Logo

The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution

May 2, 2011

Introduction

JOANNE MYERS: I'm Joanne Myers, director of Public Affairs Programs, and on behalf of the Carnegie Council, I'd like to thank you all for joining us on this very special morning.

It is a pleasure to welcome back to our Breakfast Program the esteemed political scientist, Francis Fukuyama. His earlier presentations at the Carnegie Council can be viewed by visiting our website.

Professor Fukuyama will be discussing the first in what is to be a two-volume work. This volume tracks the evolution of modern political institutions from the growth of politics among our primate ancestors through the beginning of the French Revolution. The extent of his research, analysis, and erudition is simply extraordinary.

It has been more than two decades since our speaker gained international attention and ignited a global debate with his best-selling book The End of History and the Last Man. His thesis, which first appeared in an essay published in 1989 as the communist era was coming to an end, is often quoted and is as many times misrepresented.

Therefore, when asked to clarify what he meant by the end of history, he expressed the view that the end of history was really about modernization in the sense that there is a coherent process that many countries from different cultural settings and backgrounds have gone through. He went on to say: "We used to think that at the terminal point of that process was some form of socialism, and my simple point was that it doesn't look like we are ever going to arrive at socialism. It is going to be liberal democracy and capitalism at the endpoint of that process."

Following the worldwide interest in this theory and the instant fame, many would have stopped and published little more. But not Francis Fukuyama. Like other great political theorists, he went on to reflect, reconsider, and refine his argument.

Now, with the publication of The Origins of Political Order, he does just that as he expands his thinking to find an answer to the existential question of politics, which is: Where does government come from?

He also addresses such issues as how does political development occur, how does one establish a modern functioning state, and why do some states succeed and others collapse?

To understand how contemporary institutions function, Professor Fukuyama draws from a diverse range of disciplines, such as biology, economics, and anthropology. His quest leads him to explain how human beings, in response to certain societal conditions in various parts of the world, such as China, India, the Middle East, and Europe, and at various moments in history transcended tribal affiliations and organized themselves into political systems. "This transition from kinship networks and tribes to the formation of states is a somewhat evolutionary mechanism," he writes, "but in the end it was the ability to adapt that enabled these societies to succeed."

The first volume is about the past and ends on the eve of the French and American revolutions, the reason being, he tells us, that "the three components needed for a durable political order—a strong and capable state, the rule of law, and accountability—were all forged in a time that was quite different than what transpired after the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s."

The second volume will bring the story of political development up to the present, paying special attention to the impact that Western institutions had on institutions in non-Western societies as they sought modernization.

We are in for a very stimulating morning.

Please join me in welcoming the author of this magnum opus, one of the leading public intellectuals of our time, Francis Fukuyama.

Thank you for joining us.

Remarks

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA: Thank you very much, Joanne. That's a very kind introduction.

I'm really glad to be back at the Carnegie Council. I am happy to be an American in New York on the day that they got Osama bin Laden. I think we can all be very pleased about that.

In the questions and answers session we can get back to the situation in that part of the world, because my book does speak to why, for example, you have tribalism still in parts of the world like Afghanistan.

But let me just set some of the background for why I wrote this.

Part of it was an effort to rewrite Samuel Huntington's great 1968 book Political Order in Changing Societies. Huntington was a teacher of mine. My favorite book of his was this earlier one, not The Clash of Civilizations. The 1968 book really talked about the process of modernization and, incidentally, is one of the best contexts for understanding the Arab Spring and why it is that it's the educated middle class in Egypt and Tunisia that led these revolutions rather than the poor or the disposed, because Huntington predicted that that's exactly what would happen.

The other source of this was dealing with the problem of weak and failed states and nation building, which has obviously been at the core of American foreign policy in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Haiti—any number of places.

We who are privileged to live in rich developed countries take the state for granted. In fact, we Americans make a profession of hating the state, complaining about it, and wishing that it would go away.

But in fact it is non-present in a place like Somalia. If you want to have your own assault rifle, or indeed RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] or tank, you should move to Somalia and see how much you like it there.

In fact, the problem of having a state as an institution is what I refer to in the book as "the problem of getting to Denmark," where Denmark is actually not a real country, it's a mythical place that is non-corrupt, it's got a good government, it is responsive, it's democratic, it delivers services.

We are always trying to take a country like Somalia, Haiti, or Iraq and turn it into Denmark, and it doesn't work very well, and we're always puzzled why that's the case. It's because we don't really understand how Denmark itself got to be Denmark.

I actually have a visiting professorship at a Danish university, so I have been going to Denmark for the last several years. Let me tell you the Danes themselves don't know how they got to be Denmark. They started out as a tribal people, these ferocious Vikings, and now they wouldn't hurt a pussycat. It's a very interesting process of the development of political institutions.

So that's the problem.

The modern political solution consists of three important baskets of institutions. That is the framework for the discussion that I present in the book.

The first institution is the state. A state is all about power. It is the ability to concentrate power and to be able to use it to enforce rules on a particular territory.

In particular, a modern state is a state that is run impersonally, meaning it's not the ruler just picking his cousins, in-laws, and friends to run the state. It is recruiting a bureaucracy that is based on functional criteria, on talent, on merit, and organizing the state in a rational and coherent way.

In the book I spend six chapters talking about China because I believe that China was really the first world civilization. It wasn't the first to create a state, because states had been created in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Mexico, and other places. But it was really the first to create a modern state, in the sense of having impersonal recruitment, a very well-developed bureaucracy, and to be able to centrally manage a huge empire. They did this in the 3rd century B.C. I don't think that they have ever gotten adequate credit for actually having achieved that degree of modernity at that early a point.

This saves me from a kind of Eurocentric narrative that is typical in Western accounts of modernization, going all the way back to Karl Marx, Max Weber, and some of these early modernization theorists who regarded England and Western Europe as the paradigm for modernization, and that every country in the world would eventually follow the path that a country like England followed.

For reasons that I will make clear, I don't think that is a good model, because England, in particular, is a very peculiar country and there are some very odd features of its process to get to the modern world that I don't think we would expect many other developing countries to follow.

So instead of saying, "Well, the model is England, why are other countries different from that?" I began by saying: "Here's China. They developed the first modern state. Why are other countries different from China? Why did they diverge?"

So the state is one institution.

The second set of institutions have to do with the rule of law. The rule of law as I define it in the book is a set of rules of justice that reflect the norms of a particular society or community, but they have to be seen as superior to the will of the present government if it is to truly be the rule of law. If the rule of law is just whatever the emperor decides is law, that's not the rule of law. The rule of law has to be binding on the executive authority within the government.

Then, the final set of institutions are institutions of accountability. We largely understand that today as democracy, as multiparty elections. But the concept of accountability is actually broader.

The first form of accountability came out of the Glorious Revolution in England in the late 17th century, where the king agreed that he was constitutionally accountable to parliament. It wasn't democracy though, because parliament at that time represented only the richest 10 percent of English society.

Furthermore, procedural accountabilitythat is to say accountability through electionsis not the only form of accountability that is possible. It is possible to have moral accountability. In fact, the way that Confucian education worked was to train emperors and princes to be responsible and to feel a certain sense of responsibility towards the people that they governed.

I don't think that it's an accident that all of the existing successful authoritarian modernizers are all clustered in East Asia, within this general Chinese cultural sphere of influence. So Japan at an early point, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, China itself—all of these countries have had periods of rapid economic growth under authoritarian leaderships that were developmentally oriented in a way that many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, or the Middle East are not. There is a degree of nonprocedural accountability involved.

Those are the three important political institutions. The state is all about concentrating power, rule of law is about limiting power, and accountability is about making that power responsive to citizens' interests.

Modern politics is this kind of miracle, where you actually have extremely powerful states that can do a lot to coerce people, but they are limited in their ability to do that by both law and by accountability.

So the question is: Where did all of this come from?

We begin with the state. It's a long-term struggle in a certain sense against the family. The reason for this is human biology. I spend a whole chapter talking about what we know about human nature based on primatology and evolutionary biology and evidence from archaeology and paleo-anthropology.

One of the important points is that human beings were never isolated individuals. They were always social creatures. The primates from which we are descended were also social creatures that had highly developed cognitive and emotional characteristics that allowed them to cooperate.

There are two primary forms of biological cooperation.

One is what the biologists call inclusive fitness or kin selection, which simply means that you're altruistic towards people in proportion to the number of genes you share with them, which is just a scientist's way of talking about nepotism, that we favor genetic relatives.

The second mechanism is what's called reciprocal altruism, which is a version of "I scratch your back, you scratch mine." We exchange favors with friends.

The thing about both kin selection and reciprocal altruism is not only are they practiced by nonhuman primates, but with any human child you do not need to teach them these principles. It's part of their endowments as human beings.

Therefore, it is a default form of human sociability that we all come back to.

Cooperating with friends and family and promoting the interests of friends and family is the default form of sociability that will insert itself no matter what.

To understand the rise of politics, in a way you have to get away from friends and family, because if you are going to create a modern state, you cannot staff it with your cousins and in-laws. You have to establish a different kind of principle with different incentives to recruit people on the basis of talent rather than either a genetic relationship or friendship.

Therefore, the story of the state is really a story of how you get beyond kinship.

Unfortunately, the principal driver in very many societies is warfare. Economics by itself isn't enough to do this.

All societies at one point are organized like people in the Sunni Triangle or in Kurdistan or Afghanistan. They are organized tribally. They have social organization based on a belief that they are descended from a common ancestor.

This was true of the Chinese. In about 1100 B.C., a group of tribes come out of what is now Manchuria. They establish the Western Zhou Dynasty. At this point there about 3,000 different tribal entities in the Yellow River Basin. Then, in a concentrated 500-year period, they fight this unbelievable series of wars that drives the formation of the first modern Chinese state.

So in the spring and autumn period they fight about 1,200 wars. In the warring states period they fight around 450 wars. It goes from 3,000 entities at the beginning of this period down to seven in the warring states period, and then down to one single entity at the end. In 221 B.C. the western state of Ch'in defeats all of its six rivals and emerges as the basis for the first unified Chinese dynasty.

The war-making process is what drives state formation. First of all, you have to raise conscript armies of peasants, because they can actually beat the aristocrats on chariots that had been the earliest form of Chinese warfare. But to do that you've got to tax, you've got to do cadastral surveys, and you've got to have a bureaucracy that can collect taxes, that can distribute it, and do the logistics for the army.

This is the point at which you begin to get impersonal recruitment, first of all because all of the leaders' relatives that are riding these chariots have all been killed off, and then you suddenly realize that if you hire a general just because he's your cousin, he may be not that great a general, and it's better on the basis of merit. This is something that every society has to learn painfully in the crucible of war.

So, for example, Abraham Lincoln early in the Civil War made a lot of patronage appointments, because that's how federal politics worked at that point, and you got a lot of idiot politicians running armies, and they were defeated in some of the early battles in the Civil War. It's only later that military necessity drove the recruitment of people based on talent.

This is something the Chinese figured out at this very early stage in their history. You get a single Chinese state emerging in the 3rd century that is modern in terms of having a rational bureaucracy; they invent the civil service exam, and that is the basis for their power.

Now, that's not the only way of getting to a state and getting beyond the family.

Probably the weirdest institution to do this is the system of military slavery that was developed first under the Abassid, which was the second great Arab dynasty after the Prophet Mohammed, and then carried to its logical conclusion by the Ottomans.

The Ottomans had this institution where every three or four years they would send out, in effect, a group of talent scouts or football scouts into the Balkan provinces of their empire. They would capture Christian children and take them away from their families. These were young boys between the ages of 12 and 19. They would also capture slave girls for sexual purposes for these guys. These slaves were brought back to Istanbul or to Edirne. They were not treated with indignity. Indeed, they were given the finest education possible in the Muslim world, raised as Muslims, and then recruited to be senior civil servants and generals in the sultan's army.

They were not allowed to marry initially and they were not allowed to have children. If they did have children, those children were expelled into the general population. They were not allowed to inherit their father's status.

The whole point of this was to create an impersonal merit-based bureaucracy in the face of societies that were intensely tribal. The problem with a tribal army is at the height of the battle some tribal sheik gets tired of fighting and says, "Okay, let's go home now." This was a constant problem of the early caliphs.

The only way they figured out how to solve this and to actually create a powerful military machine was to literally rip people away from their families, raise them in an artificial family, so that they would transfer their loyalty to the state instead of being still stuck in this kinship-based social network.

The Ottoman Empire began to deteriorate at the moment when the Janissaries, which was the kind of palace guard made up of these slave soldiers, began to have children and then they began to insist that their children be able to inherit that status. That was, in a sense, the beginning of the unraveling of Ottoman power when a few weak sultans in the 17th century began to give in to these kinds of demands.

So that is state formation.

The rule of law. As I said, the law is a set of rules that is superior to the will of the government. Everywhere where a genuine rule of law has existed it always comes out of religion because religion is the only source of moral rules that are not made primarily by political authorities. In every important religious tradition, they are made by a separate hierarchy of priests, judges, or interpreters.

In ancient Israel, in the Christian tradition, in the world of Islam, and in Hindu India, in all of these civilizations you have a law that is interpreted by religious authorities.

In India, the top varna, the top class, are brahmins, who are priests. They are interpreters of the Vedic text. They are superior to the kshatriya, the second important status group, that are the warriors that actually have political power.

Every rajah in India has to go to a brahmin to get sanctification. The law is not something that the kshatriya makes. It's something that the brahmin has the power to determine. So India right from the beginning had a rule of law that limited political power.

The same thing was true of the lama and the scholars in the Muslim tradition.

In Western Europe, the institutionalization of law as a separate body began very early and proceeded the furthest of any of these civilizations. It happened in the 11th century basically, at a very early point in European history.

Up until that point, in the Catholic Church priests were allowed to marry, they could own property, and indeed when they had children they would attempt to turn their benefices over to their children. So this biological principle of taking care of your children applied within the Catholic Church.

The Church was heavily involved in the court politics. In fact, the holy roman emperor could make and unmake not just bishops, but popes as well.

There was a great titanic figure, Pope Gregory VII, who arose as the head of the papal party in the course of the 11th century, who realized that until the Church cleaned up its own act and got independence from political authority, it would never be able to exert the kind of moral authority it needed to do its mission. So his first order of business was to proclaim celibacy of the priesthood.

In light of the debates over celibate or noncelibate priests in the present world, a lot of Catholics believe that this is doctrinally based. But it really is not. In Gregory's mind this was actually a very practical means of extracting the Church itself from nepotistic politics and reducing the degree of corruption within the Church.

He had an enormous struggle with the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV. He excommunicated this emperor. The emperor had to go to him in Canossa and wait three days in the snow for absolution. It led to a two-generation war between the partisans of the Church and the partisans of the emperor.

At the end of this, you had the Concordat of Worms, in which the Catholic Church for the first time was able to appoint its own bishops without political interference.

This was really the beginning of the rise of modern European law, because in the process of this fight the Church had uncovered the Justinian Code from a library in an attic in northern Italy. This was the great compilation of Roman law that had been done by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. It was taught at the law school in Bologna, which then seeded law schools all over Europe.

The modern civil law tradition in continental Europe is ultimately derived from this recovery of the Justinian Code that was then codified and promulgated by the Church initially as ecclesiastical law. The separation of ecclesiastical law from civil law, from the secular law that was made by princes, really begins at that point.

So in the West you have this huge transnational legal institution that was created very early on, before there are modern European states.

The final important institution is accountability. It was a lucky accident that we have democracy in the modern world, because if you look at the process by which democratic institutions arose, it really came out of the survival of a peculiar feudal institution into modern times.

That institution in England was called the parliament, in Spain it was called the cortes, in France it was called sovereign courts, in Poland and Hungary called a diet, in Russia called a zemsky sobor. Every Medieval king had to go to these bodies to get permission to raise taxes or to make important decisions.

In the late 16th and 17th centuries, a whole bunch of European monarchs decided they were going to try to be like Chinese emperors. They were going to centralize power. They were going to build centralized bureaucracies that could then project power over their whole realms without having these intermediary institutions standing in their way. So in every country that was a big fight between the king and these states.

Only in England is the parliament sufficiently cohesive and strong to stand up to the king and basically fight him to a draw. They actually raise an army, fight a civil war, cut off the head of Charles I, and then dethrone James II in the Glorious Revolution in 1688, and bring in a Protestant pretender from Holland, William of Orange. That political settlement is the basis of modern constitutional government, because in the process of this fight the king agrees to the principle that legitimate government comes from the consent of the governed.

John Locke, the philosopher, was a participant in the Glorious Revolution. He writes the Second Treatise on Government that establishes this principle as a means of justifying basically this dethroning of James II.

They also establish the principle that there is no taxation without representation, because that's what a lot of the fight was about in the civil war.

It is less than 100 years from those developments in England to 1776, the embedding of John Locke's principles in the American Declaration of Independence and the creation of an American republic based on those same principles: no taxation without representation and that legitimate government arises out of consent of the governed and not the other way around.

So in some sense it doesn't happen in France, it doesn't happen in Russia, it doesn't happen in Hungary or Poland, it only happens in this one country. It leads to this mixture of these three institutions—the state, law, and accountability—that is extremely powerful and then becomes the basis of the building of a modern capitalist order in the years that follow the end of my book. You'll have to wait for Volume 2 to get to that part.

Incidentally, France, just to give you an example, never creates this kind of parliamentary representation. The reason for that is basically the ability of the French state, or the strategy that the French state used, to basically sell off parts of the state to wealthy individuals.

Because they are constantly broke, they invent this practice of venal office, in which they auction off the position of, let's say, finance minister to the highest bidder. So a wealthy financier buys it, uses it to pad his own pockets, burns the records—at the end of every year they had a bonfire to make sure that no one actually held them accountable for this.

In the early 1600s they developed an institution called the paulette, by which these individuals, having bought their offices, could actually transmit them intact to their children along with a chateau and other personal property. So by the eve of the French Revolution, virtually the entire French state had been sold off to wealthy individuals as their own private property. It did a lot to discredit the old regime and was one of the causes of the revolution itself.

Tocqueville said that the reason that the French never succeeded in getting to democracy the way the English did was that they interpreted liberty as privilege. That is to say, "I take care of myself and my family, and I'm fine with that, and I don't care what happens to anybody else." Whereas the English had much greater solidarity to talk about the rights of man or Englishmen as a class of people.

Just to wrap up, how is this at all relevant to anything going on in the modern world? I think in a couple of respects.

First of all, let's take India versus China as emerging market countries. Which one do you want to invest in?

China's big advantage is that it is authoritarian and it can make decisions in a big hurry. Those of you who have been to China recently know they have beautiful airports and high-speed rail. They created the Three Gorges Dam, which involved moving 1.2 million people out of the flood plain. The Chinese kicked and screamed and complained, but the Chinese government just said, "We're just going to do it. So tough, you have to move." And they build the dam and they get the hydro power.

India, by contrast, has something like one-fifth the amount of stored water per capita that China does because it is really hard for them to get big infrastructure off the ground because it is a law-governed democracy.

If you remember, Tata Motors tried to create an auto assembly plant in West Bengal a couple of years ago. They gave up finally because there were too many strikes by peasants' associations and trade unions, and lawsuits.

It has been very hard in India to actually make big decisions on infrastructure. This is not the result of British colonialism or anything that has happened in the last couple of hundred years.

If you look at the longer patterns of history in both of these societies, since the 3rd century B.C. China has been a centralized bureaucratic authoritarian regime with only a few inter-dynastic interruptions of that.

India, by contrast, has been unified only on several fairly brief occasions, and even in those cases under the Moguls or under the British, no government has ever been able to penetrate Indian society, reorder it, exert extremely strong authoritarian power, ever in Indian history, because Indian society is just too strong. It has a religious basis. The society resists this kind of exercise of political power.

It shouldn't surprise anybody that you get these differences in governance up to the present moment. Democracy in India may not have specific historical roots, but there is no historical precedent for strong Chinese-style authoritarian government in India.

Let me wrap up with a comparison this time of China and the West, or China and a law-governed democracy like the United States.

What is the difference in the overall pattern of political development? China, as I said, develops a modern state very early on in its history.

But it never develops rule of law. China is the only world civilization that does not have rule of law in my sense because it never has a transcendental religion. The Chinese always proclaim law, but it's always a positive law. It's almost a proclamation of the emperor. There is never a concept in China that the law is something higher than the state that should restrict what the state itself is able to do.

Having established this very powerful state, they can then prevent the formation of groups that would be opposed to it, like an independent bourgeoisie in cities, blood nobility, or a religious establishment. So the fact that they go after Falun Gong today follows in a long, very consistent line of opposition to the formation of any civil-society source of authority that they don't control. You get just the state with no accountability and no rule of law.

In the West, the sequence is oftentimes misunderstood. It begins with rule of law, then moves to the development of a strong state, and only at the end do you get institutions of accountability. The very process of state formation in early modern Europe is done against the background of law.

There is this contrast I make in the book. My favorite character in Chinese history is the evil Empress Wu, who lived early in the 6th century. She was the only woman in Chinese dynastic history to ever establish a dynasty under her own name, as opposed to being a regent for a son or a husband. She did this in an extraordinarily ruthless way.

She was the concubine of the second Tang emperor. She arranged to have her own young daughter brought into the empress's presence and then smothered, and then the crime was blamed on the empress, who was subsequently then dethroned, and then a few years later cut up and stuffed in a wine vat somewhere.

This consort Wu then became the empress. She killed one of her own sons. She sequestered another one. She actually managed to kill off a substantial part of the Tang nobility that had opposed her rise to power by the end of the 6th century.

So the kind of internal power struggles among the elite in China were not restricted by legal restraints on what people with political power could do to other elites.

In Europe, by contrast, there were two big, famous revolts. One was the Revolt of the Comuneros against the great Hapsburg Emperor Charles V in the 1520s. The other one was this uprising known as the War of the Fronde in France against Louis XIV. Both of these are antimonarchical revolts by elites and aristocrats. They lose the war. At the end both of the kings pardon their noble rivals.

If this had been a Chinese emperor, they would have been executed and their whole lineages would have been killed off to break the rope of dissent. But in Europe there were constraints. Up until the great totalitarian upheavals of the 20th century, there were very powerful constraints on what people could do in the exercise of power that sets up the present.

This is the question we have to ask going forward into the future.

The Chinese have this extremely efficient, high-quality, authoritarian, centralized system with no checks and balances. If they want to do a stimulus plan or infrastructure investment, they just go ahead and do it.

We, on the other hand, have an institution that has a state but it has lots of checks and balances. Right now we are very checked and balanced. In fact, we are so checked and balanced, because of a rather dysfunctional political culture, that we can't actually make decisions on impending problems that everybody can see rising ahead of them—health care cost, the deficit, the basic unsustainability of the current course that we are on. But the political system, because it emphasizes constraints on the exercise of power, isn't able to get through the decisions that we have to make.

So the real question is: In the future which of these systems is going to be more sustainable as we go forward?

I still continue to bet on the democratic one with the checks and balances for a number of reasons that we can discuss when I stop talking.

The main one has to do with this problem with the bad emperor that the Chinese themselves recognize, which is an authoritarian system without checks and balances is a great system if you've got a good emperor in charge, if he's benevolent and does the right thing and is competent. But there is no guarantee that you are going to have a good emperor.

In Chinese history you've had plenty of bad ones, beginning with the first Ch'in emperor that threw 400 Confucian scholars into a pit and buried them alive because he didn't like the things that they were saying about him; through the evil Empress Wu; the Wanli Emperor towards the end of the Ming Dynasty who went into his palace in the Forbidden City and didn't come out for another ten years, and in that whole ten-year period not a single decision memorandum was signed by the executive authority in China; up until Mao Zedong, who was regarded by the Chinese as their last bad emperor.

When you've got one of these guys in power, it's a real disaster—or gal in the case of the Empress Wu—because there are no checks and balances in that system. Therefore, there is no way of getting rid of them and no way of putting a limit on the kind of damage that a bad executive can do.

So I continue to bet on our system in the long run. But it does suggest that we've got some problems in the meantime, because you are never going to get to the long run unless you can get through the short run first.

Thank you.

Questions and Answers

QUESTION: Jim Traub with The New York Times Magazine.

Frank, that was really dazzling. I thought that was fantastic. But I want to ask you about the note you ended on, which is this whole question of benevolent dictatorship and whether that's a kind of contradiction in terms.

You talked about Sam Huntington as your mentor figure. I wonder if that generation of modernization theorists, who as I understand it were great champions of these so-called benevolent dictators, because they saw that as part of a stage of democratic development, if they have a certain amount to be held accountable for, because everybody thought, Okay, these benevolent dictators are good because they will help mobilize forces in society. It all turned out mostly to be wrong.

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA:
That's right. This began as a project to rewrite Political Order in Changing Societies that Sam Huntington wrote in 1968 because the first page of that book says: "The Soviet Union and the United States are equally developed political orders." That sounds pretty strange after the fall of the Berlin Wall and what we know now about the hollowness of the Soviet regime.

He was half right about it, because it did play out in Asia. If you look at the way that South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan itself in an earlier period developed, it was through modernizing authoritarian government that only later made a transition to democracy.

But Huntington was, as you said, wrong about most other dictatorships. They weren't modernizing, they're just dictatorships.

He's got this long chapter on the Revolutionary Institutional Party [PRI] in Mexico as a great modernizing thing. Now we regard the PRI as the home of these dinosaurs that have kept Mexico stagnant and continue to preside over a very stagnant economy.

That's one of the important things that does need to be revised in Volume 2, when I get to the modern world, because an authoritarian regime can be just as non-participatory and stagnant as any other kind of regime.

QUESTION: Ron Berenbeim.

There is a place where we get a chance to test your hypotheses about the Chinese model versus the Western model, and that is Africa and possibly the Middle East, because China is very active in investing in those parts of the world.

It has its own model: "We'll build a railroad, we'll build a road to your factory. Just leave us alone. And by the way, here's a suitcase full of cash." That of course helps to consolidate the power of the local regimes. How do you think that will play out over time, because that's the test of how all this is going to work out?

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA:
One thing that makes this period we are in right now different from the Cold War is that the Chinese have their own model but they're not evangelists about it. They just want to make money, and I don't think they particularly care whether other countries in the developing world adopt their system. In fact, if you talk to them about their model and you suggest that someone else could emulate them, it's ridiculous, because it's very hard to emulate that Chinese model.

For example, just within the Politburo and the senior positions, they have term limits. They step down. Hu Jintao is not going to be president after next year because they've got a very well institutionalized system. You try to tell that to Ben Ali, Mubarak, Museveni, or any of these characters that have way overstayed their limits.

I don't think the Chinese model actually is emulable in the vast majority of developing countries. What the Chinese are going to do is basically help keep alive existing bad forms of authoritarianism, like in Sudan and other places where they do business.

Now, whether in the end they are more harmful than helpful kind of depends, because a lot of developing countries are actually grateful to have investment dollars without a lot of strings attached. If our record in promoting development in these countries were better, and if it seemed like the West knew what it was doing in these countries, I would say it's terrible that the Chinese are all over the place. But I'm not sure that our record is all that good. So we'll just have to see how that works out.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. I come from Nepal. You referred to the examples of Somalia and Denmark. But there are so many countries in between. I am interested in that particular group of countries.

You know that democracy and freedom are the aspirations of all. But especially in countries like ours, the challenge is poverty eradication and development. You said rightly that a state, accountability, and rule of law all are important.

You also said that there is a historical process of development from the 3rd century B.C. in China. But many countries in our part of the world do not have either that history or that capacity to have a really strong state and experience with the rule of law and accountability. So how do you deal with this need for that and then leapfrogging that to the modern world, but again dealing with the development and the poverty eradication?

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA:
I don't know what is a good strategy for Nepal going forward. But you are not a victim of geography, because if you can compare Nepal and Bhutan, Bhutan has done much better. The reason it has done better is that back under the monarchy, the Nepalese monarch really didn't permit any sharing or participation. He wasn't particularly interested in development. It spawned this Maoist rebellion that is now the best-organized force in the country. So now you are trying to negotiate your way to a constitution after the ceasefire where the Maoists are really the most organized force in the country.

Bhutan, with a very similar physical environment, cultural background, and so forth, showed that actually you can have an evolution, where they are doing a sort of top-down granting of democracy from the king himself.

Where Nepal goes in the future requires a constitutional compromise between all of the parties that have coercive power. It is basically the army and the Maoists. I don't have specific advice about that.

But clearly, the way the constitutional government arises in the first instance is not that everybody is converted instantly to democracy. It's that people realize that they can't get their basic demands by taking up arms.

In some sense, that situation may exist in Nepal between the army and the Maoists. They have seen what it was like to have this war. But they've got to realize that it's better to settle for half a loaf than trying to go for the whole thing. But what do I know?

QUESTION: In my daily doings in the United Nations, I represent the former colony of your Denmark, which is called Norway today. [Laughter]

This, I guess, is for Volume 2. On the UN at the Security Council agenda 80 percent are African problems, and in the other bodies down there I would say a comparably high figure of percentage of attention goes to African problems—building statehood as it is called, supporting countries coming out of crisis. You have all kinds of wonderful papers and ideas being circulated about how to do that.

I discerned from your introduction that rule of law is not something that comes as a quickie. I personally believe that it is actually rule of law which is what one should go after in countries which are struggling to get on a solid footing. Some of them are. Some of them are seriously not doing that.

But, rather than to spread the activities around and to make the picture too complicated, unless there is minimum security for person and property, you will not get anything else done in society.

As I said, I guess this is for Volume 2. But what do you see as the timeline that we have to comport with when we look at African modern problems today?

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA: I agree with you that rule of law is important. But you actually need two things simultaneously, which is rule of law and a state.

One of the big problems in sub-Saharan Africa is state weakness. The states just cannot enforce laws in their own territory.

You don't want just a strong state without rule of law, because that's dictatorship. There are many African countries that have had that sort of thing. You need the simultaneous growth of both of those institutions.

Part of the problem in Africa is that they have been saddled with state boundaries that make very little sense and there has been no corresponding effort at nation building, to actually create coherent states.

Sudan is the classic case. Sudan just should never have existed in its current territorial form. In fact, in the 1920s a British colonial administrator said, "Southern Sudan we should really give to Uganda because they are black Africans, and what do they have to do with this regime in Khartoum?" But it was because the ruler in Egypt would have objected to that going to Uganda that the British decided to keep it in Sudan. As a result, you had a 30-year civil war that only now South Sudan is emerging out of.

One investment that has not been made adequately in many of those countries is actually not just creating state institutions, but actually creating national identity, because I don't think you can have a strong state without a sense of identity.

It's interesting if you compare Tanzania with Kenya. For all of the mistakes that Julius Nyerere made in Tanzania, he did have a very strong anti-tribal nation-building agenda that involved actually creating Swahili as a lingua franca among all of the ethnic groups. Today that problem of ethnic fragmentation in Tanzania is just not a problem the way it is in Kenya, where you had this terrible last presidential election and the mobilization of all of these ethnic groups against one another.

The problem is that the development agencies don't do nation building in that sense. They don't talk about how to develop common culture and change the educational system, the national symbols, language, and that sort of thing.

Unless you have that, you are really not going to get either a coherent state, and then the rule of law has to be enforced by somebody. It all comes as a package together.

By the way, Norway splitting away from Denmark, and then Bismarck did Denmark this huge favor by attacking them and tearing away all their German provinces—Denmark could not be Denmark that we know and love today if it actually hadn't been stripped of all these other non-Danish-speaking groups. So another accident of history.

QUESTION: Richard Horowitz.

With respect to the development of Western democracy, in your analysis, how does Athenian democracy and Pericles fit in?

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA:
There is this huge gap. First of all, Athenian democracy is the precedent for classic republicanism that was practiced in many parts of the worldin the united provinces in the low countries, Venice, Genoa, and other Italian city-states, which was a kind of oligarchic democracy. It was a very important tradition in Europe. Furthermore, the Athenian practice of democracy was a great inspiration during the Renaissance for European political thinkers and modernizers.

But in the end there's a huge broken continuity there, because essentially, after the collapse of the Roman Empire, they had to start all over again because everybody was taken over by these tribally organized barbarians, and they had to create modern institutions out of that kinship-based structure, just the way the Greeks and the Romans created their polities out of a tribally based culture. But the existence of that earlier precedent obviously had a huge impact.

I mentioned the Justinian Code, the fact that you had this highly developed Roman law that you could simply resurrect as a whole. The novella and the digest were immediately translated into practice in Europe. The Greek-Roman precedents were pretty helpful in promoting European modernization.

QUESTION: Susan Gitelson.

From your other writings you have laid a great emphasis on the free-enterprise system. You're so comprehensive today you haven't had a chance to get to that. But won't it be significant in modifying the Chinese authoritarian system when there will be additional sources of power and influence?

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA:
Yes.

QUESTIONER:
And then, would you continueyou hinted at the Arab Spring. Here we have several different models. But how are they going to get throughEgypt with a regal tradition going back to the pharaohs, and on the other hand entities that were put together with different ethnic groups?

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA:
That's right.

QUESTIONER:
So what can be the principles and institutions that can help the Arab countries reach better societies that are more responsive to their own people?

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA:
Those are both very good points.

In Volume 2, when I get to it, the world is really different from what I describe in Volume 1, because you have the Industrial Revolution and this revolution in the application of technology to productivity. That reshuffles the deck constantly. So that's exactly right.

In China, it's not just the stagnant social classes that have existed for the past 2,000 years. You have a new rising middle class, you have better educated people, you have new ways for them to mobilize through the Internet, through Facebookwell, they don't permit Facebookbut there are just new ways for them to mobilize. So the conditions for political development in China are going to be quite different from that they were in traditional China.

In the Middle East, the fact that so many publics mobilized as they did is a tremendously hopeful thing altogether, because it proves that there is no Arab cultural exception to the general desire not to live in one of these terrible stagnant dictatorships.

The countries that have the best chance of making it as democracies are, as you suggested, the ones with coherent national traditions, and that's Tunisia and Egypt, where you also have probably the highest degree of mobilization of middle-class people. They've got pretty decent development records up until the present. So there it's just a question of whether the more liberal groups can organize sufficiently to actually hold onto a share of power against the army and against the Muslim Brotherhood.

In Libya, Syria, Yemen, Jordanthese are all countries that are riven with very strong tribal, sectarian, and ethnic cleavages. One of the things that we can't really understand right now is the degree to which the stuff going on in Libya can actually fit under this scenario we prefer, which is good democrats versus bad authoritarians. Or is it actually more a tribal rivalry in which other factors are playing a role?

That is going to make a big difference, because even if the people we regard as the good guys win in those countries, it turns out that they may not actually be interested in democracy. They may just want to protect the interests of their particular group.

QUESTION: Robert Shaw.

You mentioned this transition from kinship to a greater degree of meritocracy, accountability, and rule of law. How do you view today—this is sort of a domestic question—the influence of special-interest groups and lobbies? Do you view it just as a consequence of a system with checks and balances and something that we should accept and view as a positive attribute of our system? Or does the existence and the operation of those kinds of bodies actually undermine the principles of accountability and rule of law; and, if so, what checks need to be placed on them?

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA:
They certainly undermine the legitimacy of the system when they are able to block reforms that are necessary.

I told you the story about old-regime France and the constant appropriation of the state by private interests. The U.S. Tax Code is beginning to look like that. That's why GE doesn't pay any taxes, is they are able to carve out all these exemptions for themselves.

There is hardly a single reform that would be needed to reduce health care costs or to reduce the federal budget that is not being at the current moment blocked by some very powerful interest group. So you can't move from fee-for-service to salaried doctors or a fee schedule because the doctors don't like it. You can't eliminate the deductibility of mortgage interest for houses costing millions of dollars because the realtors don't like it and they've got friends in congress.

You just multiply these by all of these different special-interest groups and that's why you end up with the deficit and the inability to actually solve some of these eminently solvable public policy problems. That is what in the end, if you don't solve it, it will delegitimize the system as a whole.

Hopefully, you don't want to wait until the crisis is so bad that you finally have convinced everybody that they've got to move off of these positions. But we don't seem to be getting there.

QUESTION: John Parisella from Quebec, Canada.

I wanted to just take up your last point in your exposé about dysfunctionality and checks and balances. Canadians are having a general election today. It is possible that there will be maybe be a fourth minority government in seven years, which is, I guess, our version of checks and balances.

But I have never seen in my entire lifespan the quickness in demonizing political leaders. I'm just wondering what your take is on your optimism about the U.S. system over the Chinese system. How serious is that in terms of dealing with that particular question?

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA:
My other important mentor, Seymour Martin Lipset, wrote a lot about the differences between Canada and the United Sates. But unfortunately, since he wrote Continental Divide and American Exceptionalism, I think that Canadians have gotten infected with a lot of American practices, including this kind of demonization.

I don't know where that comes from. There is a political scientist at MIT, Ithiel de Sola Pool, who back in the 1970s predicted that if you had a lot more communications bandwidth it may actually be unhealthy for democratic politics because it will allow people to talk to only people who agree with them.

We have moved into that space. Now it is perfectly possible to go through a 24/7 news cycle and only hear it from people that are ideologically similar to yourself and not actually have to confront people with different views. But that's only one part of the problem that is going on right now.

I suspect that there is a certain complacency in the kind of political rhetoric that people are allowed to indulge in as long as they think that it ultimately doesn't cost the society all that much. So it is going to require, unfortunately, this leading to a bigger crisis or breakdown of the system before people will get off of this kind of politics.

JOANNE MYERS:
Thank you for a wonderful, wonderful morning. Thank you so much.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Read MoreRead Less