Tim Bower
Political Development
Good Government, Bad Government

Fortuitous historical sequencing in political development is one of the keys to good government.

Appeared in: Volume 10, Number 2 | Published on: October 20, 2014
Francis Fukuyama is chairman of the editorial board of The American Interest and Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute of Stanford University. This essay is based on material from the just published Political Order and Political Decay (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).
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  • Very Good analysis and indeed it distills the essence of modern states. Of course, as you have also inferred, China, has achieved the first part of the sequence, which is formation of merit-base central strong state. And, presumably she did this through largely borrowing a leaf from the memory of her imperial past, not necessarily due to a Communistic reasons.

    Moreover, I am sure that you have heard of it, that President Xi of China going great guns in instituting a rule-of-law aspects of modern state, even, if that is distinctly different than the Anglo-Saxon’s understanding of what rule-of-law means. Subsequently, I presume, he is of the mind of using the Chinese concept of “legalism” in which the “enforcement” part of the law will be done without fear and favor to anyone (even if it applies to elites of the nation themselves); while at the same time, not paying much attention of how that law was made, or even, whether democratic accountability have had any involvement of the production of those laws in which everyone is expected to follow it.

    In other words, what he is trying to say, is lets give the court system a good teeth to go after everyone (or as the saying in China says: when it comes to corruption, we should go after “from flies to tigers”). Secondly, he is saying, let separate (as far as it’s possible) the administration of the law and it’s enforcement away from the party-machinery or that of the government. Hence, it’s his way of given the court of China a quasi-independence from the central government and from the party.

    Thirdly, he will try to revive the National people’s congress (as organ) that can at least play the role of the “quasi-accountability” part of the equation, so that, with this quasi-independence judiciary forming the most important part of this period of reforming the state, then, they, in turn, will complement the judiciary by taking the people’s concern or the supervision of the government that seriously without first checking with the party whether that is Okay.

    All in all, it’s a new experiment for China. And I am sure, just strong-state-capitalism was a “new experiment” of China, after the disaster of the Mao’s era upheavals, this new formulation of the Chinese’s version of the rule-of-law, will be a new experiment.

    So, in that sense, if he succeed in removing the tentacles of the party away from the judiciary (firstly), and even allow the court system to have a great deal of benefit-of-the-doubt, in-order for them to come to an independent judgement without paying a heed to the concern of the government or the party, then I believe he will be remembered as a man who introduce to the world a new concept that will be known as “Rule-Of-Law” with Chinese characteristics, as Deng created Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.


    PS:- Let me say, that, your Book will be heavily and closely studied as well as argued over in most of the important circles of the Chinese leadership. And, I think, President Xi, will be paying a great deal of attention on the part of your book dealing with how to a “reform” can be done to already well-established- strong state, so that an accountable rule-of-law to which to constrain that state can be envisioned without needing to go the German’s experience of war and depredation. This is the part China will be spending time in finding out how to do it, without breaking up her strong strong state, or allowing a complete transplantation of the Anglo-Saxon’s notion of rule-of-law and “one-man-one-vote-democratic-accountability” into China.

  • LarryD

    And the U.S. has fallen into full-blown clientalism. With an elite that has’t believed in the Constitution at least since Wilson. But, because their other, the common folk, hold our military in respect, and have a gun culture, the elite are terrified by guns and loth the military. Which means the elite don’t have the advantage when it comes to violence.

    • No, what the American’s elites have in abundance is the ability to insulate themselves behind a gated community (both metaphorically and in real sense), while, at the same time, a hired mercenaries (or private security) will guard them against the worse that others, who are from the depth of the “coming-apart” America could throw at them.

      Hence, since, they also have the ability to exercise a patronage political system to feather-bed themselves at the expense of the “unwashed plebs” in the Appalachian’s mountains, then, that the fact, that those same “Hoi-Polloi” have means to get access to deadly weapon is not a threat to them or their rigged-political-system.

      In other words, no one will take your gun away, or do anything to your precious constitution. But what will never happen is to see an effective government that could attend to the concern and the cares of the said “Appalachians Plebs”, since, government, as far as US is concern, has been truly captured by the concern’s of those elites you speak of, who in turn practice a “full-blown-clientalism” (as you have notice).

      Now, if the sight of government attending, solely, to the concern of those who captured her with money and with insider-dealing is something you can tolerate it, then, I assure you, no one in the American’s elites is interesting in getting into an argument with the likes of the Appalachians plebs about their right to bear arms and whatnot.

      In other words, what the elites really wants is a dysfunctional government that ask of them as little as possible that can contribute to the common-weal of America, while at the same time, guaranteeing that state itself will always do their financial and political bidding. And this scenario, in case you haven’t notice it yet, is what they already have.

  • Corlyss

    Fukuyama must be reading Kaplan. “Democracy works best when it happens last,” i.e., after a number of predicate developments. That’s been Kaplan’s thesis for well over 15 years. Kaplan might not be a professional historian, but I never heard a pro express so succinctly why so many non-Western societies have so much trouble with democracy, but a few HAVE made it work.

    • Dung Chaebol

      I think just reaching the same conclusion as someone else does not mean Mr Fukuyama read Kaplan or followed his thesis. His approach is institutions, not from geopolitical one like Kaplan’s.

  • Anthony

    “Fortuitous historical sequencing in political development is one of the keys to good government” as well as institutions matter (endogenous/exogenous) – Acemoglu and Robinson. Essay ends with “why has this process worked better in some parts of the world than in others?”

    Well given all factors/variables arrayed by Francis Fukuyama, ending question depends as much on imponderables as human social arrangements past and present. Human life, in truth, is less an affair of institutions than of people and an interplay of motivations and abilities. To that end, “the principle of effective government is meritocracy and the principle of democracy is participation” turns on motivations and abilities as well as circumstances of respective peoples involved (which also factors in combination of the two). I would posit that the historical interplay of the actors and social-political-economic arrangements constituted thereby frames (facilitates or distracts) the transitioning Francis Fukuyama outlines. Above all, clientalism, patrimonialism, dominance, etc. are social responses formed to meet human psychological needs as well as needs of the functioning state and are always with us whether gemeinschaft or gesselschaft prevails – the question is how to maintain powerful incentives to behave otherwise as inferred in essay.

  • CCCP

    So many clever words… it Seems like I’ve already read.
    Ah, here. The same style http://pdos.csail.mit.edu/scigen/rooter.pdf

    Similar to the generator of pseudo-scientific nonsense.

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