History to Fukayama: The Show Must Go On
Poor Francis Fukayama.
In 1992, he looked at what communism had wrought and proclaimed “the end of history.” The commies had capitulated. The Berlin Wall had come down. Even the ‘red’ Chinese had turned a shade of maroon or mauve.
It seemed like history had come to an end…with the indisputable triumph of US-style democracy.
He wasn’t the first to think history had come to a halt. Hegel and the early Marxists were convinced that the last chapter was the one in which the proletariat took command of the government – which they supposedly did after the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia.
But the trouble with history is that it just keeps rolling along. Since 1992, we’ve probably seen as much history as in any other 18-year stretch…save perhaps the war years of the last century. There was the communications revolution…the rise of the Internet…the dot.com bubble…9/11…the bubble in residential real estate…the Iraq War… the “Great Recession”…the banking crisis…the rise of China…
Even the things that Fukayama cited as proof that history had come to an end have made history. The former soviet republics – Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kyrgystan – did not progress towards the perfection of liberal democracy. All have retrogressed into various forms of autocracy, petro-nationalism…and authoritarian centralism.
What lessons does Fukayama take from this? How about the obvious one: that he was a fool…and that history doesn’t come to a stop just because an American intellectual can’t imagine it going forward?
“As we move forward, it is the important to keep in mind the simple power of the idea of a government by, for, and of the people. We need to match those high ideals with unglamorous but steady investments in institution-building if liberal democracy is to deliver on its promises…”
What? What is wrong with these people…? David Brooks, Thomas Friedman, Francis Fukayama…here are people who are paid to have opinions, ideas, thoughts. Why can’t they come up with anything better than this sugary puff claptrap? His conclusion is as weak and empty as a congressman’s head…with not a single, solid idea in it.
Who is ‘we?’ Who knows? And what is the promise of democracy? We never knew it made any promises to anyone. People use democratic governments just like they use any other form of government – that is, like a thief uses a crowbar…to try to get something. Otherwise, why would the democrat bother to vote? The cripple expects someone to pay for his wheelchair. The imperialist wants someone to pay for his foreign wars. The social worker wants one of her métier stationed in every schoolroom and household – ready to make sure every adult wears his seatbelt and every child is treated with Ritalin.
Democracy starts off well enough. In small units it even works passably well. A town meeting is a fairly decent forum for discussing where to locate the new dump. But as it grows bigger and older the town meeting inevitably degrades until it is dominated by mobs, lobbyists and lunkheads.
Even if we believed democracy was the final and most perfect form of government we would still have no idea what Fukayama is talking about when he mentions investing in “institution-building.” You have a suspicion that he doesn’t know what he is talking about either.
He doesn’t say so, but we imagine he means American-style institutions in foreign countries…as if that were possible. The US Congress, for example?
We rest our case.
Enjoy your weekend,
for The Daily Reckoning