaign of Jeff Bell who ran for the Senate a couple of times in New Jersey. And we met there but I I pursued him more and more because know I wanted to get to know him.
LAMB: Did you know him when you worked for the Wall Street Journal?
FOSSEDAL: Well yes. And in fact Jude was you know my sort of precursor at the Journal. I think that Bob Bartley the editor of the Journal's editorial page more or less self consciously more or less keeps a Winiski a wild man on the page. He doesn't want the page to be dominated by those sorts of people but he knows that you need a couple of people like Jude around. Although Jude and I weren't at the Journal at the same time I thought of myself when I was there as holding the Winiski chair in editorial writing under Bartley.
LAMB: Who holds it now?
FOSSEDAL: Well I'm not sure. The way it's evolved there's no one person. But there are several people there who are good lively writers that probably share a portion of it. There's Gordon Crovits and John Fund and Paul Shego down in Washington.
LAMB: Let me ask you about that page. What's its importance in the American society at this point.
FOSSEDAL: Well I think the Journal is still the most important page around. No only because its view is distinctive compared to most of the other large papers, the papers of great influence like the New York Times, the..and the Wall St..the Washington Post take a more liberal slant. But what's really distinctive about the Journal editorial page is more Bartley's philosophy of editorial writing which involves a lot of reporting. A typical editorial page I think the reader confronts four or five short pieces which more or less announce the newspapers opinion. And there may be some persuasive logic and so forth but it's more of a here is what we think sort of function. The Journal runs or one or two or even just one long editorial which some writer has spent a week or two working on and it usually involves quite a bit of original reporting. A lot of the issues that have come up in the last 20 years Soviet use of chemical weapons, Soviet arms violation, supply side economics itself. The development of that doctrine, currently some of the allegations that Congress has acquired too much power. Many of these stories were developed on the editorial page of the Journal as news editorial stories.
LAMB: How long did you write editorials?
FOSSEDAL: About two and a half years.
LAMB: The second name on your list here under the acknowledgements page that had an influence on you in this book is Richard Nixon. Why?
FOSSEDAL: Well I can't claim I have as extensive contacts with him as Jude. But we did several long interviews on foreign policy right at about the time I was starting this book and since then we've occasionally met and batted ideas around. And I really think Nixon in a way is like Jude in this aspect. For everything that you read about the man he is actually a rather irrepressibly optimistic person who simply loves the battle of ideas. And he is a fascinating man who now after all..basically he should be declared a national park or something. Here is a man who has know every leader from Churchill to Reagan and Bush. And yet has a very lively mind on the issues. He's not trapped in simply trying to use contacts or influence the way some retired politicians do. He's really interested in the issues and the ideas of foreign and domestic policy and always has interesting things to say about them.
LAMB: Any of the ideas that you put forth on democracy in here come directly from him?
FOSSEDAL: Well he gave an important speech. I think Nixon after the 1960 campaign with Kennedy realized that he had made a tactical error and in a way allowed Kennedy to present himself as the more vigorous proponent of a foreign policy of exporting democracy and Nixon had fallen into the trap. Although it's an understandable on of being more a defensive..a defender of the Eisenhower administration and so on. I realize he felt he had to do that to be loyal. Therefore after that in this book "Six Crises" when he talks about..there's a chapter one of the crises is on his trip to South America when his car was pelted and there were death threats and so on. And that really is one of the most insightful pieces on the whole..that situation spread of democracy. Issues that are really all still current today. And I relied on that model heavily.
LAMB: When was the last time you saw him?
FOSSEDAL: About three or six months ago.
LAMB: Did he see the manuscript of the book before you published it?
FOSSEDAL: We sent it to him and he did a nice jacket blurb. I don't know..I assume he read most of it.
LAMB: Third man in the group is Marty Parrets the owner of the New Republic. Why?
FOSSEDAL: Well Marty's engaged right now in what may be the most important enterprise for our country internally and for our ability and so on to improve things internationally. And that is the revivocation of the democratic party in this country. I think for too long the democratic which used to be the party ideas vigorous grown and debate has become a sort of futile protection of little pieces of turf and privileges. And Marty is trying to liven it up and return it to its true greatness. And that's really what we need is a healthy competition between the Republican and the Democratic parties. Right now there's very little competition and I know a lot of people in the country are very satisfied to have that low level of competition. But I don't think in the long run that's the most healthy development for us.
LAMB: Is there anybody that reflect..any politician that our audience would know that reflects how you feel about politics today. What..
FOSSEDAL: Jack Kemp.
LAMB: Jack Kemp.
FOSSEDAL: Bill Bradley.
LAMB: One's a Democrat and one's a Republican.
FOSSEDAL: But I don't divide the world up so much into Republicans and Democrats or even liberal and conservatives. Kemp and Bradley both have a great faith in the wisdom of the common man. And that I think is what divides the world. As Jude put it in one of his earlier books the world is divided into populace and elitists. People that think experts should run things and people that thinks people that think the electorate actually knows more than the experts. Maybe not individually you and I..I'm not saying that you or I would know more than some economist about marginal tax rates or what have you. But you and I and everybody in this room and everybody watching this show collectively somehow it's the genius of democracy that we do know more than that expert. As Bill Buckley put it some years ago he said I would rather be ruled..rather than being ruled by the Harvard University faculty I would prefer to be ruled by 200 names selected at random from the Boston telephone directory. And that I think is where Kemp and Bradley are really united.
LAMB: You left the Wall Street Journal to go to Hoover Institution.
LAMB: Why?
FOSSEDAL: Well mainly for the opportunity to write this book which although I was clipping and keeping files and so forth at the Journal basically it's been a full time enterprise that took me several years and I knew I had to get it out of my system. I was pregnant and I just wanted to give birth and get it over with. I was really was obsessed with getting this book out or it probably never would have gotten it finished. And Hoover is a terrific place to write books.
LAMB: Let me show the audience again what the book looks like. Again it's called the "Democratic Imperative: Exporting the American Revolution." Gregory Fossedal our guest on Booknotes as we talk about how this book came together. Anything about this book you don't like when it was finished. You didn't like when it was finished?
FOSSEDAL: Well I hated the cover they designed originally but we..I got them to redesign it three or four times and I like the way it looks now. No I mean there are of the frustrating things about writing I'm sure you find this doing interviews and shows too you could always improve something if you had another hour, day, week to work on it. You could keep changing it and making improvements. But I'm happy enough with the way it came out.
LAMB: Where did you write it?
FOSSEDAL: Mostly out at Stanford at Hoover.
LAMB: Long hand, on a typewriter, computer?
FOSSEDAL: I work on a word processor now. I think it's really helped my writing too. Anybody who's..a lot of people at Hoover that don't even type let alone use the computer and I think they're just crazy. So much more efficient and easier. And you can play around with things. You can move paragraphs around and so forth without retyping it 20 times.
LAMB: What do you hope happens now? And how much work are you going to do know around this book to make people aware of it?
FOSSEDAL: Well I'm always willing to go anywhere, anyplace and talk about these ideas. I care deeply about them or I wouldn't have written the book. And we're lining up..I'll be in Washington another couple of days and then doing some things in New York and on the West Coast and they're setting up some debates and things. I have to debate some fellow who thinks the United States has been declining and we're a sinking ship and so on and so forth.
LAMB: I want to show our audience three charts that you have in this book that I..explain before we show any of the charts what were..what did you put them in the book for?
FOSSEDAL: Are you talking about the maps at the back?
LAMB: Yes.
FOSSEDAL: Well the maps simply trace the growth of democracy from 1875 when there were really only a couple democracies and it was still considered rather a novel idea for anyone to even propose that countries could be governed democratically. Really no political philosopher from Plato to Aristotle right through most of the 17th and 18th century no one took seriously the idea that a major country anything larger than a city were everybody could meet in one room could be democratic. And so in 1875 you look at the map and the democracies are in white and you see the United States and Canada I think and a couple little splotches. By 1935 we have you can see the transition maybe. It gets a lot lighter and much of Europe by then is democratic or partly democratic.
LAMB: What's the gray area?
FOSSEDAL: Gray mean partly democratic. In between. You know not a quite a full fledged stable democracy but not totalitarian either.
LAMB: And then the next chart?
FOSSEDAL: And then in the third map we see the 1988 where basically all of South America except for a couple of countries is democratic. Although tenuously so because of the debt and economic situation there. All of western European for the first time with Spain and Portugal really fully joining the club. We even have Turkey which is very important because it may become the first Islamic nation. If they can govern themselves I would classify them democratic now but if they can maintain that it'll be the first major Islamic nation to sustain democracy for a number of years. And of course although it's harder to see because a lot of the countries are smaller much of Asia also now democratic.
LAMB: Is that China that's partly democratic?
FOSSEDAL: Yeah I've classified China as partly democratic. I'd..that's probably and controversial call. Although the Freedom House survey which I really..this is just really just an adaptation of their idea but I did with the help of a couple of institutes. The Freedom House survey this year classifies Poland and some of the countries of Eastern Europe as partly democratic as well. So it's a tricky call and some of these communists countries that are evolving.
LAMB: Let's go back one more time and look at those three charts so that those people who may have not been able to follow. Let's go back and look at the first one.
LAMB: You can see in just a second here we'll show you the first one and that would be the 1875 chart. That in South America a lot that mostly Brazil?
FOSSEDAL: The big black spot is Brazil that's right.
LAMB: All of Africa almost all of Asia and then at that point an awful lot of Europe was was partly democratic.
FOSSEDAL: That's right. Now of course Africa for reasons of the chart you could probably make a case that there were many little pockets of democracy in Africa. It was basically a lot of big colonies. But much of it was still independently ruled by very small tribes. But it would have been impossible to incorporate these teeny weeny spots on the map. And the same thing with much of Asia at that point. And I think it's important to keep that in mind because one of the notions that I'm fighting if I may say so in this book and that people have is that there is no democratic tradition in places like Africa and Asia. And the fact is that while the United States has done a great deal and I think is pivotal in bringing democracy to many countries they have a democratic tradition of their own. The Philippines for example. C SPAN: That's '35. Let's go then to the last chart again so you can see the difference. What is the principle reason in your opinion that this kind of change has come about?
FOSSEDAL: Well two principle reasons that I would say. One would simply be the..what I call the ideopolitical advantages of democracy. Its tendency as a system to have a better economy. To be more fair to people. People desire democracy. It's even more efficient militarily in a way. Not in the sense that we can spend 20% of our GNP or whatever on the military like the Soviet Union because we can't. But the fact is we don't have to because democracies are so much healthier and so much more on the cutting edge of technology that we can stay equal or head of the Soviets in these military races. Spending only five or six percent of our much larger GNP. And the second reason is that I really believe that in recent years particularly the United States and the other democracies have have vigorously began begun to help promote democracy abroad and that that's a part has been critical in forcing even some very reluctant totalitarians to consider reforming their society. And most of them are not reforming because they suddenly read Thomas Jefferson and overnight their thinking changed. They're reforming because they feel they are forced to. That there is a democratic imperative and that they're becoming irrelevant countries in the world fall further and further behind as long as they try to ignore the wisdom of letting people be free.
LAMB: Should we try to and you basically say this on the cover exporting the American revolution. Should we try to export democracy around the world?
FOSSEDAL: I think so. Although this is asked me about things I regret in the book. I have a little hesitation about that subtitle because it does imply to people a kind of elaborate self conscious effort to manipulate the entire world. Impose our system is a phrase that I hear a lot. No only do I not favor that but I actually in studying this I've concluded that that's one of the last ways democracy will come about. But the happy fact is that we don't have to impose our system on anyone. People are taking their belongings and putting them on boats. They are diving over walls as machine guns fire. And they're all heading towards democracy and away from totalitarianism. So really exporting democracy you know in a way we're helping others to import democracy because democracy is what the majority of the people in the world want.
LAMB: Who is the first person that you could find in history that suggested the idea of a democracy?
FOSSEDAL: Well as far back as I've read would be the philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle that talk about democracy. Neither one of them was very keen on democracy as the ideal system. Although it's important to remember that they were talking in an age when we did not have the communications we now have. When they said democracy they basically meant a bunch of people packing into a hall and having a town meeting. And of course that becomes impractical and it's subject to manipulation. You had the great orators and people who could move a meeting like that and get the people to make apprecious decisions. I don't know I guess if you go back to the Old Testament too you would have many examples of democracy. But I really believe democracy is the system of..that's natural and in accord with natural law. So I would guess if one subscribes to the theory of evolution or what have you that the first tribes and the first people that walked around in caves with Freddie Flintstone were probably democratically governed in some fashion because if you didn't like the government you could easily walk off to another cave or what have you. This is Rouseau's great proof. In a way I'm adapting that slavery couldn't have been the natural condition. That it really takes technology and human intelligence and imposition to make someone a slave. Because after all in a state of nature the slave would hardly stick around to be made a captive. He'd run away eventually.
LAMB: Is the United States a true democracy?
FOSSEDAL: There's no perfect democracy. But I think we're a very good one and we've taken the ideals of democracy and implemented them rather well. Obviously there are many improvements we could make as recently in the 60's many people were not given the rights to vote. I think even today we could make discrete improvements in the system. Apportionment of Congressional Seats.
LAMB: What's the definition of democracy?
FOSSEDAL: Well when I say democracy in the book I really am talking in shorthand. What I mean is what what you would more properly call a democratic capitalistic republic. Where it seems to me that normally some economic rights have to be granted. Now those are could point to Sweden which is certainly a free and democratic country but even in Sweden after while people are beginning to rebel against having so few rights to property. And of course the republican part of that mean that the government..that even a democratic government a government that people elect shouldn't be able to do certain things as powers or limit it. Even if a majority of the people in this country voted tomorrow to return the system of slavery or what have you it would be thrown out by the Supreme Court as something the government simply doesn't have the power to impose.
LAMB: What is a republican?
FOSSEDAL: Capital R republican or a small r.
LAMB: Well you refereed to a democratic republican I think earlier in the..our conversation and I wanted you to define the two of them. I mean what is word republican mean?
FOSSEDAL: Of a republic.
LAMB: And what is a republic?
FOSSEDAL: And a republic means that somebody has drafted or at least in the case of Britain prescribed a set of rules that are higher than the government itself. It's defined the government's powers. And you can even say in our case we are really a representative democratic capital republic because we don't have direct voting except in some of the states.
LAMB: Because of the Electorial College? Is that what you're referring to?
FOSSEDAL: Oh no. I meant more simply that we elect Congressmen..
LAMB: I see.
FOSSEDAL: enact the laws. We don't vote in the majority of the laws.
LAMB: Take a stab at defining what in our party system what is a Democrat. What is a Democrat? What's that supposed to mean and what is a Republican? Why did the two parties use those two labels?
FOSSEDAL: Well I think the Republicans coming out of the tradition of Lincoln stressed this country as a country that had no..of a government that ought not to do things like tolerate slavery. Although Lincoln was very cautious to explain the difference between saying that slavery was not right or just or in accord with the Declaration and on the other hand saying that it had to be over turned tomorrow. Lincoln's critics are always pointing out for example that he did not call for the immediate abolition of slavery in the south. But what he did say is a nation divided against itself cannot stand. A nation part slave and part free cannot stand. So he certainly said that eventually slavery is something that a republican government had no right to impose. There were higher things rights given to men by God or by nature depending on which formulation one prefers that the State couldn't take away. And the Democrats interestingly enough Douglas upheld the popular sovereignty doctrine that if the people of a state voted to have slavery they should be able to have slavery. And Douglas certainly argued that in his view slavery would economically wither away and for various reasons it would be phased out if you just made it democratic. But nevertheless he he did not believe that in principle slavery had to be abolished as long as it was imposed by democratic means. He was willing to tolerate it.
LAMB: In the book you have a chart and this kind of jumps from what we've been talking to you to an entirely different subject and I want to ask James to get in here real close if you can. And this is a chart..and can you explain it? Do you remember it in the book?
FOSSEDAL: Well this is simply a chart that asks..the first table there asks western Europeans whether they identify more with I forget what the exact phrase is but it's something like what American values is similar or somewhat similar to our own country's values and the second statement is what Russians value is similar or somewhat similar to our own country's values. And then they are asked whether they agree or disagree.
LAMB: And under these categories let's just pick these two right here. In Britain the polls show that 60% of the people believed in our values or I mean you know we had the same values?
FOSSEDAL: They feel that what we value represents what they value.
LAMB: They value. And only 25% of the French?
FOSSEDAL: Although in France'll notice the Frenchmen have just generally less enthusiasm for identifying with anyone because the proportion of French to British opinion favoring American values over Soviet values is about the same. It's 25 to 4 where Britain is 60 to 14. I think and you want to be careful about individual polls like this
LAMB: But right down here though this basically says that very few people in any of these countries thought that their values were the same as those in the Soviet Union.
FOSSEDAL: That's right. Less than 10% generally.
LAMB: One of your chapters is tuning into glasnost. What impact has the Radio for Europe, Radio Liberty, Voice of America had on a world wide effort to..are we trying to export democracy that what we're using those services for?
FOSSEDAL: Well what those radios do that I think is most important..we have this image of the voice of America as sort of simply being the counterpart to Soviet propaganda. That is sort of supposed to repeat democratic slogans and so forth and tell people how much superior democracy is and so forth. And I certainly believe democracy is superior to communism. But in doing the research for the book and studying both glasnost and the previous pamphletness of freedom as one historian has call them in eastern Europe. And uprisings in Poland and Hungry and so forth I've found a close link between our radio broadcasts and these previous surges or democracy. And they seem to do best..the nice thing about it and the interesting thing is that the radios seem to have the most impact when they are concentrating on conditions within those countries. It doesn't do somebody in Hungry much good to hear that Americans are more prosperous and so on and so forth. What they need is ideas and facts about how to incrementally reform the communist system. And there are a number of direct instances where it seems for example in the '50's the..I think it's fair to say that the that there were reforms incremental economic reforms going on in Poland, Czechoslovakia and elsewhere. And our radio very aggressively and in some detail and with some thought behind it reported on those developments. And reported on how people were organizing in other countries and within Hungry how alternative parties were forming to the communist party. And this information was critical to the formation of those democratic movements. You talk to anyone in solidarity and they say by far the most important thing that helped us and has continued to help us are the radio free Europe, Voice of America type broadcasts which tell us what is going on in the country. Tell us what is happening in the rest of the East Block and so on. I really think it's a great untold story the say itself appears to have begun in the wake of the Chernobel nuclear disaster and the Amaotol riots and some other unfortunate events in which Gorbachev found that it really didn't do any good not to talk about them on Soviet television because people were immediately finding out about it from Radio Free Europe and the BBC and Voice of America anyway. So in a way and the party had had lengthy discussions about this there was debate in communist theoretical journals about what the correct response was and I think they finally figured out that they may as well open up their own media because it really wasn't doing any good. In fact all they were doing was driving people..driving audience share over to the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe where people knew they could listen and find out what was going on.
LAMB: Let's look at a chart that you have in your book and I hope that our audience can see both ends of it. If not I've got it here in the book. We should have it up here on the screen here in just a second I hope. Eastern audience western broadcast percentage of adults listening regularly you've got the Voice of America (VOA) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the BBC and then you list the Soviet Union, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungry and Bulgaria. First thing Voice of America who runs it?
FOSSEDAL: Well the VOA is under the arm of the U.S. Information Agency. And it has a distinct mission from Radio Free Europe. Radio Free Europe's mission is more along the lines of what I was describing. That they should be a surrogate domestic service as it's called. The idea of Radio Free Europe is to try to cover what a Hungarian station would cover if there were free Hungarian stations.
LAMB: What's Radio Liberty?
FOSSEDAL: Radio Liberty is just the Radio Free Europe equivalent going to the Soviet Union.
LAMB: Only to the Soviet Union?
FOSSEDAL: Well you can pick it up elsewhere but..
LAMB: But it's beamed to the Soviet Union.
FOSSEDAL: Yeah and I believe it's it's only language is..well no that's not true it's mainly Russian but it also I think covers some of the Ukrainian some of the dialects and so on.
LAMB: BBC? What's the difference between what the BBC offers in its world service and Voice of America and Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.
FOSSEDAL: Well the BBC goes world wide and many different languages and I don't think it has a particular mission like the RFE. Nor does it have exactly the mission that our Voice of America has which is to explain the American system and the American viewpoint. The VOA has a very careful controls too and the recent directors have been good in drawing a fine line between reporting facts about American policy and so forth and being a sort of shameless advocate of it. The idea is not to simply what the mirror what the Soviets are doing with their propaganda. But to get facts to people. Facts are very pro democracy democratic thing.
LAMB: Here's what the book looks like that Mr. Fossedal has just written and published call the "Democratic Imperative: Exporting the American Revolution." It's published by New Republic Books and also has the label Basic Books. Isn't Basic Books what Irving Crystal used to run or does he still run.
FOSSEDAL: Well Irivng has written books for them and I think his good friend Norman Podoritz the editor of commentary. Podoritz's wife Midge Dector I believe was the editor at Basic for a time. Signed up a number of big books there. I think she brought George Gilder into basic not for "Wealth and Poverty" but he did a previous book for them "Marriage and Family..Sexual Suicide."
LAMB: Where did you go to school?
FOSSEDAL: Went to Dartmath.
LAMB: What did you study?
FOSSEDAL: I majored in Geoffrey Hart which is a joke. Any Dartmath person would understand. Geoff Hart was a very lively English Literature Professor at Dartmath and gave terrifically enjoyable courses. And I did actually..I think he's one of the reasons I changed my major from Economics to English. The other reason is the Dartmath Economics Department. And I certainly like a lot of students at Dartmath loaded up on all of Geoff Hart courses I could take. Most of his courses have three or four hundred people in them and they're frequented by English majors and non-English majors as well as a way of being entertained. But also and primarily getting a good course and learning something about the subject.
LAMB: Where did you grow up in the United States?
FOSSEDAL: We lived just about everywhere. We moved around between Buffalo, eastern Pennsylvania, New York, Chicago, Wisconsin, St. Louis, Minneapolis, probably leaving a couple of places out but my father was a marketing man and the way you moved up in those days was to do different test markets I think. So he had Trix cereal for a time and worked with Craft Master, Paint by Numbers, things and a lot of other companies. Gillette for a time.
LAMB: 20 years from now what does Gregory Fossedal want to be known for?
FOSSEDAL: For having written about this kooky idea that the whole world can someday be made democratic. It isn't inevitable and it isn't necessarily likely, but I think there's a really exciting possibility if you think about it that 20 or 30 years from now even 50 or 100 years from now I'm not antsy about the time that the entire world would be composed of democracies. And I think that would be a very peaceful and prosperous world.
LAMB: Do you want to be known as a author of books or as a columnist or what are your goals beyond the Hoover Institution?
FOSSEDAL: Well I've..I want to be known as the father of Christopher Felix Fossedal star player for the Boston Celtics. I'm already working on my left hand shot because I'm convinced if he's as slow and short as I am by NBA standards he's going to need the left hand. And I don't want to impose any system on him be it democracy or the left hand that I can't do myself. So I've been working on my left hand shot out on the court in recent weeks.
LAMB: You write a service column at the moment. How many times a week?
FOSSEDAL: It's once a week.
LAMB: Published where?
FOSSEDAL: It's in over a hundred papers. It's here in Washington. It's in the Washington Times and I think the New York Post and the Detroit News, San Diego Union, Orange County Register all pick it up occasionally.
LAMB: Do you hope to continue writing that column or what are you going to do after your stint at the Hoover Institution?
FOSSEDAL: Well I'm enjoying it and right now I've got another couple of books I'm interested in and I can't really see too far beyond three or four years pretty much doing what I'm doing now. Assuming that you're right that democracy is the way to go. Why in this country are we now below the fifty percentile voter participation?
FOSSEDAL: Well that actually that actually can be a very healthy sign because I think if people were very concerned that things were going badly a lot more of them would vote. If I may make a confession I don't think I voted in 1984. I did in the last couple elections just feeling that people should show up at the polls and perhaps if they haven't bothered to follow it just cast a blank ballot or something. But the fact is that someone who doesn't vote is in effect trusting others to vote for them and that can be a very rational and democratic decision if you haven't taken the time to follow the issues carefully or don't have any strong feeling about it and you're in effect deferring to the choices of others that you know have followed it more carefully or care more about it or what have you.
LAMB: Why is the voter participation going down in this country?
FOSSEDAL: I think it's because people are generally satisfied with their government.
LAMB: And it only goes back up in times of crisis or when you're unhappy with your government?
FOSSEDAL: I would hope it would go back up out of civic pride that people will start showing up and voting more. But I don't think it's important for democracy the absolute level of voting. Not only can you have a very healthy democracy with low voting levels but if there's any correlation you could almost argue that the high turn out countries may be the ones with a problem. I'm sure that over 90% of the people vote in Brazil and Argentina. In some of those countries you have to vote by law but in others you don't. And any country where 90% or 95% of the people are taking time out of other things to vote may be a place where things are just going so badly and people are so concerned that they feel they have to vote.
LAMB: Should democracies have a law that requires you to vote?
FOSSEDAL: I don't think so.
LAMB: Does any true democracy in your opinion have that kind of a law.
FOSSEDAL: Well many of the European and Latin American..I mean I think it's unwise. I don't think it makes you undemocratic to..if you decide it's important that everybody should vote.
LAMB: What do they do to you if you don't vote?
FOSSEDAL: Well I think that in some of the countries there are fines.
LAMB: They don't throw you in jail?
FOSSEDAL: I don't think so. Not that I know of.
LAMB: We only have a few minutes left. Looking back over pick the number of years 50 years 100 years what are some of the things that you think this country has done that has impacted democracy coming into some other countries? Maybe it would be better if I said all this defense expenditure over the years has it mattered?
FOSSEDAL: Well we've fought World Wars I and II and we very generously after World War II were good victors and in fact we set up two of our economic competitors, Japan and Germany by giving them our system. Passing along that gift that we received and with them much of western Europe well today all of Western Europe is democratic and a growing share of Asia is following Japan's lead. Shortly after the war of course we had the Marshall Plan. That was not's been called containment and it was in a sense but in another sense it was a very vigorous program. If you go back and read the war dispatches from Greece in the mid 1940's they aren't that different from what you might have seen coming out of El Salvador in the late '70's. It was a very tenuous thing and we had to help. And in the years after that I would say the Brettenwoods currency agreement which stabilized the international price level so the countries didn't have what they've had in recent years. You have whole countries like Nigeria that are dependent on one or two prices. The price of oil or some crop and our Federal Reserves decides to drastically inflate or deflate the prices and the country goes broke. Under Brettenwoods you had the dollar tied to the key indictor commodity of gold and all other currencies tied to the dollar and that in turn made possible the great expansion of free trade that was another important cause of democracy. More growth and trade I think in the 23 years following Brettenwoods than in all the previous years of history combined. Unprecedented levels of economic growth and industrial expansion as the world hitched itself to a stable money system and free trade which unfortunately we're struggling back to today but do not have.
LAMB: You lead off in the first chapter with a quote before you get into the first chapter from Alex..Alexis de Tocqueville "A great democratic revolution is taking place in our midst. Everybody sees it but by no means everybody judges it the same way. Some think it is a new theory and supposing it to be an accident hope they can check it. Other think it is irresistible because it seems to them the most continuous ancient and permanent tendency known to history." Who was he and why did you select his quote to lead off your book?
GREGORY FOSSEDAL: Well de Tocqueville was the great chronicler of the magnificent experiment in democracy that was going on and succeeding here. He came over on a grant from the French government presumably to study the American prison system. But I believe he was interested in the book even then and he wanted to describe to his fellow Europeans just how democracy was working working in America and as I say at the time 1835 it was considered a very novel and radical idea to think that democratic republic could even exist in such a large country even as the United States was then. And his book "Democracy in America" when it came out in 1835 I think and then there was a second volume had a tremendous impact in convincing Europeans that democracy was a system that could work and that really was his hidden agenda was to promote democracy within Europe as a system that reasonable countries could adopt and today I think it's remarkable to read that 150 year old quotation and realize how foresighted de Tocqueville was. I mean at the time he he wrote that great democratic revolution so called was really one country. But de Tocqueville understood that a good idea implemented even in only one tiny country is..has tremendous power. And so for 150 years since then we've seen that revolution grow and grow to the point today where more people live in freedom and increasingly growing percentage of them do and democracy flourishing in places like India and coming on in place like China where many experts told us you could never have a democracy because the people in these third world countries are too stupid. They don't..their not sophisticated enough. They don't have a thriving enough economy or what have you.
LAMB: Gregory Fossedal author of the "Democratic Imperative." A New Republic Book thank you very much for your time.
FOSSEDAL: Thanks for having me.

Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 2004. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.