Throughout history authoritarian governments have outnumbered democratic ones to an overwhelming degree. Even today, true democracies are an exception. In this book, Somit and Peterson argue that the main reason for this pattern is that humans are social primates with an innate tendency for hierarchical and authoritarian social and political structures. Democracy requires very special 'enabling conditions' before it can be supported by a state, conditions that require decades to evolve. As a result, attempts to export democracy through nation-building to states without these enabling conditions are doomed to failure. The authors argue that money and energy devoted to nation-building around the globe by the U.S. would be better spent on problems facing the country domestically.
'Al Somit and Steve Peterson have written a book that is provocative, unconventional, and all too persuasive. Even if U.S. policies were more thoughtful and consistent, the efforts to create democratic regimes in the Third World are likely to fail: given the trajectory of genetic and cultural evolution, most of us are more comfortable with social systems that are stratified and hierarchical. Democracy requires eternal vigilance, which is a lot of trouble. With a choice between the liberte, egalite, and fraternite trinity and the combination of security and prosperity, most of us will settle for the latter.'- J. David Singer, University of Michigan, USA