Fukuyama, f*** yeah

by John Quiggin on February 1, 2011

Following up on the end of the Arab exception, I agree, pretty much with commenter Hidari, who says

For better or for worse the immediate future, politically speaking, (by which I mean, the next 30 or 40 years) belongs to the parliamentary democracies.
. Supposing that Tunisia and Egypt manage a transition to some kind of democracy, it seems inevitable that quasi-constitutional monarchies like Jordan and Morocco will respond with further liberalisation and democratisation, for fear of sharing the fate of Ben Ali and Mubarak. Add in Algeria, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, all of which have elections of some kind, and the dominant mode in the Middle East/North Africa will have been transformed from dictatorship to (admittedly highly imperfect) democracy. The remaining autocracies (Libya, Mauritania Sudan, Syria) and the feudal monarchies of the Arabian peninsula will be seen as the barbaric relics they are, with days that are clearly numbered. Even if things go wrong for one or both of the current revolutions, the idea that these autocratic/monarchical regimes have some kind of durable basis of support is gone for good.

So, how is Fukuyama’s view of the end of history looking?

As far as the dominance of representative democracy is concerned, pretty good. Given a decade or two to establish itself, representative democracy has proved to be a remarkably stable system, far more so (under modern conditions) than alternatives like hereditary monarchy, autocracy, military juntas or the one-party state.

There are, I think, two reasons for this. First, the representative system solves the succession/dismissal problem that has plagued nearly all other systems of government, as witness the “Wars of the X Succession” that ravaged Europe throughout the period of absolute monarchy [1]. Successful representatives retire and are replaced in an orderly fashion. Unsuccessful representatives[2] are dismissed without bloodshed, and their replacements are on notice that they can be similarly dismissed.

Second, democracy ensures that everyone has a say. Not, of course, an equal say, but, for everyone outside the ruling elite, more of a say than they would get under any alternative system. Once that fact is generally recognised, mass mobilisation against the system becomes an impossibility. The disastrous bloodbaths generated by revolutionary alternatives to democracy have by now provided sufficient warning that no such alternative can attract any genuine support.[3]

The real threat, as Hidari observes in a footnote, is that democracy can be subverted from within, by charismatic/authoritarian leaders like Berlusconi and Putin. In Queensland, we experienced the same thing on a small scale under Joh Bjelke-Petersen (look him up). In my view, the logic of representative democracy will ultimately prevail. If these guys hang around long enough, they will mess things up and be thrown out (as happened to Joh). If they last to retirement age, they will have no power to designate a successor.added sentence And, in addition to the risk of demagogues/autocrats, there’s the threat from the security state, most evident in the US. While it’s hard to see any positive developments in the US at present in this respect, quite a few other countries have stepped back from the extreme measures adopted in 2001, so we can hope that the US will eventually recover from its current state of permanent panic.

The second part of the “end of history” thesis is, in essence, the theory of democratic peace. If democracy becomes universal, and if democracies don’t fight each other, then history, understood as “kings and battles” is indeed at an end. I think this is broadly correct, but the thesis is undermined by the existence of nuclear weapons. Even if democratic peace is 99 per cent right, a low-probability nuclear war (between say, democratic Pakistan and democratic India) would be a cataclysm comparable to the worst of the 20th century or before.

I’ll turn now to the last part of Fukuyama’s thesis that the “end of history” entails the triumph of liberal capitalism. Here, I think, Fukuyama is engaged in a bait and switch that is almost universal among American commentators. On the one hand, the triumph of capitalism is proved by the fact that capitalism, in forms ranging from Hong Kong-style free markets to Scandinavian social democracy is universal). On the other hand, since the US is assumed to be the archetype of capitalism, this proof is taken to show that US-style liberal capitalism must prevail. This is a spurious argument by definition.[4]

added So, between the threats to democracy from within, and the contest between alternative models of capitalism and the mixed economy, the emergence of representative democracy as the global norm does not entail the End of History, even if it does mean the end of some kinds of history (and, with reference to my earlier post on US decline, the end of the associated models of international relations).

Overall, though, the startling events in North Africa have undercut the recently popular criticism of the Fukuyama thesis, based on the temporary successes of Putin and the Chinese oligarchs. There is no reason to think that the rule of Putin, or of the Communist Party of China, will outlast the next economic downturn, or even slowdown, any more than Ben Ali or Mubarak.

fn1. The papacy is one exception, but seems to be workable only because of the reverence/superstition surrounding it. When this is absent, reliance on a self-selected body of electors produces schisms, anti-popes and so on.

fn2. As Enoch Powell, who exemplified his own point, observed, all political careers, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure.

fn3. The turn to terrorist methods by groups like the Red Brigades has served to discredit revolutionary approaches even more, and thereby further stabilise representative democracy.

fn4. A commenter suggests that Fukuyama is no longer a cheerleader for the US model, and I think that’s right, but The End of History was read that way by admirers and critics alike, so I think my description captures Fukuyama’s argument at the time.

{ 134 comments }

1

Bill Gardner 02.01.11 at 11:32 am

So, the fate of the Roman Republic seems like an important counter-example, given the stability of the successor (whose ghost, the Papacy, is with us still). You say the argument holds “under modern conditions”, so what are those conditions, and why do they matter?

2

roger mulberge 02.01.11 at 11:55 am

I wish I could be quite as optimistic, but while the argument may be sound enough it does rely on the basic premise that what we call democracy in the West is sustainable. In order for it to remain so it has to cleanse itself of the undue influence of the business and banking interests that have determined – without the informed consent of the electorate at large – not only the choice of candidates – but the outcomes of recent elections in US and UK. Who chose George W Bush or Tony Blair as candidates in the first place? That is the problem with our system. We only get a choice of the people that have already been selected – but by who?

3

John Quiggin 02.01.11 at 11:58 am

A good question. I have two candidate answers, neither of which fully convinces me
(1) Representative government (including the secret ballot, political parties and so on) is a modern invention, maybe because of some specific requirements or maybe just because no one thought of it before C19
(2) Under premodern conditions, war can be profitable, and hence military governments (including hereditary monarchies) naturally prevail

4

Chris E 02.01.11 at 12:14 pm

“There is no reason to think that the rule of Putin, or of the Communist Party of China, will outlast the next economic downturn, or even slowdown, any more than Ben Ali or Mubarak.”

To what extent have the latter only fallen because they prevented people from practising capitalism with all it’s attendant benefits (to an extent due to massive corruption on the part of the ruling class) ?

As long as the CCP continues to provide an environment in which most people feel they can better themselves and don’t feel that they are affected by corruption – why shouldn’t they survive? (The parallel question could be posed about the US post crisis).

5

Jack Strocchi 02.01.11 at 12:27 pm

Pr Q said:

Overall, though, the startling events in North Africa have undercut the recently popular criticism of the Fukuyama thesis, based on the temporary successes of Putin and the Chinese oligarchs. There is no reason to think that the rule of Putin, or of the Communist Party of China, will outlast the next economic downturn, or even slowdown, any more than Ben Ali or Mubarak.

I don’t have any strong opinions one way or another about Putin, apart from the obvious fact that Russians seem to have a taste for strong central rulers. And I do agree with Fukuyam et al that democracy is the logical system for modernity, given that it embodies legality of process and accountability for progress.

But I feel pretty confident about the CCP, which has weathered many political storms in its relentless progress towards global economic dominance, still has plenty of political mileage. It would be most unwise to call a 30 year stretch of unprecedented peace and prosperity a “temporary success”, whatever Fukuyama says. These guys have form handling popular uprisings and they have pretty good working economic model, utilising the work ethic and nous of more than one billion 100+ IQ nerds.

If Pr Q wants to bet against the CCP surviving the next economic downturn then he might consider the wisdom of throwing good money after bad. He’s already cried wolf on that one. Way back in 20 JAN 2009 he was predicting that the CCP would be facing “pressure for revolutionary change” in the aftermath of the GFC:

The likelihood of a severe economic slowdown will pose big problems for the [communist] political system. In a Western democracy, the immediate reaction to a severe economic shock is typically to throw out the incumbent government. Even if the other side does no better, the easy availability of an alternative government reduces pressure for revolutionary change. There’s no obvious analog in the Chinese context.

I took the other side of that implicit bet and won handsomely. On 04 FEB 2009 I predicted (1) that the CCP would safely negotiate the GFC and that PRC economic growth would rebound. With the corollary that the CCP’s political fortunes would be re-inforced – at least for the time being.

I also predict that the PRC will engineer a relatively soft-landing for its largely-export driven economy. Unemployment in export related industries will rise but the largely state-run economy will turn to internal development, largely in the peasant hinterlands. This will have the added benefit of politically pacifying unrest

I won’t go out on a limb and predict that the post-Deng CCP will rule the PRC for another 30 years. But I do think that it has a lot more staying power than knee-jerk liberals give it credit for.

Smart Chinese have long memories of how the head-long rush to democracy can back-fire badly. They only need to look at the recent history of their own country, or that of Russia to see plenty of cautionary tales. Or Iraq.

I will put down $100 at 1-to-2 odds that the CCP will be in charge of the PRC in 10 years. If there are no takers then I will assume that most CT’ers have reluctantly agreed with my initial predictions.

More generally, I am skeptical about “end of history” arguments. For all we know, human nature might change over the next generation or two, which will make most contemporary political prognostications seem as dated as seventies hair-styles. Ideology depends on anthropology and technology.

(1) On another blog. My monster link-saturated response to Pr Q’s initial sally remains suspended forever in moderation.

6

bm 02.01.11 at 12:29 pm

It may be a bit much to describe Pakistan as a democracy – it’s more a durable military-capitalist clique that adroitly switches between dictatorship and democratic facade according to conditions. If it ever stabilizes on the democratic setting public opinion would oblige the elites to pay much more attention to economic development than today, when military aggrandizement and terrorist subversion of neighbors are the primary concern of the state. So it may not be such an exception to Fukuyama’s second thesis.

7

soru 02.01.11 at 12:35 pm

There is no reason to think that the rule of Putin, or of the Communist Party of China, will outlast the next economic downturn

Iran and Burma are pretty strong datapoints against that argument. If you have an army or militia that will shoot demonstrators, go to bed and come out and do the same thing next day, they are not much of a problem. So all you need to stay in power is an argument persuasive enough to get your security services to do that for you.

The best available argument is, as originally suggested by Orwell and most enthusiastically adopted by North Korea, ‘we are at war’.

All that is needed is an enemy: America will be the obvious choice for the next few years. Presumably at some point China will supplant it.

8

engels 02.01.11 at 12:36 pm

‘Second [liberal representative] democracy ensures that everyone has a say. Not, of course, an equal say, but, for anyone outside of the ruling elite, more of a say than they would get under any alternative system.’

A bold claim!

Maybe you should titled this ‘Dr Pangloss, f*** yeah!’

9

Ebenezer Scrooge 02.01.11 at 12:47 pm

I would phrase John’s second point differently. It is not true that everybody has a say in a democracy. Look at the poor in America: systemically ignored by the politicians of both parties. What’s closer to fact (and I think the essence of John’s second point) is that democratic politicians cannot inflict too much pain on too many voters in the name of some Great Good, such as a forever war, or Maoist economics. (I completely agree with John’s first point, on succession.)

10

Jack Strocchi 02.01.11 at 12:49 pm

Pr Q said:

The real threat, as Hidari observes in a footnote, is that democracy can be subverted from within, by charismatic/authoritarian leaders like Berlusconi and Putin. In Queensland, we experienced the same thing on a small scale under Joh Bjelke-Petersen (look him up).

The biggest dangers to popular democracy in established liberal democracies are well-mannered liberal elites. Its your economically rational Davos Men and politically correct SWPLs that hate the man in the street and never miss a chance to take him down a peg or two.

Actually Joh was not nearly as bad as most liberal commentators like to make out, with the dubious wisdom of hindsight. His unique brand of charisma, plus some sharp political practice, may have won him an extra election or two. But in general he stayed in power because he got good results for QLD, economically capitalising on the sea-change boom and politically arm-wrestling more funds from Canberra.

Joh’s worst crimes were accepting a bit of graft for sly brothels. Not exactly the crime of the century. But he stopped a few street marches, which gave a bunch of self-righteous Left-liberals some protest war stories to endlessly retail in op-ed columns from then to eternity.

By contrast the bland apparatchiks of the various state ALP’s have managed to sell off and rip-off their states to the tune of billions. Thereafter smoothly slipping into high-paying jobs in the finance sector. No doubt Eric Roozendaal will tread that well-worn trail.

As Kinsley said, the scandal is not what is criminal, its what is legal.

11

engels 02.01.11 at 1:00 pm

But using the current developments in Egypt as a jumping off point for a lecture on ‘revolution – it will only end in tears’ deserves credit for ingenuity, I’ll admit.

12

Chris Bertram 02.01.11 at 1:05 pm

_Second, democracy ensures that everyone has a say. Not, of course, an equal say, but, for everyone outside the ruling elite, more of a say than they would get under any alternative system. Once that fact is generally recognised, mass mobilisation against the system becomes an impossibility._

Possible counter-example: France in May-June 1968 (one of the largest general strikes in history).

13

rm 02.01.11 at 1:22 pm

I visited Queensland as a student during the time Joh Bjelke-Petersen was threatening secession. He reminded me a lot of Reagan. I may have contributed to a written debate on the subject that was inscribed on the surface of a study carrel in the Griffith University library. That’s how we rolled before the internet.

14

Matt McIrvin 02.01.11 at 1:23 pm

I like Matt White’s old analysis: there’s not really much evidence that democracies don’t fight each other, and part of the apparent effect is just that in the modern world, countries don’t fight each other very often. There are not many true international wars; instead there are mostly civil wars that other countries may get involved in. (The US invasion of Iraq did start as an international war but turned into the other kind.)

But it does seem to be the case that democratic countries are relatively stable, and that makes war on the country’s territory less likely simply because the majority of wars are civil wars.

15

bob mcmanus 02.01.11 at 1:32 pm

You are not even able to see managed democracy or inverted totalitarianism, and I doubt that you ever will. 50 more years of increasing inequality, you will still believe egalitarianism is 1 or 2 elections away.

“..mass mobilisation against the system becomes an impossibility.”

Yup. Velvet boot stomping forever.

16

Colin Reid 02.01.11 at 1:45 pm

The list of countries that do not even claim to be democracies is very short and has been for decades. The list of countries that do not have regular elections is longer, but as of 2011 it’s a lot shorter than it used to be. In both respects this represents a radical change from earlier eras: we live in an era where ‘the people’ are almost universally seen as the right source of political mandate (rather than tradition, or divine right, or what have you), even by ‘managed democracies’ that are anything but democratic. So really I think the main issue of the day is the great tranche of ‘sham democracies’ and ‘illiberal democracies’ which have elections (of varying degrees of ‘freeness’ and ‘fairness’), but where government is run and society is organised to favour adherents of the ruling party and to persecute opponents, to the point that people are compelled to abandon the ‘losing side’.

17

y81 02.01.11 at 1:54 pm

Regarding @1, @2: I suggest that a stable democracy requires a polity where communication between all the inhabitants is relatively swift. (The swiftness of communication is a function of both communications technology and the geographic size of the polity.) Otherwise, a military commander can defeat his enemies sequentially, which is generally how imperial governments were formed and maintained in the Roman empire.

Given today’s telecommunications, even the whole world is “small” enough to be a stable democracy (although there are other factors that would inhibit such a result, obviously). But the Roman empire was too large to survive as a democracy.

If correct, this analysis suggests that Fukuyama is wrong to mock science fiction works which feature empires and aristocracies in spaceships. A galactic polity might well be a suitable field for empire.

18

stostosto 02.01.11 at 2:02 pm

Great post.

19

Henri Vieuxtemps 02.01.11 at 2:10 pm

I don’t think it fair to claim that the succession problem is solved or that everyone has a say. There is still a clear possibility of a strongman or a strong oligarchy operating behind a facade of elected politicians who are mere puppets.

20

roger 02.01.11 at 2:20 pm

John, I think your account has to be a little more complex, as there’s surely been a double movement since 1990 – on the one hand, the hollowing out of the liberal democracies, and, on the other hand, movements towards more representative government in former communist/military run states or autocracies

In the U.S., for instance, since 1990 we have seen a president who lost the popular vote seated by a Supreme Court controlled by his party; we have seen the further explosion of a prison population, second now to China; we’ve seen torture countenanced; we’ve seen just recently, in the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, the government cooperate with a large corporation to suppress news on a scale that is Chernobyl-like. Meanwhile, archaic anti-democratic structures – for instance, the Senate – have become ever more powerful, to the point where the white people of five states – the Dakotas, Idaho, Montana and Kansas – can in effect destroy the hope of such popular measures as the public option, or the withdrawal of troops from the wars that the U.S. is waging in spite of the popular indifference, contempt and opposition. Similarly, in spite of the opposite of almost seventy percent of the U.S. population, both parties put TARP through because they decided the population needed it.

The UK’s hollowing out has been as spectacular. The right not to be surveilled in the UK has been utterly abandoned. The Party system – like that in the U.S. – has made a mockery of the elementary idea at the heart of representative democracy – that you know what your candidate or party represents. Obama’s stance with mandates and the public option, or the liberal democrats stance with regard to tuition fees (the pillar of their campaign) turned out to be not only empty, but was actively reversed.

Italy can be called a democracy only if we call, say, Marcos’ Phillipines a democracy. When the leader of the country has in his hands almost ninety percent of the domestic tv networks, as well as the most popular newspapers and magazines, the amount of power he exerts makes a mockery of liberal democracy.

I haven’t gone on about the other losses of civil liberties, for which see Glenn Greenwald.
I think that democracy as a tendency actually came to the developed nations in the 60s – that was when the U.S., for instance, started to change from an apartheid regime with some democratic features into a democracy. But by 1990, these tendencies had been exhausted. In particular, the idea that large private power – corporations – could be democratized by making them responsible not simply to their stockholders and upper management, but to their stakeholders and the society at large that absorbs the costs of their wastes, among other things, simply disappeared.

21

engels 02.01.11 at 2:21 pm

In a ‘democracy’, like the US in the age of the internet, anyone can have a say. Just don’t expect anyone else to listen.

22

LFC 02.01.11 at 2:40 pm

If democracy becomes universal, and if democracies don’t fight each other, then history, understood as “kings and battles” is indeed at an end.

The theory of democratic peace does not say that democracies don’t fight each other. The theory says that countries that have been democracies for a while (i.e. ‘mature’ democracies) don’t fight each other.

23

Freddie 02.01.11 at 2:48 pm

This is ill-considered, I think , and based on predictions that are (naturally) hard to evaluate. And even if events unfold the way that you predict here, it is irrelevant to the larger thesis. September 11th didn’t throw dirt on the grave of “The End of History” specifically because it demonstrated instability in the Arab world; it did because it demonstrated that world peace is and always will be subject to unpredictable events. You can argue that 9/11 specifically was predictable, but in relationship to that book, it’s telling; Fukuyama was reacting to the fall of communism. The challenges to the global enforcement of consensus and hegemony– which is what the “end of history” represents, and don’t kid yourself– will come from quarters we can’t possibly predict now.

And, as always, belief in the end of history is dependent on imagining that the concerns of the worst off have no bearing on the issue. I invite anyone to take talk of the end of history to the north end of Hartford, and see how it plays among the poverty, crime, drug addiction, and human need.

This perspective– this triumphalism– is one of the most rigidly enforced orthodoxies on the Internet. It takes many different flavors, but the enforcement of optimism is everywhere. People in every era think that they’ve reached the end of history, and then people from hundreds of years later look back at them with condescension.

24

Barry 02.01.11 at 2:59 pm

John Q: “Second, democracy ensures that everyone has a say. Not, of course, an equal say, but, for everyone outside the ruling elite, more of a say than they would get under any alternative system. “

Having a say doesn’t mean that much if the power blocks pretend to listen, and then do what they wanted anyway. An example would be the USA in the last 30 years, where there has been a systematic immiseration of the working class, and a systematic degradation of much of the middle class. We’ve gone to a system where ‘normal’ is 3/4 or more of the workforce not sharing in productivity gains. We’ve gone to a system where ‘normal’ is the financial elites trashing the system, profiting from that, and using it as an excuse to cut government spending on others.

Jack: “The biggest dangers to popular democracy in established liberal democracies are well-mannered liberal elites. Its your economically rational Davos Men and politically correct SWPLs that hate the man in the street and never miss a chance to take him down a peg or two.”

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! is the most polite comment that that deserves.

25

chris 02.01.11 at 2:59 pm

Meanwhile, archaic anti-democratic structures – for instance, the Senate – have become ever more powerful, to the point where the white people of five states – the Dakotas, Idaho, Montana and Kansas – can in effect destroy the hope of such popular measures as the public option, or the withdrawal of troops from the wars that the U.S. is waging in spite of the popular indifference, contempt and opposition.

This is overstated. They can achieve that result only in collusion with the majority-white people of the Deep South, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Utah, Alaska, and other sparsely populated states.

The Senate *is* undemocratic, but ten senators isn’t enough to stop anything.

I think the overall point that some nominal democracies are being subverted from the inside to become de facto oligarchies is a good one, though. And those countries are also the ones launching wars of aggression — maybe democratic peace theory doesn’t apply to undead democracies. (They walk among the living democracies and can pass for one if not inspected too closely, but they’ve lost their former vitality and are rotting on the inside…)

26

Roger Albin 02.01.11 at 2:59 pm

Matt – for a more exhaustive analysis of the Democratic Peace hypothesis, see Spencer Weart’s Never at War.

27

burritoboy 02.01.11 at 3:08 pm

John reveals that his analytical framework for understanding politics is extremely superficial.

Just the admission that Italy’s democracy is under threat means something. Democracy is founded on the claim that the demos is rational, or rational enough. That is why the eighteenth century had the Enlightenment – the demos can be made rational. The popular press (the freedom of the press plank of the Enlightenment) aids in this Enlightenment.

What we’ve found is that the popular press does not necessarily do any such thing. That may or may not be a function of the media’s move from print to audio/visual – from logos to spectacle, perhaps. This failure of the media has been common worldwide – we’ve seen it in the Murdoch-zone, Berlusconi’s Italy, Russia, and numerous other places. Further, we’ve seen that it is quite easy to monopolize the provision of spectacle.

This in turn casts doubt on whether the demos can be enlightened, or is rational at all.

28

shah8 02.01.11 at 3:32 pm

You know, The South has only occasionally has had anything like a real democracy, even by white men only considerations.

I find the post silly, but hard to refute in a simple way. Technically speaking, I don’t believe in democracy, and my response to Winston Churchill is to shut his fuckin’ yap about the abusive language.

First, any discussions on democracies face huge no true scotsman issues, just like capitalists who pretend that this isn’t a mixed economy when it suits them, or latter day commies who think Stalin just did it wrong and Lenin/Trotsky would have done it better. We don’t have a direct democracy. We don’t even really have a republican system either. Yet, we talk as if we’re a democracy all the time, mostly to give out free good cop/feels to the public without actually empowering anyone.

Second, I wouldn’t want to live in a true democracy and neither would most people typing on this website. It’s pointless to give votes to everyone, even if they are not invested in the government, because do you know what? They spoil their votes. Not talking about Mickey Mouse. Talking about voting to send a message on whatever that bugs them in their interior world, like uppity wimmin. Well off elites use the votes of the commoners to garner the benefits of state tax collection. Mob violence would be used everywheres. Vote getters promise what they have to, like Clegg, and abuse the media.

In very short, widespread enfranchisement of simply the vote is only stable and non-nasty for countries with a great deal of wealth and plenty of safety valves, like a whole New World, or The West. Without those features, democratic systems just lend themselves to wars of conquests and looting a la Vikings. The only way I’d ever want to be in a democratic system is if *everyone* gets a real education (that is, people get taught real history, nobody can escape from learning real math and science, etc, etc) and that human rights are strictly understood, and looting of the weakest parties can’t happen. Oh yeah, the only minorities Senators protects are the patricians. I mean *real* defense of minorities.

We still have a ways to go in finding a truly working system of government.

29

SamChevre 02.01.11 at 3:35 pm

I’ll note that hollowing out democracy has not been exclusinvely a right-wing function. In both the US and the EU, there has been a significant transfer of power to from the democratic to the non-democratic portions of the government over the last 50 years. (This has, in some cases, been a good thing.) Courts, regulatory agencies such as the EPA, the European institutions–these are intentionally not representative institutions.

30

Zamfir 02.01.11 at 4:14 pm

Shah8 says: We still have a ways to go in finding a truly working system of government.
I personally like th idea of randomized direct democracy. Instead of a senate, there are (say) a 1000 randomly chosen citizens, who get to vote on each proposal as if on on referendum.

It adds direct input from ordinary citizens into the process, but the small size eliminates the need for intermediate mass media. Instead politicians have to pitch their plans directly to real people, who can ask questions back. And people can get the paid time and resources to make an opinion as good as they can manage.

It requires some faith in people. But I think/hope that if people know that their personal vote matters, and if they have time to learn about the issues, they will do on average a decent job.

31

mds 02.01.11 at 4:19 pm

So, the fate of the Roman Republic seems like an important counter-example

I would say that JQ’s response:

(1) Representative government (including the secret ballot, political parties and so on) is a modern invention

does a pretty good job of handling this apparent counter-example. The Roman Republic was not even remotely democratic in its construction, being designed from the get-go to entrench the power of patricians and (later) the wealthiest, both patrician and plebian. Only the Plebian Assembly came anywhere close to expressing “popular will,” and even then it excluded those of patrician birth. The other assemblies were electoral college-style affairs with the votes of either the wealthiest centuries or the more exclusive tribes dominating the outcome. And most of the day-to-day governance was done by the mostly-unelected Senate via decrees. Rome was an oligarchy, not a representative democracy.

Now, to pick up on roger, Barry, chris’ et al. theme, it might be interesting to revisit the question of whether parliamentary democracies inevitably turn into unrepresentative oligarchies; i.e. is Michels’ law truly an iron one. If Fukuyama’s “liberal capitalism” really did permanently conquer, the answer would be yes.

32

Jordan DeLange 02.01.11 at 4:57 pm

Second, democracy ensures that everyone has a say. Not, of course, an equal say, but, for everyone outside the ruling elite, more of a say than they would get under any alternative system. Once that fact is generally recognised, mass mobilisation against the system becomes an impossibility.

Other counter examples to this might be the last few years in Thailand and, to a lesser extent, the Phillipines. Or are these places where the fact that people get more of a say in a democratic government has yet to be generally recognised?

33

Eric 02.01.11 at 5:50 pm

This isn’t quite right, at least not on the purer Kojeve-ian view–it might be the end of humanity or civilization, but not of history. History ends in the universal homogeneous state in which all are accorded equal recognition. Once recognition is universal, the basic motive of the dialectic of history has exhausted itself. (And note that while superficially Kojeve glories in the UHS, he has a more ironical stance–something Fukuyama lacks, if I remember.) That some individual madman or group would start a nuclear war is a contingency, on a par with an asteroid hitting the earth, that would not undermine that achievement. We would have to start all over again, but humans being humans, the same dialectic would have to be reiterated. At least that’s how I remember it.

34

Omega Centauri 02.01.11 at 6:09 pm

Go back and reread burritoboy @26. He covers my concerns very well.

35

Kenny Easwaran 02.01.11 at 6:13 pm

It seems that places like Venezuela, Italy, and Russia have been moving in the sort of direction that post-colonial republics moved several decades ago – does this indicate some sort of natural cycle, or are they just outliers to the trend that has come over the rest of Latin America and Europe of greater democratization?

36

engels 02.01.11 at 6:30 pm

Venezuela?

37

piglet 02.01.11 at 7:51 pm

roger: “we have seen the further explosion of a prison population, second now to China”

Last time I looked, the US was number one in locking up people by a wide margin. Has this changed?

38

kharris 02.01.11 at 7:55 pm

“There is no reason to think that the rule of Putin, or of the Communist Party of China, will outlast the next economic downturn, or even slowdown, any more than Ben Ali or Mubarak.”

“This is a spurious argument by definition.”

These two go well together. Having decided that Fukuyama was right in his views regarding the triumph of democracy, you then find “there is no reason to think” an adequate answer to exceptions? Setting aside the impossibility of knowing that there “is no good reason to think” anything, your claim is no more than a dismissal of contrary evidence.

The argument against Fukuyama for some time has been the success of parternalistic societies like China and Singapore. Now, Egypt’s regime runs into trouble and it means an end for China’s? Hey, presto? Declaring victory for democracy from inside a democracy on the supposition democracy will sweep the Middle East because it’s probably going to be the model in Tunisia and Egypt if all goes well, while dismissing counter examples as sure not to last – there is a successful career in marketing investment advice just around the corner for you.

39

chris 02.01.11 at 7:57 pm

@35: maybe China pulls ahead if you aren’t counting per capita? Of course, that would be a lousy way to count, but if that’s how the US comes in at number two, it’s quite remarkable that India, with 3 times our population, *wouldn’t* surpass us for absolute number of prisoners.

40

MPAVictoria 02.01.11 at 9:24 pm

#37: Maybe he is thinking about executions?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment

Though the info on Wikipedia has the US at 5th for that metric so maybe not.
/The company surrounding the US on this issue is hardly complementary.

41

burritoboy 02.01.11 at 9:28 pm

“The real threat, as Hidari observes in a footnote, is that democracy can be subverted from within, by charismatic/authoritarian leaders like Berlusconi and Putin. In Queensland, we experienced the same thing on a small scale under Joh Bjelke-Petersen (look him up). In my view, the logic of representative democracy will ultimately prevail. If these guys hang around long enough, they will mess things up and be thrown out (as happened to Joh). If they last to retirement age, they will have no power to designate a successor.”

I’ve been thinking more about this paragraph’s of John’s and it’s extremely problematic from my view. The difficulty is not limited to whether individuals will dominate the regime for a time. What we generally see as representative democracies have declined is that class conflict grows – traditionally, this is the patricians versus the plebes, the optimates versus the populares, the great guilds versus the lesser guilds and so on. This appears to be at least a plausible depiction of the decline of the Roman Republic, many medieval city-states and so on.

Once the demagogue or tyrant appears in this cycle, representative democracy (almost) never resumes – the following regimes are either more tyrants or the kingship. Generally, the eventual resulting stable form was the kingship, not a return to democracy.

42

EGrO 02.01.11 at 9:28 pm

I think the post is a bit off in the bolded part of this section:

I’ll turn now to the last part of Fukuyama’s thesis that the “end of history” entails the triumph of liberal capitalism. Here, I think, Fukuyama is engaged in a bait and switch that is almost universal among American commentators. On the one hand, the triumph of capitalism is proved by the fact that capitalism, in forms ranging from Hong Kong-style free markets to Scandinavian social democracy is universal). On the other hand, since the US is assumed to be the archetype of capitalism, this proof is taken to show that US-style liberal capitalism must prevail. This is a spurious argument by definition.

While the first part is no doubt true, that “capitalism”, broadly defined as market economies with anywhere from little to significant amounts of redistribution, has triumphed, Fukuyama’s views on this are, best I can tell, that the “end of history” is actually going to be more in the European-style welfare state, as opposed to “US-style liberal capitalism.” A quick search for a quote from FF on this topic wasn’t fruitful, but I’m quite confident that, whatever his original views on what the “End of History” would look like, he now looks more favorably on the larger welfare states. As to the point about: “a bait and switch that is almost universal among American commentators.”, undoubtedly and unfortunately true in many instances, but I think this may be one of the few times amongst capitalist proponents that this *isn’t* true.

43

david s. 02.01.11 at 9:29 pm

It seems to me that the question of whether a dictator will survive or fall depends upon whether his army is willing to murder the nation’s citizens when they engage in peaceful protests.

In China, the army was willing to murder the citizens. In Hungary in the 1950’s and Czecheslovakia in the 1960’s, the fear of such mass murders was palpable. When the Berlin Wall fell, the armies of the Iron Curtain countries were either not ordered to murder their fellow citizens or chose to ignore such orders.

A tyrant without a weapon is impotent — when push comes to shove in any of these other countries, we will discover whether their tyrants and armies are sufficienttly murderous.

44

Henri Vieuxtemps 02.01.11 at 10:02 pm

@42 Democracy is not stable, but kingship is not stable either, due to the lack of a reliable enough feedback loop. Nothing is stable. As Thomas Jefferson famously said: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

45

Substance McGravitas 02.01.11 at 10:06 pm

Jefferson was also pretty good at riding in the other direction when the tyrant army got too close.

46

bh 02.01.11 at 10:18 pm

To the people who are saying that the Roman Republic is an “important counterexample,” are you actually saying that it is, in any meaningful form, a democracy? Because I don’t think that’s defensible. The Senate was restricted to a narrow oligarchy, the Popular Assembly never had any real power and well over 1/3 of the population were slaves.

Because the US borrowed a lot of Roman look-and-feel in its institutions and monuments, it seems like people here often overestimate the similarities. But there’s very little real social, political, or economic continuity.

I’d also point out that nearly 500 years passed between the expulsion of Tarquin the Proud and the ascension of Octavian/Augustus. We should all ‘fail’ so quickly…

47

Hidari 02.01.11 at 10:18 pm

‘This appears to be at least a plausible depiction of the decline of the Roman Republic, many medieval city-states and so on.’

Y’see the way I see it, the Roman Republic decline (and the decline of the original Greek democracies for that matter*) was ’caused’ more by Rome’s increasing imperial pretensions. With the increasing power of unelected army personnel, as opposed to elected politicians, and the fundamental contrast between the democracy in Rome and the blatantly anti-democratic system that was created throughout the rest of the entire world, the system was doomed. (The clash between rich and poor was real, but it was caused mainly by the huge amount of wealth gained by the new empire). You can have an Empire, or a democracy. You can’t have both (in a similar situation, the British chose democracy, and lost their Empire).

The best counter-argument to my position would be that the Americans finally step from imperialism ‘lite’ to imperialism ‘heavy’ (cf. Iraq) and thereby lose their democracy.** Which would have global implications. But, although they have been faced with this choice many times in the past, they’ve always stepped back from ‘true’ imperialism at the last moment. This is unlikely to change in the immediate future, although in the long term, who knows?

*In the case of the Greeks it was the imperial pretensions of Athens, and then the other city states, that eventually led to them becoming exhausted, and the Macedonians ‘solving’ all the political problems by invading them all and then beating the crap out of the Persians (again).

**Indeed the movement at the moment would seem to be the democratisation of the ‘client states’: cf Egypt, Tunisia. CCF also South America.

48

burritoboy 02.01.11 at 10:19 pm

Henri,

No, kingship isn’t stable. But you’ve just accepted Aristotle’s cyclic model of regimes which is opposed to the modern representative democratic republic, which is supposed to last eternally, or as near eternally as to make no difference.

49

piglet 02.01.11 at 10:23 pm

“maybe China pulls ahead if you aren’t counting per capita?”

No. The US is number one in absolute terms as well as per capita. China’s incarceration rate is 6 times lower, and India’s more than twenty times lower.

There are conflicting claims about China’s true incarceration rate. Some dissidents claim that the official rate is a vast understatement. However, if we go with the published figures, the US remains squarely number one.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_incarceration_rate
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_incarceration_rate

50

chris 02.01.11 at 10:53 pm

the modern representative democratic republic, which is supposed to last eternally, or as near eternally as to make no difference

Who supposes that, and on what basis? Fukuyama, and pulling it out of his ass? No political institution in the history of our species has ever lasted eternally (not that we’d know if it had, I guess, but none of them have even lasted more than a few centuries) and the existing representative democracies are all younger than some *individual dynasties* of monarchy. It’s absurdly early to be declaring the end of history — get back to me after a millennium or so of democratic peace.

Two of the most frequent problems that seem to afflict even modern democracies:

* Some of the country’s population are second-class citizens, de jure or de facto (often on ethnic, cultural, or religious lines); note for example how, in one of the oldest and most established of the representative democracies, it was a very big deal for a mixed-race man to be elected President, and how much bigger a deal it would be for a non-Christian.

* A particular region of the country defines itself as different from the rest of the country and believes that rule by a government consisting mostly of outsiders is not legitimate with respect to them. Quebecois, Catalans, Tamils, Kurds, etc. Occasionally these groups actually do win independence — most of Ireland, for example — which just encourages the others.

Either or both can lead to internal violence, in which other states (democratic or otherwise) may or may not become involved.

51

Phil 02.01.11 at 11:04 pm

The footnote about the Red Brigades gives such a superficial and distorted image of a huge, important and genuinely challenging group of social movements that I’m struggling to formulate any reply to it. (Can I suggest you read the book?) You can, of course, argue that you’re not talking about the reality of what the Red Brigades (plus the other armed groups, the broader armed movement and the still broader movement which refused to disown the above) were but the effects of how the Red Brigades (etc etc) were represented, and that what was a superficial and distorted image at the time has in effect become the historical record; I’d have no answer to that, except to thank God that there’s more than one historical record.

52

piglet 02.01.11 at 11:17 pm

The “the theory of democratic peace” is just plain silly. It rests on wishful thinking and historic ignorance. Probably the only reason why it has any credibility at all is World War II. Once we look past that singular event and examine all the wars of the past two hundred years or so, we find that democracies (at least those regimes that were most democratically advanced for their time, e. g. Britain and the Netherlands in the 18th century) acted as aggressors more often than not. Most of these wars were motivated by imperialism, and democracies have historically tended to be the most successful imperialist powers. Ok, strictly speaking, the argument is not that democracies tend to be less aggressive, only that they are less likely to fight other democracies. And of course there have simply been very few democracies until recently (and even fewer if you count only so-called mature democracies) so counter-examples are rare although they do exist (fn1). But if the evidence suggests that democracies are at least as aggressive as non-democracies, why should we believe that war would disappear if only everybody were a democracy? It’s a little bit counter-intuitive.

(fn1) Proponents of the theory mostly respond by defining counter-examples away using the no true scotsman defense.

53

burritoboy 02.01.11 at 11:37 pm

“Who supposes that, and on what basis? “

Hegel. It’s not just Hegel, though. Quiggin is repeating the same argument used by Machiavelli, who implies that the new modes and orders will last for 500 years – which is close enough to eternal as to functionally be eternal.

54

piglet 02.01.11 at 11:47 pm

chris 49: “A particular region of the country defines itself as different from the rest of the country”

Most obvious example is the American civil war. Why don’t we test the theory by just looking at the wars the US fought during the 19th century? The US fought against Britain (parliamentary regime), Canada (British colony), Mexico (republic), the Confederation (democratic), Spain (complicated), Indian tribes (many of which were democratically organized), popular guerillas in the Philippines (possibly democratic), did I forget something? Sure we can make all these examples fit the theory by using a convenient definition of “democracy” in which the only qualifying country would be the USA itself. How silly would that be.

55

burritoboy 02.01.11 at 11:47 pm

Hidari @ 46,

Your arguments make sense if we limit our analysis only to ancient Athens and the Roman Republic. But your model has no applicability to the medieval city-states, for instance – most of them had no significant imperial pretensions before collapsing (yes, most of them would constantly fight with neighboring cities, but only a few had anything we could call an empire without laughing).

Further, an implication of your theory would be that representative democracies cannot expand in territory. But the modern representative democracy is explicitly opposed to the old city-state because it can both grow and retract it’s territory (see The Federalist’s discussion of Sparta, for instance).

56

Scott 02.01.11 at 11:52 pm

A very interesting debate all round. However, in regards to the rule of Putin, or of the Communist Party of China, will outlast the next economic downturn, I fear that both Putin and the CCP are quite willing to shoot their way out of any protests. And the lesson of China in 1989 is surely that no protests can overthrow a regime that is willing enough to shoot to kill to hold onto power.

Burma/Myanmar would also seem to suggest that people power won’t work if the men with the guns will actually use them.

57

anxiousapopheniac 02.02.11 at 12:00 am

Notwithstanding the question of its validity today or anytime in the past, for FF’s thesis to have any enduring relevance — e.g., in a world of ever-increasing technological and institutional complexity, where the traditional ordering functions of nation states are largely orthogonal to many (and eventually most) features of economic and social life — thymos is going to have to deliver a lot more than some deontological vision that equates “democratic capitalism” with whatever set of conditions that happen to prevail in the United States today. In such a complex, only-weakly-national world, the telltale signs of megalothymia would likely to follow the contours of those highly specialized (and generally highly productive) border-defying institutions and industries that generate and perpetuate ever-increasing information asymmetries between mutually cognizant insiders and everyone else. In that sort of world, the manifestations of megalothymia would not be organized violence, but rather self-perpetuating social and economic stratification, perhaps eventually leading to the organic emergence of a new kind of caste system.

If that world sounds a little familiar, it’s probably not a coincidence.

58

john c. halasz 02.02.11 at 12:25 am

@ 20:

“we have seen the further explosion of a prison population, second now to China”

Nope, Roger, the U.S. incarceration rate is higher than China’s, both a % of population AND in absolute numbers!

http://www.naturalnews.com/021290.html

It’s called Google.

59

conall 02.02.11 at 12:38 am

Fine, so liberal democracy is likely to prevail, and is probably an improvement of autocracy, tyranny etc. And that’s it?

Well, no. Through the machinations of PR the elite can manipulate public opinion, and distract it with trivial issues like gay rights or drugs. Real power clings to the money. Notice how the bail-out of the banks was managed without a single vote? The whole fear of terrorism scam shows another way of silencing the masses. I believe this technique of sham-democracy is called ‘repressive tolerance’ (or as the old slogan goes ‘If voting changed anything, they’d abolish it’ as indeed Maggie Thatcher did).

Remember too that universal sufferage as the model for democracy is less than 100 years old. No surprise that it is only now reaching some parts of the globe. Meanwhile we should be asking is this form of democracy as good as it gets? Why not get back to the generally aggreed root and origin of the very word: Athenian democracy, which had little to do with voting. For them it was the randomly selected jury of citizens who decided most issues. That was what constituted the core of the original democracy.

Anyone for Sortition? (For more about Sortition visit equality-by-lot.wordpress.com or read some of the Sortition series books from Imprint Academic)

60

Charles Peterson 02.02.11 at 1:04 am

I think it’s a bit premature to calling the end to history when we don’t know if human civilization itself can survive AGW or about a dozen other similar threats that are going to make a mess of things in the next 100-1000 years. And it is our so-called democracies that have been most responsible for these threats.

The basic argument seems to be based on defining the right people as the Democracies, and then not actually looking very closely at how they work or what they do. In the USA, we actually have a kleptocratic imperial plutocracy with no one except Lucre itself in charge. The result looks like a cross between a feeding frenzy (as legislators struggle to make as many earmarks as needed to get re-election funds) and a race-to-the-bottom in standards for most people.

Meanwhile, actual dictators can be sensitive to what their subjects think, and may actually be able to deal with fundamental concerns in sustainable ways. The Japanese monarchy, for example, was very sensibly able to deal with deforestation.

If the period we live in is the triumph of Democracy, then it looks like this kind of “Democracy” is spectacularly unsustainable. It only remains to be seen how and with what it will be replaced.

But I would say, rather, that it is Capitalism that has triumphed so unsustainably. Democracy is more notable for its absense in our ways of actually doing things. What we have mastered is the doublespeak required to think of our institutions as Democratic.

61

shah8 02.02.11 at 1:29 am

Japanese Monarchy?

Well the Shogunate that did that sort of thing. There hasn’t been a meaningful japanese monarch since something like the 16th century. Of course, some monarchs had more input in the decisionmaking, but that’s only if they buy into the program, like the Meiji or Showa Emperor, and really, the latter was irrelevant, given his weak personality.

Which kinda goes to the root of this claim about dictators. Stalin showed no such sensitivity. Neither did the guys initially in charge of Taiwan or North Korea. Idi Amin sure didn’t. People like Napoleon, Catherine, Alex II, Maria Theresa, that Orleans king…they were all operating with huge, diverse national interests and constituencies that does not entirely forgive narrowminded autocracy. Many other autocratic systems are clique driven in a monarchial sense, rather than understanding the top guy as autocrat, think Bashir Assad. They have to play to the crowd sometimes to help with powerplays elsewheres, but they do not really *listen*. Dictators, in general, who are sensitive to the crowd and to reality, in a way, are easily deposed, a la Gorbachev.

62

mclaren 02.02.11 at 1:59 am

Excellent discussion. The main threat to liberal democracy, however, appears today to be what Martin van Creveld has identified as the loss of legitimacy of the nation-state. In fact, nation-states everywhere in the world are fracturing, and various commentators have pointed to cities instead of nation-states as the major players in the 21st century.

The breakup of the world’s nation-states suggests that the national monopoly on violecne which accompanied the Treaty of Westphalia is drawing to a close. We now see fanatical groups and superempowered individuals increasingly capable of inflicting mass violence. This bodes ill for the liberal democracies insofar as it provokes nation-states to extreme overreactions such as America’s bizarre overreaction to 9/11.

The kind of ever-incraesingly intrusive quasitotalitarian measures taken in the name of “security” in America and Britain and elsewhere are rapidly eroding the legitimacy of the nation-state. At some point, citizens will have so little allegiance to TSA thugs who have them arrested for reciting the 4th amendment, and DHS goons who break down the doors of their house to confiscate their computers because they’re downloading mp3s, that the entire political credibility and institutional legitimacy of liberal democracies will come into question. At that point, it’s not clear what results.

Corporate capture of the nation-state’s government increasingly produces policies that benefit the corporate bottom line while throwing individual citizens out of work. This can’t continue indefinitely without destroying the legitimacy of the democracy that undergoes corporate capture.

63

John Quiggin 02.02.11 at 2:27 am

Responses on a few points, somewhat random

1. I haven’t really studied the literature on democratic peace, and my discussion was stated as conditional. As I said, my impression is that there’s some validity to it. Certainly, the fear of a war in the part of the world where I live (most saliently, the fear of a war with Indonesia) has declined quite a bit since the successful transition to democracy there. Again impressionistically, the restriction to mature democracies does seem to be required

2. @Phil. The standard version of history is always selective and often distorted. But the Red Brigades did the things for which they are now remembered, and the effects are as I said, even if they also did lots of other things that are now forgotten.

3. Fukuyama gets all the way to the end of history with his third, illegitimate step. I’ll edit the post to make this point clearer.

64

Clay Shirky 02.02.11 at 3:44 am

Jack, looks like no one took your bet at #2, but I will do it happily and on the terms you offered: $100, at 1-to-2 odds, that the CCP will be in charge of the PRC on Feb 1 of 2021.*

This is not to say that I think the Chinese will rise up to demand political freedom. I think the Party will lose in the next 10 years because of their failure to manage economic issues, resulting in the people demanding a new system. Though the American revolution has often been portrayed as a demand for political freedom, that was a lucky side-effect — the uprising was predicated on economic issues, (Stamp Tax, Boston Tea Party, ‘no taxation without representation’ and whatnot), and after we revolted, we happened to have some brilliant political theorists and one skeptical leader to declined to be King.

I think that corruption, driving things like confiscation of land, or school-building collapses, and misallocated resources, as seen in China’s ‘ghost cities’** will be the twin drivers of the uprising. What these things have in common is that a) they affect middle-class Han, and b) they lie at the fault line of local political corruption and economic growth, so they are not as easy to hush up as purely political demands from outside the mainstream of Han society by, e.g., the Tibetans, Uighurs, or Falun Gong.

And while I’m taking the bet, I’ll make a provisional claim, in hopes that the CT audience will amend or refute it: no autocratic and industrialized state has lasted more than 70 years. There are long-lived autocracies, and long-lived industrialized states, but not both.

-clay

* The two obvious edge-cases are “What does it mean to be the CCP?” and “What does it mean to be in charge of China?” East Germany still has Communists, but now that is the name of a democratic party, and England still has a Queen, but she isn’t in charge, so we’ll need some method of making that judgment at the time, which I’ll let you define or propose.

** http://www.businessinsider.com/pictures-chinese-ghost-cities-2010-12?slop=1

65

ovaut 02.02.11 at 4:07 am

why on earth would we define history as ‘”kings and battles”‘?

66

ovaut 02.02.11 at 4:11 am

it’s self-evident but we recoil from it as from filth: history doesn’t end. in a million years it will be 1002011.

67

bh 02.02.11 at 4:41 am

Hidari: Y’see the way I see it, the Roman Republic decline (and the decline of the original Greek democracies for that matter*) was ‘caused’ more by Rome’s increasing imperial pretensions. With the increasing power of unelected army personnel, as opposed to elected politicians, and the fundamental contrast between the democracy in Rome and the blatantly anti-democratic system that was created throughout the rest of the entire world, the system was doomed.

In the Republic, by design, the military leaders — Pompey, Caesar, Crassus, Antony, etc. — were the politicians, so I don’t think you can make this contrast. Which isn’t to say that any of those guys were interested in maintaining the integrity of the system — I think the Putin/Berluscioni model of malignant demagogue works pretty well here.

In the late Empire, on the other hand, the professional military was a lot of the story. Rome (the city) and its institutions (the Senate met all the way through the Empire period, for all the good it did them) became less and less important as the real power was held by an army that, by defensive necessity, was stationed along the frontier. The first rounds of the ‘barbarian’ ‘invasions’ were really a culmination of that dynamic — army officers of Germanic descent (Alearic, Odoacer, etc.) who’d had enough of the being the power behind the throne and had decided to take things to the next level.

68

LFC 02.02.11 at 6:06 am

piglet @53: I respectfully suggest you look at some of the lit. on the democratic peace. It’s certainly debatable on several grounds, yes, but neither silly nor especially counterintuitive. The restriction to ‘mature’ democracies is also debatable, but derives from work showing that states in periods of transition to democracy don’t tend to be esp. peaceful (as opposed to when the transition is finished and democracy somewhat consolidated). The Indonesia example mentioned by JQ above may tell against this. (I assume he left out the “not” as in the restriction “does not seem to be required”.)

@63:The breakup of the world’s nation-states suggests that the national monopoly on violence which accompanied the Treaty of Westphalia is drawing to a close.
Most nation-states are not breaking up, though some are. And it’s treaties (plural) of Westphalia and they didn’t do what most people think. (For starters go to Duck of Minerva and read D.Nexon’s post on this.)

69

Julia Thornton 02.02.11 at 6:28 am

Hmmm, Much conflating in this discussion, I think, between political liberalisation and the pressures which lead to it, and the separate but related idea of democracy. You can have one without the other.

70

shah8 02.02.11 at 6:39 am

Or how ’bout *you* getcherself a niiiiiice book on the Spring and Autumn period. Not about democracies, but about changes of civil relationship to leaders and legal framework. It’s a pretty good way (if quite sparse for a history) to see how the history of the area cycles as leaders need more public support to leaders needing less.

Look, there was a thread last year @Yglesias where much of this was hashed out. Mature Democracies? Bullshit. States in transition to democracies being not especially peaceful? Duh. Do you know why states engage in democratic bargaining with its citizens? Because they live in a time and place where the leadership *has* to engage in bargaining in order for said state to survive. I.e. not exactly peaceful times. States, furthermore, do not keep their promises when the pressure is off, and repression is ramped up again. This doesn’t happen in “mature” democracies because they had colonial possessions or a post-colonial framework with which to mooch off of.

71

John Quiggin 02.02.11 at 7:51 am

Piglet, I did’t mean to have a “not”. Optimist that I am, I regard Indonesia as having reached the mature stage of democracy with the current government, a bit over 10 years, and four orderly changes of government, since Suharto fell from power. Although SBY is a retired general, the military influence that colored the early post-Suharto governments is pretty much gone, and the old Golkar machine is now just another political party.

The early stages were pretty unstable, with the army and Islamist proxies stirring up religious strife in places like Ambon, war in Aceh etc. But things are a lot better now.

72

Jack Strocchi 02.02.11 at 9:50 am

Barry @ #24 said:

Jack: “The biggest dangers to popular democracy in established liberal democracies are well-mannered liberal elites. Its your economically rational Davos Men and politically correct SWPLs that hate the man in the street and never miss a chance to take him down a peg or two.”

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! is the most polite comment that that deserves.

You can dispense with any politesse. If you have got anything – facts, logic or a confirmed prediction – then put it up. Or shut up.
Point and snigger doesn’t cut it any more.

73

bh 02.02.11 at 9:53 am

Jack,

If you post something as idiotic as that quote, you get what you deserve.

I’m not quite sure what you think you’re doing here, but as far as I’m concerned — and I doubt I’m alone — you’re basically an unusually pompous troll.

74

Jack Strocchi 02.02.11 at 10:21 am

bb @ #71 said:

If you post something as idiotic as that quote, you get what you deserve. I’m not quite sure what you think you’re doing here, but as far as I’m concerned—and I doubt I’m alone—you’re basically an unusually pompous troll.

Dear bb,

Thankyou for that perfect example of flawless logic and impeccable command of the facts. It certainly represents an improvement on “BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

I remain your “pompously idiotic troll”,

Jack Strocchi

PS The “well-mannered liberal elites” who have been in the driving seat this past generation or so have given us the GFC, open contempt for working class men (“crackers, “red-necks”, “bogans”) and a spectacular collapse in popular political participation, with mass-based political parties replaced by apparatchiks for hire. If you think that this state of affairs is indicative of a healthy liberal democracy then I have a bridge you might be interested in buying.

75

John Quiggin 02.02.11 at 10:25 am

Jack, I’ll post this over at my blog. Please take comments there.

76

Jack Strocchi 02.02.11 at 11:14 am

Clay Shirky @ #65 said:

Jack, looks like no one took your bet at #2, but I will do it happily and on the terms you offered: $100, at 1-to-2 odds, that the CCP will be in charge of the PRC on Feb 1 of 2021…* This is not to say that I think the Chinese will rise up to demand political freedom. I think the Party will lose in the next 10 years because of their failure to manage economic issues, resulting in the people demanding a new system…The two obvious edge-cases are “What does it mean to be the CCP?” and “What does it mean to be in charge of China?” … so we’ll need some method of making that judgment at the time, which I’ll let you define or propose.

I am happy to take you up on this bet on what most people would acknowledge are generous odds.

My definition of CCP rule: it retains a monopoly of political power – a one-party polity. Of course the character of that rule is subject to change – the post-Deng communists are nothing if not pragmatic opportunists in policy.

FWIW I am confident of the outcome because I believe, on the basis of gut instinct and folklore, that in 1980 the post-Mao CCP put in place a fifty year plan for socio-political development. Which means that there is still another 20 years to run on the deliverables.

Basically the CCP’s plan seems to be a gigantic socio-political triage: get 2/3 of the ~ 1200 million (> 100 IQ) Han Chinese to a middle-class or better standard of living by 2030. After that all bets are off.

They have already gotten the top 1/3 up to that standard, the coastal Chinese more or less pulled themselves up by their boot-straps once Deng took the Maoist hobbles off.

The middle 1/3 will probably take only half as long, given ample government assistance – stuff like the recent hinterland stimulus. For an example of the PRC’s long-term thinking you can check out their Central region development plan.

The bottom 1/3 (< 100 IQ) may find it a bit hard to compete on the international stage. By 2030 the PRC will be ready for a bit of decadent welfare democracy.

Lets not forget that the CCP has pulled off some pretty impressive plans over the past 30 years. One-child policy, Enterprise zones, hydro-electric schemes.

No doubt there will be problems along the way. But the CCP took Tianamen Square and the GFC in its stride. They have shown remarkable ability to co-opt dissident forces – businessmen, religious people and off-shore Chinese. And of course the PLA remains a wholly-owned subsidiary of the CCP.

So yeah, I give the CCP at least until 2030.

Clay Shirky said:

And while I’m taking the bet, I’ll make a provisional claim, in hopes that the CT audience will amend or refute it: no autocratic and industrialized state has lasted more than 70 years. There are long-lived autocracies, and long-lived industrialized states, but not both.

We have only had large-scale industrialization for 200 years and large-scale democratization for the past 100 years. So there has not been enough time for a series of long-term politico-economic cycles to work themselves out to test that hypothesis. The PRC is the only major (industrialized dictatorship) exception to your rule, apart from the oil-rich Arab shiekdoms. Its been going for 60 years. So if it is still in the saddle in 2021 you shall have an answer to your question.

Democracy will come to the PRC, all in good time.

77

garymar 02.02.11 at 11:16 am

shah8 *62: Japanese Monarchy?

Well, I’ll go you one better: if we’re talking about emperors, then there hasn’t been a ‘meaningful monarch’ since the mid-9th century. In the 16th century, the country was in the midst of a civil war, and the emperors were so irrelevant that one of them had to sell samples of his calligraphy to make ends meet.

But the Shoguns, well, that’s a different matter.

78

roger 02.02.11 at 11:22 am

Thanks for setting me straight on incarceration rates, U.S. vs. China. But this merely strengthens my point.
As interesting is the somewhat ambiguous notion of “liberal democracy”, which I take to mean something more than majoritarianism – I take it that there are checks in place that prevent the autocratic use of majority power. The question is whether those checks in place actually benefit an economic and political elite – as per the Senate example – or an economic and political outcast. In other words, all minorities and all majorities aren’t alike – composition of same counts!

That said, I think the seamless policy transition from Bush to Obama that saved the financial community – the wealthiest – first, with a combination of TARP and the Fed’s outrageous lending policies between 2008 -2010, revealed by the audit of the Fed – indicate that democracy is in pretty poor shape in the U.S. Partly this is due to a problem that the political policymakers in the 1789 didn’t foresee – the problem of a two party state. The problem is that, given enough of an economic headstart, those with powerful economic positions can use their resources to, in effect, buy off both parties. Actually, this isn’t only a U.S. problem. In Mexico, the funders of the PRI moved pretty easily to funding the PAN. The expense of maintaining a political party is really not that great – and thus, what I call buying one – not only funding it, but making room for political operatives, as was recently the case when Orszag went from the White House to Citi, an event only noticeable for the fact that it was briefly noted – and setting up institutes of policy making – from Cato to Brookings to the George Mason U. economics department – to dominate the political discourse. What one might call position-defending is incredibly cheap, when all is said and done. Partly it is cheap because of the cost of political power is cheaper under a two party monopoly. In the U.S., there were really more than two parties disguised under the two parties up until the sixties – there were, for instance, conservative Southern democrats and liberal northern Republicans. But both parties have become more or less national structures, squeezing out the sub-parties within them (something the Republicans have been more successful at than the Dems).

This is, as I say, one factor – and the role of parties is different in different Western countries. But across the spectrum, the left parties have withered, or been taken over internally – viz UK’s Labour – to represent a much different constituency than used to be the case. In extreme cases, such as Ireland, the dominant party merged so entirely with the oligarchs that the nation exists, at the moment, primarily to pump money into the bondholders of various corrupt and defunct banks. This is a first, I think – I don’t think there is a name for this.

79

Jack Strocchi 02.02.11 at 11:23 am

comment and moderation crossed in submission.

80

roger 02.02.11 at 11:23 am

Where the strike marks came from, I don’t know.

81

Clay Shirky 02.02.11 at 11:56 am

Jack, at #74, bet accepted. (Now we have a stake in making sure CT lasts til 2021, or we could take it to long bets.)

As to the finer points, I’d disput the claim that large-scale democratization has only existed for 100 years, but I’d also not that that’s not relevant to my observation, which is about the _non-existence_ of old autocracies, and we’ve had large-scale autocracy for _considerably_ more than 100 years.

And I agree with the long-range plan argument (not enough of a historian to agree or disagree with the “Mao and 50 yrs” judgment), and I agree that they have accomplished truly extraordinary things, One Child in particular being perhaps the most amazing piece of social engineering in history.

I could try for a longish exegesis of my counter-argument, but now that the bet is sealed, I think I’ll make it aphoristic:

1. More is different.
2. Power corrupts.
3. Shit happens.

I think the rising tide of middle-class expectations (driven, ironically, by the CCP’s very success) will create a set of demands around well-run government that the CCP is unable to respond to, both because they will be unable to root out corruption fast enough or fully enough, and because the system they are asked to manage is becoming increasingly complex.

The North African uprisings of the 1950s, the collapse of the Soviet Empire in the 1980s, and Tunisia and Egypt today all suggest that autocratic regimes can keep a lid on rising demands of their people for tens thousands of days in a row, and then, one day, they can’t.

I grant you that taking this analysis inside a 10 year window for the CCP creates a fairly big risk I’ll lose — if the bet were $1000, say, I would be much less reckless about making predictions in that time frame. However, the ‘phase-change’ nature of autocratic change also makes continuity harder to predict than smooth 50 year plans seem to suggest.

82

Linca 02.02.11 at 12:03 pm

The papacy is an example of a succesfull way to manage autocratic succession – but the Chinese system is essentially the same : the CCP is quite similar to the Catholic church as a semy corrupt, somehow meritocratic body, the leadership of which is elected by the top 100 guys every few years. Why should the CCP be that much more unstable that the papacy ? Currently it is delivering much more to its constituents !

83

bh 02.02.11 at 12:31 pm

I get that it’s the longest autocratic succession we have, by far, but I really don’t think it makes sense to mix the Papacy with more conventional governing institutions — they’re just too different.

Any government that controls the Chinese mainland is, by definition, the Chinese government. But take away Papal and priestly authority, replace it with a parishoner-directed system and you’d have… a different denomination.

I’d also point out that meaningful territorial control by the Papacy was ended by the foundation of the modern Italian republic. So maybe this is “the exception that proves the rule.” Not that I’ve ever quite known what that phrase is supposed to mean…

84

roger 02.02.11 at 12:55 pm

Clay sharkey: “I think the rising tide of middle-class expectations (driven, ironically, by the CCP’s very success) will create a set of demands around well-run government that the CCP is unable to respond to, both because they will be unable to root out corruption fast enough or fully enough, and because the system they are asked to manage is becoming increasingly complex.”
This, of course, may be the key to the double aspect of history right now, as the de-democratization in the Western countries is associated with the falling assets and incomes of the middle class, and the progressive destruction of their expectations. This is generating a set of demands that the Western governments are responding to by facilitating the more rapid decline of the working and middle class – through such ventures as raising the age of retirement in an era in whcih young unemployment is the prevailing problem, etc. The defense of vested interests within the democratic framework has created the conditions for eroding the democratic framework, and will continue to do so.

85

Henri Vieuxtemps 02.02.11 at 1:31 pm

If indeed, as someone above predicted, one third of the Chinese (hundreds of millions) are destined to stay in poverty for a very long time, this new Chinese petite-bourgeoisie may not get too anxious to enact their petite-bourgeois liberal democracy, after all.

86

Random lurker 02.02.11 at 1:38 pm

“This, of course, may be the key to the double aspect of history right now, as the de-democratization in the Western countries is associated with the falling assets and incomes of the middle class, and the progressive destruction of their expectations. This is generating a set of demands that the Western governments are responding to by facilitating the more rapid decline of the working and middle class – through such ventures as raising the age of retirement in an era in whcih young unemployment is the prevailing problem, etc. The defense of vested interests within the democratic framework has created the conditions for eroding the democratic framework, and will continue to do so.”

I strongly agree with this. As an italian critical of Berlusconi, I would add that B. is not a “charismatic leader” who reached power thanks to his charisma (although he and most italians believe in this image); instead, he is the result of the changes in the italian political system that happened during the so called “tangentopoli” crisis.
In the tangentopoli crisis, most traditional italian parties were destroyed, the italian communist party survived but became a progressive party and new parties, such as B.’s “Forza Italia” gained power.
The old parties were mostly mass-parties: communists and to a lesser degree socialists based their power structure on unions, whereas cristian democrats were based on the church and the opposition of “middle class” to communism.
When Italy became a “postindustrial” country (roughly in the ’80es)the power of the unions crumbled. At that point the traditional parties lost their “rason d’etre” and thus legitimation.
New parties in Italy are no more mass-parties, they are more a sort of “fundraising structures”. As a consequence, a sort of root-less party like B.’s “Forza Italia” became possible thank to B.’s mediatic and economic power.
Thus, Quiggin’s opinion that “differently democratic” characters like Putin or Berlusconi are on the way out sounds wrong to me, in facts I believe this kind of figures are going to became the rule instead of the exception.

87

Phil 02.02.11 at 2:37 pm

the Red Brigades did the things for which they are now remembered, and the effects are as I said

The effects of how they are remembered are as you said.

I mean, what do you mean by “terrorist methods”? Who do you mean by “groups like the Red Brigades”? When did these groups “turn to” those methods, and which methods were they using beforehand? No googling!

A long wave of contentious, confrontational and often violent activism began in 1972-3 (unless it was a very long wave that began in 1965-6), and was brought to a halt under immense pressure in 1979-80. One of the after-effects of the repression that was brought to bear on the movements was to pronounce a general anathema on ‘terrorism’ and ‘violence’. But it was the defeat of a huge movement that did it, not spontaneous revulsion against a few armed headbangers – and, more relevantly for your thesis, that defeat certainly wasn’t accompanied by a rise in political engagement or increased confidence in the democratic system. On the contrary, the Italian political system has never really recovered – and the respectable, non-violent, anti-terrorist Left has suffered worst of all.

88

Zamfir 02.02.11 at 2:39 pm

It’s also dubious how continuous the papacy has been. If a pope is as result of poliical or even military forces succeeded by an enemy, is that continuity? If the pope loses political power, does that count as a continuity? After all, most hopeful scenarios for Egypt imagine democratic elections for the role of president, making his succession nominally a continuity.

89

LFC 02.02.11 at 2:42 pm

JQ@69:
Thanks for the clarification, re Indonesia.

90

Chris Williams 02.02.11 at 3:00 pm

Discussions like this one remind me of those in the summer of 2003, or the summer of 1940 (for which, see Mazower’s work). Each time, what looked like the total triumph of a particular way of doing things rather quickly turned into a high-water mark, and those who made predictions, or took political positions, based on extending a line on a graph, ended up looking foolish later. Sometimes, in the 1940 case, they ended up imprisoned, banished, or dead.

And Mubarak appears to have got his Nashii on…

91

Zamfir 02.02.11 at 3:12 pm

Yeah, the summer of 2003 was a lot like the summer of 1940. Warm on the northern hemisphere, colder on the south. Any more similarities?

92

burritoboy 02.02.11 at 3:25 pm

“This, of course, may be the key to the double aspect of history right now, as the de-democratization in the Western countries is associated with the falling assets and incomes of the middle class, and the progressive destruction of their expectations. This is generating a set of demands that the Western governments are responding to by facilitating the more rapid decline of the working and middle class – through such ventures as raising the age of retirement in an era in whcih young unemployment is the prevailing problem, etc. The defense of vested interests within the democratic framework has created the conditions for eroding the democratic framework, and will continue to do so.”

But there’s an even more important conclusion from that statement to be made. We tend to view this discussion in the light of “what is the best type of government”? But that’s not the only, and perhaps not the most important, question. We also have to ask about the durability of types of government.

Most people in our times will argue that the representative democracy is the best precisely for the reason of durability, as Quiggin did above. That is, the representative democracy is the best government because it is both the best simply but also the most durable. A problem results if the representative democracy is no more durable than other types of government, however.

The mechanism you describe above is precisely what Aristotle argues is the downfall of republics – the wealthy, over time, tend to undermine the republic because they dominate the offices too much, manipulate the policy in their direction, and treat the other economic classes poorly. That we see this as our current empirical reality means that (in general), Aristotle was the better political scientist than those of modernity who proposed an eternal representative democracy.

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Zamfir 02.02.11 at 3:35 pm

When some of you say “de-democratization of the west”, where are you picturing the high-water mark? It’s a bit weird to see the days of Andreotti or Nixon as the golden age of true democracy.

94

Barry 02.02.11 at 3:36 pm

Roger @ 82: “This, of course, may be the key to the double aspect of history right now, as the de-democratization in the Western countries is associated with the falling assets and incomes of the middle class, and the progressive destruction of their expectations. This is generating a set of demands that the Western governments are responding to by facilitating the more rapid decline of the working and middle class –”

That’s my big point – the USA’s political system is remarkably unresponsive to anything against the elite’s short-term interests. Even after they were pulled out of their fall into the Abyss by by their collars, they’re quite happily continuing on.
In the short term, their goals are to neutralize Obama as much as possible, have him do the minimal clean-up, and take the blame, and then finally to put the GOP back into power. And they’ve done a phenominal job, considering how badly they just did.

95

piglet 02.02.11 at 4:13 pm

JQ 69: “Piglet, I did’t mean to have a “not””

I’m sorry, you were saying?

96

piglet 02.02.11 at 4:18 pm

LFC 67:

“The restriction to ‘mature’ democracies is also debatable, but derives from work showing that states in periods of transition to democracy don’t tend to be esp. peaceful (as opposed to when the transition is finished and democracy somewhat consolidated).”

So states in transition to democracy are not especially peaceful, as opposed to mature democracies? Would you consider the USA in its mature phase, or Britain in its mature phase, as especially peaceful?

97

ajay 02.02.11 at 4:31 pm

Britain in its mature phase – say, 1960 to date – is certainly a lot more peaceful than it was in its transitional phase in the nineteenth century, when it was pretty much continuously at war.

98

piglet 02.02.11 at 4:45 pm

ajay: Britain was transitional while at war and happened to be mature while relatively peaceful? That’s a nice example of the no true scotsman defense. Now when can we expect the US to reach maturity?

99

LFC 02.02.11 at 6:11 pm

@piglet:
This is my understanding of what went on in the literature : the dem. peace theory in its first iteration (for lack of a better word) stated that democracies don’t fight each other, period. Then a few political scientists (I believe Mansfield and Snyder is the usual cite) argued that ‘transitional’ democracies show just as much inclination to fight each other (and, I guess, to fight in general) as non-democracies do (I’m not going into get into the definitional debates of what is a ‘democracy’ in this summary). Hence, some now view the dem. peace theory as stating only that ‘mature’ democracies don’t fight each other. The theory says nothing about general aggressive proclivities of such democracies: it says they don’t fight each other. There is a good deal of evidence to support this, though it is of course possible to raise empirical, definitional, epistemological, normative, and other objections, and people have raised them, and the debate has killed lots of trees for lots of journals, and some people (not including me) are intimately familiar with it. And I’m beginning to be sorry I brought this up.

100

engels 02.02.11 at 7:12 pm

Does it say anything about democracies funding coups in other democracies in order to have authoritarian, but more market-friendly, regimes installed?

101

piglet 02.02.11 at 7:14 pm

Just looking at some of the most recent wars: US/Nato vs Yugoslavia, Israel vs. Lebanon, Ethiopia vs. Eritrea. Only an excessively restrictive definition of democracy would make these conflicts fit the theory. So categorizing some of these countries as immature is taking on most of the work. Now a “mature” democracy is presumably stable and countries like Yugoslavia or Lebanon are obviously not stable. I mean how can a country that has just been bombed into a pile of rubble be described as stable? So is the theory really just saying that only stable democracies are stable?

It is also interesting to look at non-war hostility or conflict between what would seem to be democracies. US hostility towards democratic leaders such as Mossadegh, Lumumba, Arbenz, Allende may have prevented or slowed their countries’ democratic maturation. Those conflicts were not open wars but ignoring them in a theory about international relations and democracy seems hard to justify. Again if you use the “mature democracy” defense, what you are saying is that the US only destabilizes countries that it destabilizes. We might be able to agree on that.

“The theory says nothing about general aggressive proclivities of such democracies:”

That is a bit of a blind spot for a theory termed “democratic peace” isn’t it?

102

y81 02.02.11 at 7:24 pm

With regard to the updated post, it’s unfair to read Fukuyama’s book as a defense of “U.S.-style” industrial capitalism over the Swedish or Hong Kong (or other) variants. He really didn’t focus on those issues, and he endorsed a good bit of government regulation (e.g., he commented favorably on laws to prohibit dry cleaners from charging more for women’s shirts than men’s).

I’m not sure what Fukuyama’s theory of thymotic equality would say about the Hong Kong rule, that you can advertise different prices for girls of different ethnicities so long as the advertisements are in Chinese and not English.

103

novakant 02.02.11 at 8:27 pm

Britain in its mature phase – say, 1960 to date – is certainly a lot more peaceful than it was ….

I happen to remember Britain taking part in a bloody war of aggression quite recently.

104

LFC 02.02.11 at 9:15 pm

@100:US hostility towards democratic leaders such as Mossadegh, Lumumba, Arbenz, Allende may have prevented or slowed their countries’ democratic maturation. Those conflicts were not open wars but ignoring them in a theory about international relations and democracy seems hard to justify.

I agree with this. I would add only that U.S. hostility in these cases was probably partly explainable by the Cold War mindset in which any left-leaning Mideast or Third World government was considered a potential ally of Moscow and hence a geopolitical threat or liability. The Nixon admin was eager to get rid of Allende, IIRC, not only because his gov’t was seen as unfriendly to U.S.-based multinational corporations but also for geopolitical/Cold War reasons. And since the coup against Allende was followed by the years of Pinochet’s dictatorship, it certainly set back democracy in Chile.

105

Freddy Terranean 02.02.11 at 9:18 pm

Democracy can self-destruct by simply electing dictators, as was Hamas in 2006 and the Iranian Revolution in 1979. And apparently in Queensland.

Dictatorships in fanatical religious states can last quite a long time, like Hamas, the Ayatollahs, or China under Mao. The most dangerous thing to China was going atheistic against the Communist religion.

And if the cycle sort of starts again, then we aren’t at any end of history.

More generally, unanticipated developments in technology may change the rules, the issues or the goals, perhaps like the way electronics is altering privacy.

106

bh 02.02.11 at 9:46 pm

Democracy didn’t “self-destruct” in Palestine in 2006. The US and Israel destroyed it, because they didn’t like the outcome.

107

Patrick S. O'Donnell 02.03.11 at 2:14 am

“The US[, the European Union] and Israel destroyed it, because they didn’t like the outcome.”

.

108

John Quiggin 02.03.11 at 2:22 am

@Freddy Your claim is incorrect as regards Iran – Khomeini took power from the provisional post-Shah government in a coup, ratified by the kind of plebiscite typical in such cases (98 percent in favor).

As regards Queensland, despite being protected by an extreme electoral malapportionment, Joh was forced out in a corruption scandal and his party lost office shortly afterwards.

109

Gavin R. Putland 02.03.11 at 3:26 am

Democracy, according to John Quiggin “ensures that everyone has a say. Not, of course, an equal say, but, for everyone outside the ruling elite, more of a say than they would get under any alternative system.”

I disagree, at least if “democracy” means UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE — that is, the system in which every enrolled elector can actually cast a vote at every election.

If you are a candidate, universal suffrage maximizes the number of electors to whom you must present your message, and therefore maximizes the cost of a successful campaign. Your message obviously includes a component designed to make people vote for you rather than for someone else. If voting is optional, your message also includes a heavy “get out the vote” component, designed to make your presumed supporters vote rather than stay home. But both components cost money.

Universal suffrage therefore maximizes the influence of those who have the resources needed to run campaigns. These, I presume, are Quiggin’s “ruling elite”. The problem, to which Quiggin offers no solution, is how to give a bigger say to those outside the elite.

My solution, which I call CONVENED-SAMPLE SUFFRAGE, is as follows. For each election, in each electorate, invite a random sample of the enrolled voters to gather in one place (or one video conference). Pay them well for their time, so that they can afford to accept the invitation. Let them hear and cross-examine the candidates over a period of several days. Then let them vote as an electoral college — choosing the candidate(s) that the entire enrolled electorate would have chosen if it had heard the same arguments.

In short, don’t take the message to the electors; bring a sample of electors to the message. In more technical language, choose an electoral college by sortition.

Yes, this process introduces a random sampling error. But that’s better than the present systematic bias in favour of moneyed interests.

Convened-sample suffrage is compatible with any VOTING SYSTEM (e.g. first-past-the-post, preferential, proportional). Whether the voting system should be changed is a separate issue. Paying the sample of electors would be cheaper than paying the army of officials needed for a universal-suffrage election – to say nothing of the campaign costs.

On balance, convened-sample suffrage would increase each citizen’s chances of affecting the outcome. The reduction in your chances of voting would be exactly compensated by the increase in your chances of being the marginal voter if you do vote; and the opportunity to speak and ask questions in the electoral college would be a further avenue of influence. Universal suffrage is beguiling because it offers the certainty of having a say. But the greater probability of having a say (100%) is more than offset by the reduced probability that your “say” will swing the outcome.

Worse, under universal suffrage, your chances of affecting the outcome are so remote that it is not rational to spend time informing yourself about the issues for the purpose of voting (although it may be rational for other purposes). Thus universal suffrage leads to almost universal RATIONAL IGNORANCE, which in turn increases the susceptibility of voters to the propaganda of the ruling elite.

But if you are selected as one of (say) 100 members of the convened sample in your electorate, your chances of affecting the result will suddenly become quite significant. So you’ll make the effort to get informed. Other members of the sample will also get informed, making it easier for you to exert rational influence on them.

Government by the few tends to be corrupt. Government by the many tends to be ignorant. Representative democracy is supposed to be the solution; but under universal suffrage it merely allows the ignorant many to choose the corrupt few. Convened-sample suffrage induces a sample of the many to purge their ignorance before they choose the few. Hence, to the limited extent that the spread of democracy is hindered by fear of the ignorant many, convened-sample suffrage may overcome the resistance.

Under convened-sample suffrage the informed electoral college, the opportunity to speak in the presence of the entire college, and the higher probably of being the “swing” voter in the college would more than compensate for the lower probability of “having a say”; and the superior ability of the ruling elite to address the ignorant masses would be short-circuited, giving the rest of us a stronger say than we have now.

110

Zamfir 02.03.11 at 9:28 am

Freddy, Iranian democracy didn’t self-destruct. It developed in the late 1940s, early 1950s, and then it got the strange idea to demand a larger share in the profits of the the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, even though it clearly said “Anglo” in the name. Then there was a bit of democratic peace, and Iran was no longer a democracy.

But of course, that doesn’t count against the democratic peace theory, since Iran wasn’t a mature democracy at the time. A mature democracy would never engage in such aggression against other democracies.

In the aftermath, AIOC got renamed “British Petroleum”, so people wouldn’t make that mistake again.

111

John Quiggin 02.03.11 at 10:44 am

Phil @88 To answer your question, by “groups like the Red Brigades”, I mean the Red Army Faction, Japanese Red Army, Weathermen (sic) and so on (I promise I didn’t use Google!). Obviously, I’m far less well informed about the Italian scene in this period than you are, but it seems to me to fit the global pattern.
1. As you say, the left suffered a massive defeat in the 1970s, from which it has never recovered (although there has been successful resistance to many of the attacks made by the right on the welfare state etc).
2. The adoption of terrorist methods by some on the left, and their toleration by others contributed to this defeat at the time, and the historical memory of these methods (as you say, at the expense of much else that is now largely forgotten) continues to damage the left

I’m not claiming that the failure of terrorism promoted democratic engagement or, indeed had any good effects, merely that it promoted the stability of representative democracy by discrediting the alternatives.

112

ajay 02.03.11 at 11:05 am

novakant: I happen to remember Britain taking part in a bloody war of aggression quite recently.

Yes, but (read your nineteenth century history) during the transitional phase Britain was taking part in bloody wars of aggression pretty much all the time. The current level of violence and troop commitment in Afghanistan would barely have been regarded as rising to the level of a war by the Raj; it would have been regarded as “business as usual on the North-West Frontier”.

Britain was transitional while at war and happened to be mature while relatively peaceful? That’s a nice example of the no true scotsman defense.

No it isn’t. Look up the no true Scotsman defence to find out why.
I’m responding to your point “So states in transition to democracy are not especially peaceful, as opposed to mature democracies? Would you consider the USA in its mature phase, or Britain in its mature phase, as especially peaceful?” by saying “Well, yes, Britain in its mature phase is a lot more peaceful than it was during its transition phase”.

Now when can we expect the US to reach maturity?

Well, since the US is a much younger democracy than Britain (fully democratic elections only since 1965, rather than since 1928) it may take some time. But, again, if you compare US military activity since 1980 with most other 30-year periods in its history, it might be informative. Do you think the US has been more violent in 1980-2010 than in, say, 1950-1980? Or 1850-1880?

113

Barry 02.03.11 at 12:08 pm

ajay 02.03.11 at 11:05 am

(re: the ‘no true Scotsman’ argument)
” No it isn’t. Look up the no true Scotsman defence to find out why.
I’m responding to your point “So states in transition to democracy are not especially “

The point is that you’ve invoked ‘mature/immature’ and ‘transitional’ to make the data better fit the theory, with no argument to justify that.

114

ajay 02.03.11 at 1:33 pm

Barry: no, not really. I’m responding to the point “So states in transition to democracy are not especially peaceful, as opposed to mature democracies? Would you consider the USA in its mature phase, or Britain in its mature phase, as especially peaceful?” by saying “Well, yes, Britain in its mature phase is a lot more peaceful than it was during its transition phase”.

I didn’t invoke the mature/immature distinction. That was done by LFC at 69.

Quick summary:
piglet: democratic peace theory is silly, democracies are very aggressive.
LFC: well, the actual theory is that mature democracies aren’t aggressive; transitional ones tend to be aggressive.
piglet: whoa there! The US and Britain are surely mature democracies if anyone is, and they’re both pretty aggressive.
me: well, yes, but they’re both less aggressive than they used to be when they were transitional.

I don’t think you’re reading this thread very carefully.

115

LFC 02.03.11 at 2:41 pm

I said in my comment at 100 that ‘democratic peace theory’ has to do not with aggression in general, but with aggression/wars between (‘mature’) democracies. So ajay’s point is not really about ‘democratic peace theory’ but rather about the overall peacefulness or aggressiveness of democracies (and its historical trend), which is a different (although related) question.

116

shah8 02.03.11 at 3:32 pm

mebbe it’s just that all the “mature” societies, democratic or not, got nukes and direct wars of aggression has now become too expensive.

117

ajay 02.03.11 at 3:38 pm

LFC makes a good point at 114. There aren’t many examples of wars between two mature democracies and there have probably been enough of them around for long enough now for this to be significant.

115: or it may just be that all the mature societies got rich, and so had too much to lose from a war with another rich nation. After all, not all the mature democracies have nuclear weapons. Most of them don’t.

118

hartal 02.03.11 at 3:45 pm

Let’s say that the Bush doctrine really was a radical innovation–that is, it allowed war on preventative rather than just preemptive grounds. That would suggest that a ‘democracy’ which actually spit in the face of unprecedented democratic opposition (referring here to the protests against a war on Iraq) has become more aggressive in an important way.

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Torquil Macneil 02.03.11 at 4:15 pm

“There aren’t many examples of wars between two mature democracies and there have probably been enough of them around for long enough now for this to be significant.2

The answer will probably be glaringly obvious, but what example have there been?

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shah8 02.03.11 at 4:49 pm

Wealth is relative. Death is universal.

121

JJ 02.03.11 at 4:51 pm

Democracy is just another trope for the troops, used to legitimate the Social Darwinism that passes for evolution in a hyper-competitive, capitalist society. The Holy Roman Empire pimped spiritual salvation to justify the atrocities they inflicted on their foreign and domestic enemies. The Modern Democratic Empire pimps material salvation to justify their own corresponding atrocities. The overall effect is identical: technological progress improves the collective standards of life, beyond sustainable limits; competition for relatively declining resources promotes conflict; technological progress degrades the collective standards of life, back to sustainable limits.

The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.

Blessed be the Lord.

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CharleyCarp 02.03.11 at 5:55 pm

The end of the Cold war was pretty exciting, and you could see how someone like FF might have gotten a little carried away. Surely, though, no one takes ‘end of history’ seriously at all, right? I mean, what ended was the idea of the Leninist state as a model for anyone. It’s over.

The conversation has moved on quite a bit, but let me just toss in a cent or two about the Senate. We can all wish that US history had played out differently: that Roger Williams’ view of Native land title had prevailed, that slavery had never been introduced, that Americans of Japanese descent had not been jailed, etc. Fact is, there was no chance of a constitutional compact without something like the Senate. Not then, and not now.

And in defense of Montana, I’m willing to put Walsh, Wheeler, Mansfield, Metcalf, and even Baucus and Tester up against any set of long servers (a set I hope to see Tester join) from any other state — whether more racially diverse or not — anyone would care to choose. Sure we had Clark in our transitional period, and Burns in our decadent post-maturity, but on the whole, we’ve done well enough. There’s certainly no reason to think that having more voters, or more voters of color, would have improved our representation any.

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chris 02.03.11 at 8:04 pm

@120: The point is not the quality of Montana’s senators, as such, but the quantity. It’s undemocratic to an obscene degree for less than a million Montanans to have as many senators as 37 million Californians. There are individual cities that deserve more representation than Montana.

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piglet 02.03.11 at 8:38 pm

ajay, what I and Barry are saying is that you arbitrarily defined Britain at its imperialist/aggressive height as “immature”, thus to be discarded from consideration. That’s a bit dishonest.

By your definition, it took Britain about 272 years to become a “mature democracy” (counting from the Glorious Revolution to 1960). At that pace, we’ll have to wait for a few more centuries to test the democratic peace theory. How can you claim with a straight face (?) that “There aren’t many examples of wars between two mature democracies *and there have probably been enough of them around for long enough now for this to be significant*”, when Britain only qualifies as mature post 1960? Do you know of any currently existing democratic/parliamentary regimes that go back further than Britain? The only one I know of is Iceland.

Now in 111 you seem to suggest that a mature democracy is one with “fully democratic elections” and then perhaps 30 years of maturity. That definition of course discards all but the last 50 or so years of history from consideration. Maybe that restriction is justifiable but it would be too short a time span to validate a grand theory. The post war period was unusual in that the established powers refrained from fighting each other and many of the established democracies were allied with each other. Whether this is a trend towards peaceful maturity or just a historic anomaly due to the dynamics of decolonization and the cold war, we cannot know.

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CharleyCarp 02.03.11 at 9:47 pm

There are individual cities that deserve more representation than Montana.

And what do you know, they have it. In the other chamber. Which is designed to serve that exact purpose.

Nothing wrong with railing on about things that can’t and won’t be changed, of course. But wouldn’t it at least be useful to rail about things that (a) can’t be changed and (b) are actually harmful?

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chris 02.03.11 at 10:28 pm

@Charley: If you think the US Senate isn’t actually harmful, you either haven’t been paying attention, or are very conservative.

Of course, if you *are* very conservative, then the Senate has been quite *helpful* — at obstructing the wishes of a majority of your fellow Americans who happen to disagree with you about a number of issues. I hope that, in that case, you can see why that same majority regards that as a problem, not a solution.

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CharleyCarp 02.03.11 at 10:52 pm

What’s wrong with the Senate isn’t that Montana has the same number of members as California. Or that Montana has a higher proportion of white people than South Carolina or Kentucky.

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mds 02.04.11 at 3:08 am

And what do you know, they have it. In the other chamber. Which is designed to serve that exact purpose.

Actually, thanks to the Reapportionment Act of 1929, they don’t necessarily have it in the other chamber. Wyoming, Montana, etc, are guaranteed at least one representative, no matter how large the population of a congressional district grows elsewhere to conform to the arbitrary cap of 435 House members. New York State, for example, is not losing a seat because it lost population, but because its population didn’t grow sufficiently quickly.

129

TGGP 02.04.11 at 5:53 am

Scott Sumner said a while back that Fukuyama’s book was “the best prediction of the past 20 years“.

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ajay 02.04.11 at 11:30 am

what I and Barry are saying is that you arbitrarily defined Britain at its imperialist/aggressive height as “immature”, thus to be discarded from consideration. That’s a bit dishonest.

I don’t think of it as arbitrary or dishonest. Was Britain in 1850 a mature democracy? No, obviously not. Was it on the way to becoming one? Yes, again obviously. Therefore, “transitional democracy”.
Britain took an unusually long time in transition; other countries have made the transition a lot faster. (Spain, for example; Franco to full democratic elections in a handful of years.)

Now in 111 you seem to suggest that a mature democracy is one with “fully democratic elections” and then perhaps 30 years of maturity. That definition of course discards all but the last 50 or so years of history from consideration. Maybe that restriction is justifiable but it would be too short a time span to validate a grand theory.

Why?

The post war period was unusual in that the established powers refrained from fighting each other and many of the established democracies were allied with each other.

Yes. Yes, it was unusual, wasn’t it? All these established democracies, not fighting each other? (meaningful look)

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chris 02.04.11 at 3:24 pm

What’s wrong with the Senate isn’t that Montana has the same number of members as California.

And yet, those rural state senators keep coming up in explanations of why something can’t get enough votes, and sitting on committees that strangle bills with majority popular (and often House) support. Even when they’re not marginal, they influence where the margin is. If the filibuster were to be abolished, more legislation would pass, but it would still be rural-biased in order to cater to senators from rural states, who are disproportionately numerous compared to their constituents.

A system of representation that underrepresents people who live in the same state with lots of other people is a system that systematically underrepresents people who live in densely populated areas, aka cities. The effect of this on policy is not subtle.

@TGGP: Any fool can predict the last 20 years. How well does Fukuyama’s book work as a prediction of the *next* 20 years? We’ll have to wait and see, but I bet not well.

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Zamfir 02.04.11 at 3:29 pm

chris, Fukuyama’s book was from 1990 or so.

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CharleyCarp 02.04.11 at 4:51 pm

The fact that Max Baucus knows how Joe Lieberman is going to vote on a bill Baucus is taking through committee hardly seems to me to be a reason to crown John Boehner or Newt Gingrich king. Nothing about California state politics (or Sen. F., for that matter) makes me wish that Californians had more power nationally.

We’re under-represented in the House (arithmetically, and not just because we’ve sent one of the least effective non-entities imaginable there) but them’s the breaks.

You know, it seems to me that the fact that a significant part of our coalition doesn’t show up for off-year elections is a much bigger problem than the existence of a Senate.

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piglet 02.04.11 at 5:07 pm

Maybe that restriction is justifiable but it would be too short a time span to validate a grand theory.

ajay: Why?

Perhaps because 50 years are just a tiny fraction of thousands of years of human civilization? On Britain, you are missing the point again. You can put the bar high and say that no 19th century democracy counts as fully mature but that removes some of the most interesting data points. 19th century Britain was clearly more democratic than its rivals. Proponents of democratic peace theory need to explain why democracies in so many instances just happened to be the most aggressive players around. To dismiss those examples as not mature enough is what I call dishonest.

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