Fukuyama and the Future of Democracy
Fukuyama got famous
thirty years ago for writing an article and then book titled “The End
History.” His argment was not that nothing would happen in the future,
the ideological conflicts that had dominated the modern era were
over. Liberal democracy had won the day, and its remaining rivals –
authoritarianism, Islamic theocracy – were on the defensive, probably
disappear. Challenged by critics, Fukuyama standard response was,
“Well, do you
know anybody who favors a political system other than democracy?”
Fukuyama begins from an interesting question: why hasn’t there been a stronger left-wing response to the global financial crisis?
Something strange is going on in the world today The global financial crisis that began in 2008 and the ongoing crisis of the euro are both products of the model of lightly regulated financial capitalism that emerged over the past three decades. Yet despite widespread anger at Wall Street bailouts, there has been no great upsurge of left-wing American populism in response. It is conceivable that the Occupy Wall Street movement will gain traction, but the most dynamic recent populist movement to date has been the rightwing Tea Party whose main target is the regulatory state that seeks to protect ordinary people from financial speculators. Something similar is true in Europe as well, where the left is anemic and right-wing populist parties are on the move.Indeed it is weird that the main political response to a severe recession that began on Wall Street has been a demand for budget cuts.
There are several reasons for this lack of left-wing mobilization, but chief among them is a failure in the realm of ideas. For the past generation, the ideological high ground on economic issues has been held by a libertarian right. The left has not been able to make a plausible case for an agenda other than a return to an unaffordable form of old-fashioned social democracy.This is a point I return to often: conservatives know what conservative economic is, but what is progressive economics? Ever since socialism collapsed under the weight of bureaucratic bloat and government malfeasance, the left has been without a clear economic alternative to free market capitalism. A perfect illustration has been international trade, which has grown enormously in real terms and captured the intellectual debate. Trade has undoubtedly destroyed manufacturing jobs around the world, but even my most left-wing friends think of protectionism as something old fashioned and perhaps a bit embarrasing. Left of center governments have, of course, enacted many economic measures, and it is possible to identify a left-wing political program: high taxes, which are used to fund generous pensions, free education, free or subsidized health care, cheap public transportation, and so on; a minimum wage; environmental regulation; work safety regulations; and protections for labor unions. I am a supporter of this program, but even I find it hard to defend intellectually. A regulatory state must find a balance between freedom and fairness, between safety and productivity, between reasonable regulation and maddening red tape. It is, therefore, a muddle by designed, lacking the clarity of free markets or ownership for all. As a battle cry, “reasonable regulation” fails to inspire. It is also hard to find that balance, and hard to justify some regulations rather than others by any means except trying them and seeing what works.
Compare the Tea Party, which has supported a short, simple list of economic measures – lower taxes, less spending, less regulation – with Occupy Wall Street, which has the broad goal of increasing fairness but has refused to endorse any particular list of measures that might promote it. I worry about growing inequality, but I don’t know how to go about making our capitalist system more equal, and so far as I can see, nobody else know, either.
thinks the absence
of a left-wing plan for fixing our economic woes is a bad thing,
worries that the social and economic facts underlying worldwide
democracy are threatened
by global capitalism:
describing this future
ideology, Fukuyama says that it would need to
January 18, 2012
If have done this, says my memory. I have not done it,
says my pride. Eventually, memory yields.