Fukuyama: Nobody Here But Us Educated Bureaucrats
I don't think
In Part Two of his two books on How We Got Here — Political Order and Political Decay — Francis Fukuyama suggests that the norm of state-based society is the 20th century state with its panoply of programs. All very beneficial unless dictators or special interests screw things up.
He uses the southern Italians and the Greeks as examples of low-trust peoples that only trust relatives and that conduct political life as an exchange of favors. Thus, Fukuyama writes, Italy and Greece are notoriously corrupt, because all government is dominated by people favoring their own kind over the general interest.
The general interest, according to Fukuyama, amounts to state functions approved of by our educated elite. He lists three levels of state functions (p.58) in a table from the World Bank.
Providing pure public goods
Defense, Law, and Order
Protecting the Poor
Overcoming Imperfect Information
Insurance, Financial Regulation
See, looking at the list I would say that all government functions are corrupted by favor-seeking. Let’s just take the late COVID episode as an example of the corruption of the public health function mentioned above. The government used tame scientists to support its shutdown and masking policy, and it used government-involved drug companies to push its vaccination solution. And it showered money upon all kinds of special interests, including unionized school teachers.
Really, what Fukuyama is saying is that patrimonialism and and clientelism are rather local and low rent. But when you are dealing with national programs and national interests and educated bureaucrats and activists, well, that’s higher toned, old chap.
Fukuyama’s Political Order and Political Decay was published in 2014, so we can forgive him for not being quite up to date in Kansas City. But to us today it is perfectly obvious that climate change, systemic racism, the problem of state retirement systems from the French retraites to our own Social Security, are all examples of ruling-class self-dealing and influence-peddling and using state resources to buy votes.
And there is no difference between this and the more low-rent corruption that we take for granted in our major Democratic cities.
And if in southern Italy and Greece people exchange favors with their kin, what is the difference when in American cities people exchange favors with their race or class?
Can we just get off our high horses and admit that all governments are into patrimonialism — if it just means favoring people like us — and clientelism — if it means cultivating clients, people that rely on a powerful lord or bureaucrat or politician for favors?
OK. Back to your regularly scheduled programs.