After receiving a law degree in his native Panama, studying at the London School of Economics and settling in the United States as a political refugee because of persecution by a dictator back home, Ricardo Lasso furthered his already extensive education–as an autodidact.
Fascinated by the divergent evolution of government philosophies in the three countries where he had resided–Panama, England and the United States–as well as variants in France and Spain, Lasso sought out primary and secondary sources to piece together why divergent forms of democracy took root in some nation-states, while authoritarianism dominated other nation-states. Then, applying his obvious intellect and relentless curiosity to the results he found, Lasso decided to write a lawyer-like extended brief defending democracy and indicting authoritarianism.
The result is a dense book that hopes to explain some of the most perplexing questions of human governance in under 400 pages.
Lasso deserves praise for the scope of his ambition and the depth and breadth of his research. Unfortunately, the same ambition that led to such vast research undoes him as an author. Ultimately, a book must be judged as a work of art, not merely as a vehicle for conveying facts and argumentative conclusions. Lasso crams so much factual information and theory into so few pages (relatively speaking) that the narrative becomes nearly invisible. Each page is crammed with useful information, to be sure, and a few of the 14 chapters hang together fairly well. Mostly, however, the author seems unaware of how to use transitions within and between chapters to move smoothly from one nation to another, one topic to another. He also alters the tone of the prose and the writer’s voice so many times, with so little warning, that exhaustion overtakes enlightenment for the reader.
It’s difficult to criticize such earnest scholarship, but this is an important tome badly in need of a skilled editor.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.