Good Governance is Hard to Do
Francis Fukuyama of “The End of History and the Last Man” has written a lengthy history of comparative government from 1800 to the modern era. In Political Order he discusses why certain governments succeed while others fail. His sweep covers the globe from Europe to the Americas, to Asia and to Africa. Though too long the narrative is breathtaking.
His thesis is that successful governance requires a coherent state, laws that are equally enforced and system of accountability, usually, but necessarily through elections. Weak governance gets one or all three of these factors wrong, Fukuyama although in many ways quite conservative, is political progressive in the early 20th Century sense in that a successful state needs a highly trained impartial bureaucracy. Examples of such are the U.S. between 1900- 1950, Germany and England in the 19th century. To be sure bureaucracies that become too independent can go out of control. His example of this is the German military on the eve of World War 1.
On the other hand there can be too much accountability. In this instance he highlights the role of interest groups in the U.S. who in total possess veto power over what the state can do, a “vetocracy” if you will.
Fukuyama’s book should be read in conjunction with Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson’s “Why Nations Fail.” Simply put both argue that the success of rent seeking clienteles have the power corrupt government for their own ends.
Although “Political Order…” is a great text, it is a tough read for the lay reader, hence four stars.
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