Tags: Fukuyama | US | democracy | state

Francis Fukuyama's Deep Thoughts on Order and Decay

By    |   Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014 08:02 AM

Francis Fukuyama, a senior fellow at Stanford and author of the landmark book The End of History, appeared at the Texas Book Festival in Austin to talk about his latest book Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy.

He was introduced by local radio talk show host Khotan Shahbazi-Harmon, who praised Fukuyama for not being content to "ride the wave" of his fame.

Rather than allow Fukuyama to make his presentation, the host began the discussion by asking him, "What is liberal democracy?" Fukuyama responded by doing what his audience probably hoped for, which was to explain how the book came about. He said it was intended to explain the political circumstance following the attacks of 9/11. Islamic fundamentalist terrorism had filled the vacuum created by the collapse of the political order in Afghanistan, which had always been weak, and Iraq, where order had been imposed by Saddam Hussein. He blamed the U.S. for undermining Iraq and creating the vacuum.

He observed that the U.S. "still hasn't figured out" how to build states in areas where order has collapsed. (This writer recalls that several administrations have eschewed the notion that this country would engage in "nation building.")

According to Fukuyama, in order to establish an ordered state, three components are necessary. First is the state itself that is able to deliver power and essential services. Second is the rule of law, which constrains the state and requires it to act in accordance with community norms. Last is democracy, which Fukuyama asserted forces the state to attend to the wishes of the population.

He finds that in many cases democracy has gotten ahead of the state-building component of the formula. The result is that corruption has taken hold, and he sees the spread of corruption as the central problem of contemporary politics.

Fukuyama cited Brazil, Turkey and China as examples where economic progress has created a rising middle class that has an interest in protecting the newly won wealth of citizens from seizure by the government, so they desire institutions that can hold the government accountable.

In response to the Shahbazi-Harmon's question about the role of the middle class, Fukuyama went all the way back to Aristotle as a philosopher who identified the middle class as the source of support for democracy. He estimated that China's middle class encompasses 300 million to 400 million people who are in contact with each other through computers and cell phones and talking about democratic ideas. He pointed to Venezuela as an example of a country where a large peasant class supports redistribution of the property of a conservative landowning class, then spoke of Pakistan as an even greater example of a country where an entrenched land-owning elite stands in the way of the establishment of democracy.

Therefore, Fukuyama and others have faulted Karl Marx for predicting that the industrial class would lead the Communist movement when instead it turned out to be peasants. (Another way of putting this would be peasants led by intellectuals and aspiring dictators.)

This writer has been looking for analysis from leading commentators of how the United States itself has relapsed into a post-democratic form of neo-Leninist crony socialism administered by lawyers and publicists for zombie financial institutions. Fukuyama may have come as close as anyone with his discussion of the state of affairs in Japan and the United States, where interest groups have captured regulators and used them as means to promote narrow interests.

Fukuyama attacked the tax code as a collection of unfair privileges and a Congress unable to pass a budget or address important issues due to paralysis by what he calls "vetocracy."

Unfortunately, he missed the point by endorsing the handling of the 2008 financial crisis episode by the Treasury and Federal Reserve.

(Archived video can be found here.)

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Robert-Feinberg
Francis Fukuyama, a senior fellow at Stanford and author of the landmark book The End of History, appeared at the Texas Book Festival in Austin to talk about his latest book Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy.
Fukuyama, US, democracy, state
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2014-02-29
Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014 08:02 AM
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