Political Order and Political Decay

From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy
Francis Fukuyama

Fukuyama considers this a 2nd volume to this.

(@127) Of the US:

It would be good to elaborate this claim.

L 385: I would add very near the beginning of the description of law that it limits behavior in ways that are not only widely expected, but widely conformed with.

L 527: Fukuyama lists several published theories why “[political] institutions developed differently in different parts of the world”.

L 603: I find a bad odor about the word “repatrimonialization”. Googling it leads me to content free pages. Sometimes I get bogged in prose of a book and stop and analyze some random sentence rigorously to see if there is indeed anything in that sentence. With Fukuyama I usually find that there is. In the general case I go on to wonder if the sentence was needed. This happens to more or less random sentences and so this is unfair to the author. “Repatrimonialization” set me off on this rant and this fed it. Fukuyama sort of defines it in a way that I cannot see matches what I find on the web.

L 612: Fukuyama paints a dour image of today’s US political system. I don’t necessarily disagree but he does presuppose a role of government that is not universally accepted.

L 832: “Almost all the authors systematically studying the phenomenon of conflict point to weak governments and poor institutions as a fundamental cause of both conflict and poverty.”

I wonder a bit what “weak” means here. I often think that some African countries would be better off with no government than the government that they have. That attitude, however, assumes that eliminating said government would not lead to smaller, more local, worse governments.

I would claim, however, that “weak” is an inappropriate metric for government quality. I do believe it is possible to be too weak.

L 916: concerning education and absent teachers. I am concerned that Fukuyama does not discuss cost. Perhaps a teacher’s salary does not warrant showing up more than 48% of the time.

L 926: Fukuyama addresses libertarian suggestions and I largely agree with his points.

L 954: Fukuyama discusses the ‘elites’ but does not speculate how one becomes elite.

L 980: He gets to that here, sort of. He omits creating wealth, but does mention rent seeking.

L 1044: “A classic study of educational outcomes in the United States was the 1966 Coleman Report, whose statistical analysis showed that quality education was much more a reflection of a student’s friends and family than of the inputs being supplied by the government.” An interesting comment; I believe it.

L 1148: “patrimonial bureaucracy” Hmm.

L 1194: Fukuyama uses “repatrimonialization” in a context where it clearly means policy decisions for the benefit of the decider, and perhaps his friends, as opposed to the government and citizens. Also promotions based on loyalty over competence.

L 1326:

This is more a definition of terms than a theory. It is useful thereby. It bears on how people and AI’s should relate.

L 1384: There is a elephant in the room. Fukuyama grades bureaucracies on grounds that are unclear to me. I presume he thinks them obvious. He speaks of them as a watch that works well. That is fine for there is agreement on what it means for a watch to work well.

L 1395:

At this point I am back to the situation where the best I can say is “If you say so.”. This is where I recall being as I studied history in school. I get no feeling for explanatory mechanism. There is some description of situations to avoid, but not how to better avoid them than “Throw the bastards out.”.

L 1409:

I wonder it they considered colonialism.

L 1773: A pattern emerges in my head, courtesy of Fukuyama: Fair bureaucracies sometime arise independently of either democracy or benevolent dictators. They are portrayed here as having their own values. They often survive other significant government changes.

L 2243-2316: Fukuyama describes two interpenetrating fluids:

Like liquid helium, such models are complex.

L 2596: Fukuyama would do well to describe just what an “autonomous bureaucracy” does. Anecdotes would be welcome. How did Americans suffer from a lack thereof?

L 2902:

I picked up many of those unspoken attitudes from my father and hold them today. I am still angry at the auto workers who together with the management of American auto companies built cars so expensive that they were nearly wiped out by the Japanese. Yes those workers are Americans and they vote and I like democracy. I just don’t like that part of it.

I enjoy Fukuyama’s description of American politics at the end of the 19th century. I ‘studied’ this period in my normal American school environment and may have heard some vague description of sub-optimal politics but I recall no disparagement of such from my teachers.

This may be the first example of a mechanism that I understand with some explanatory power to explain some history. In particular how the Pendleton Act came gradually into force was a political masterpiece.

L 3041: Fukuyama describes a haphazard market for railroad services as if it were something to be avoided. He reveals a dislike for the market here.

L 3046:

I must keep remembering that this is a history book, not an economics book.

L 3074:

Is price discrimination evil?

L 3373: I am more learning what Fukuyama takes as a successful society than how politics works. Fukuyama is somewhat more dirigiste than I. I do not automatically assume that market mechanisms always produce the ‘best’ result, but that is my default assumption.

L 3405: “The philosopher Charles Taylor, following Hegel, points out that struggles over identity are inherently political because they involve demands for recognition.”

As a libertarian I will settle for a bit of money in place of recognition. That presumes, however, a society in which money is useful—property rights etc. It is in light of the fact that money brings a bit of recognition. It treats money as more fundamental than recognition.

“They demand as well that their authentic selves be publicly recognized—granted dignity and equal status—by other people.”

There are multiple notions of status within the societies I have known. “equal status” is a dangerous phrase.

Chapter 12; “Nation Building”, L 3373-3603
This chapter is descriptive and not normative. As such I have little I feel competent to argue with. The rest of the book seems to assume that the author shares with the reader common ideas about what good government is.

I think I have heard Fukuyama complain that it was good that autonomous bureaucracies were independent of democratic governments, and then that it was bad.

L 3729: It would be good to hear a quantitative description of patronage. What fraction of the voters must you hire? What is the money flow quantitatively?

L 3762: It would be good to hear Fukuyama’s description of the unification of East Germany into the West after 1989.

L 4300: Regarding “resources” there is the seldom mentioned conundrum: ”Who does that buried gold belong to?”. In the absence of a notion of land ownership the ‘answer’ would seem to be who ever is powerful enough to keep you from digging it up. The conventional liberal notion is that it somehow collectively belongs to those who have lived nearby for a long time. I have no answer that I like.

L 4322: Regarding the South American situation today, I feel that the picture painted by deSoto feels to me more like an explanation than Fukuyama’s text. That is not fair because deSoto’s situation is merely a proximate cause where Fukuyama’s explanation aspires to a more distal cause. I would like to see this causal chain in clearer focus, however.

L 5064: The main take-away of these chapters is that Argentina and Costa Rica together discredit most theories on what make countries succeed.

L 5383: The phrase “monopoly on violence” is often used to describe the power of a state. There is usually an unstated presumption that that power is used justly in the view of the great majority of the population. This caveat should be more often specified.

L 5535: I tend to trust Fukuyama’s description of African colonialism. I joked earlier about ‘trying colonialism’ but I believe Fukuyama’s conclusion (L 5566) that it doesn’t work. I remain at odds with anthropology however.

L 5692: “Continuing to live in a traditional village and speaking a local language may represent a dramatic closing of opportunities, something often overlooked by the well-meaning outsiders claiming to speak on their behalf.”

L 6675:

To me this is an idea I have heard before, but it sounds too simple. Is ‘democracy’ an ideology from this perspective? It seems to divide people into the venal and ideologues. I don’t know which to fear more. I can’t fit Stalin into this framework in my own mind. When we say that the framers of a new state do something for the right reason, are we saying merely that they are ideologues? Is ‘ideology’ more than a merely pejorative adjective for a set of ideas?

L 6925: “China’s economic growth has created a large and growing middle class that is less accepting of paternalistic authoritarianism that seeks to hide its own corruption. The transition to more formal constraints on power can be gradual and should focus initially on law rather than accountability.”
What about the ‘middle class’ makes this so? Is it because they are better educated?

L 6932: “But social mobilization is occurring in contemporary China at a pace without precedent in all of Chinese history. A huge middle class, currently numbering in the hundreds of millions, has appeared.”
Why is it expanding now? Is it information technology?

L 7030: “Conversely, Costa Rica should have evolved into another Central American banana republic characterized by dictatorship and civil conflict, and yet it developed into a stable democracy because of good choices made by elites at a certain critical historical juncture.”
I wonder if today’s Argentine [converse to Costa Rica] elites agree.

L 7933:

Fukuyama would do well to populate this idea with some anecdotes. Roads and power distributions would do, for instance.

L 8211: Fukuyama depicts gevernment organizations failing to adapt to new circumstances. They can’t merely go bankrupt and disappear like a company. Some of their charters seem unsuitable to a private organization, but other charters are not.

8285/9817 Rachel Maddow
I object that in Fukuyama’s division of population into power groups, he does not mention those who directly create wealth.