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The Last Vote: The Threats to Western Democracy Hardcover – 5 Sep 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; First Edition edition (5 Sept. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846146895
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846146893
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 551,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Consistently illuminating ... admirably balanced ... An exploration of democracy's ills that anyone concerned with the current state of the world will benefit from reading. It is a book that addresses universal questions (John Gray New Statesman)

Coggan puts his argument together logically and methodically ... His conclusions are sensible and moderate ... It is rather a nice change to read a book which could best be described as a mild rebuke or a gentle warning. In essence, its author is getting a little Joni Mitchell about representative democracy (David Aaronovitch The Times)

[Praise for Paper Promises]: This book stands way above anything written on the present economic crisis (Nassim Taleb, author of 'The Black Swan')

Bold and confident ... This book should be taken very seriously (John Authers Financial Times)

About the Author

Philip Coggan was a Financial Times journalist for over twenty years, and is now the Buttonwood columnist for the Economist. In 2009 he was named Senior Financial Journalist in the Harold Wincott awards and was voted Best Communicator at the Business Journalist of the Year Awards. He is the author of The Money Machine, and Paper Promises, winner of the Spears Business Book of the Year Award and longlisted for the Financial Times Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.


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By Athan TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 17 Jan. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've followed Philip Coggan for at least fifteen years. Probably more. He is very clearly a genius. As far as I know, only two people in history have been able to produce a masterpiece every week, 52 weeks a year. One's Johann Sebastian Bach. Readers of "The Short View" know that the other one is Philip Coggan. For a long time I kept an article of his under my pillow, like Alexander kept the Iliad.

But this book's a dud.

Don't get me wrong, Philip Coggan's genius has not gone AWOL. It's fully on display. Page 87, for example, has a one-line description of the Great Depression: "..in 1929 ... an American economic slowdown caused the supply of credit to Germany to slow up. Banks collapsed, along with consumer and business confidence.." For those of us not paying attention he follows up with "The ensuing Great Depression was a huge challenge, both to governments of the day and to prevailing economic theory. Industrial production fell 25% in Britain and France and more than 40% in the US and Germany. Unemployment rose to 25% in the US and more than 50% elsewhere."

So the man is brilliant. But when I read a book I expect three things. I want to learn. I want to be challenged. And I hope to be entertained. "The Last Vote" fails on all three fronts. I read the whole thing and I can say I have learned absolutely nothing. And (with one exception I promise I'll get to) I have found nary a sentence, word or exclamation mark to disagree with. So I was not entertained, then, either.

Only two conclusions can follow from the above observation. Either Philip Coggan and myself find ourselves at a nirvana from where we can clearly see all the answers, or this book fails to ask enough questions. I'm afraid it's the latter.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Philip Coggan, a financial journalist renowned for objectivity and insight, has brought these traits to an analysis of modern democracy and a history of the right to vote. Political analysis is usually marred by partisanship and ideological bias. It is almost disconcerting to read a book which simultaneously dissects the damage done by an expanding welfare state and the insidious corrupting of our political system by an extreme distribution of wealth and influence. Coggan's relentless objectivity gives great weight to his arguments.

But this book is much more than a crystal clear critique of the current threats to democracy - rising government liabilities, campaign financing by vested interests, and voter apathy. Coggan brings political history alive by tracing the tortuous evolution towards one person one vote. This is a gripping narrative strategy, but also a compelling case for the thesis that power is deeply reluctant to loosen its reins. Often, when we think of the history of suffrage, the civil rights movement and the suffragettes spring to mind. But the battle is centuries old and has afflicted every social group and class, bar the monarchy.

As is typical of Coggan's work, the writing is superb: clear, articulate and jargon-free. There are also astonishing facts. For example, it took until 1971 for women in Switzerland to obtain the right to vote (and one third of the all-male electorate voted against).

Coggan concludes with an appeal for us to treat each vote as if it were our last. After reading this book it will be hard not to.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The mantra of US and, to a lesser degree, of UK foreign policy is to export the wonders of western democracy to the rest of the world. The societies targeted by this policy look on in wonder as they can see what most people in western democracies can't or don't want to see - the fragile nature of representative democracy itself.

This excellent book outlines the parlous state of democracy, and the threats and challenges it faces. This book makes sobering reading for anyone who subscribes to the view "Don't vote - it only encourages them".
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Philip Coggan is a titan of a academic who actually has the useful benefit of knowledge and evidence, and knows what he is talking about. But furthermore he isn't just another conservative nutter nor a liberal loser. He is somewhere in-between.

He argues with a severe sense of urgency, intellect and authority that is infectious. He is able to digest and convey complex political, historical and economic ideas and examples into layman's terms for the populous to contemplate. The mark of a great author. This book is pertinent, staunchly researched and confident in its ability to start a serious debate about our political systems, examining them from a economic, social and historical context.

It is so refreshing to be able to actually learn something from someone who actually knows their stuff, but without it being tainted by some sort of warped bias. Excellent read!
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