If you didn't know (and I myself know these things, I guess, because I'm more or less a lifetime subscriber to The Atlantic), Fukuyama is a brilliant political scientist. I went to hear him speak tonight at Town Hall.
What is the word for the feeling of elation you get when you hear a talk by somebody really smart? It's a kind of euphoria, but shouldn't there be a more specific term? I can't name it, but I'm feeling it.
His latest book is The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution. (Volume Two, in the works, will be the 19th century and beyond.) Based on a review of history and human nature, he says political order occurs when three conditions are met. First, you need a state, a legitimate monopoly of force over a particular territory. Second, the rule of law, generally accepted and binding on everybody, even the leaders. And third, political accountability, some insurance that leaders are acting in the public interest. In a democracy, elections serve this function.
He said a lot more, of course, but think of applying just that base to what you know about India and China and the United States at its current political standstill and with our reigning national attitude of disdain for it all.
Anyway, I was excited. I once read in The Atlantic, but was never able to find it again, a reference to a book that examines whether democracy can ever be successfully exported. So I asked Fukuyama, what are the chances of American "state building" actually succeeding? He said he had discussed this with his friend, Condee Rice, in the run-up to the Iraq War. She said it worked in Japan and Germany after World War II. He disagrees: the US did not bring political order to those countries; we simply helped reestablish it. He said political order/democracy doesn't get successfully exported by a country as impatient as the US, though you could argue that Britain's willingness to spend decades in its colonies has left a legacy of political order. In India, say.
Anyway, it was a great thrill, I actually bought his book, and he signed it for me. Town Hall comes through again.
Funny, though, it's not a good place to meet guys. Before I moved to Seattle, I imagined it would be perfect.
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