In This Review

On the Eve of the Millennium: The Future of Democracy Through an Age of Unreason
On the Eve of the Millennium: The Future of Democracy Through an Age of Unreason
By Conor Cruise O'Brien
Free Press, 1995, 166 pp.

The approach of the millennium, it is said, will induce many people to behave strangely, and we have no better proof of it than this short book by the otherwise sensible O'Brien. It begins with a ranting attack on Pope John Paul II--stimulated, it seems, by the latter's effort to make common cause with Muslims over family-related issues--in which the author admits that not a day goes by when he does not wish for John Paul's demise. By putting the pope in the same category as the Ayatollah Khomeini and labeling him an enemy of the Enlightenment, the author ignores the substantial support John Paul II has given to the cause of liberal democracy around the world and the legitimization of capitalism contained in his encyclical Centesimus Annus. The other essays in the volume are equally splenetic and quirky in their judgments, asserting, for example, that democracies tend toward a flabby populism--ignoring the costly and successful 40-year effort of the NATO alliance to resist communism.