There is an entire genre of publishing devoted to ‘The Last of This’ and ‘The End of That’. Within this, there is a further subgenre predicting the end of democracy, and one democracy – America – in particular.
Happily, Philip Coggan’s book doesn’t fit into that bracket. Despite the alarming title it is largely a sober, admirably unexaggerated and even-handed consideration of the troubles that are besetting Western democracies at present. He is right to set these troubles in a historical context, from Athens onwards, not least in order to remind us that we have been in considerably worse messes before. That said, the problems currently buffeting the West’s democracies are serious. And it has perhaps been glossed over too readily that two years ago two European countries, Italy and Greece, effectively had their democracies suspended as unelected bureaucrats were forced upon them. Few of the problems analysed in this book will be new to readers, but the way in which Coggan explains them and the generally cautious manner in which he proposes to fix them mean that his book deserves a wide and careful readership.
It mostly comes down to money. Everywhere there is the corrosive, ongoing squabble over who pays for our politics. But the problem of money runs throughout, not least in governments’ struggles to manage our economies. Coggan is especially right to highlight the failings of what he calls ‘double-delegation’, the process