Thursday, January 9, 2014

Thoughts on the Decay of American Political Institutions via Francis Fukuyama



Anyone who know and cares about the American political system should read "The Decay of American Political Institutions" by Francis Fukuyama published in The American Interest. That our political process has become dysfunctional in many arenas is widely accepted by both the general public and those who contemplate these issues. Fukuyama's article addresses the problems that he believes lie at the root of our malaise. The blame goes to both the Left and the Right. On one hand, we have de-politicized too much of our decision-making and turned these decisions over to the courts. Good for us lawyers, but not for effective, responsive government. Another problem arises from legalized bribery. Not the quid pro quo that we think of as traditional bribery, but the gift-giving norm taken to excessive heights. Money corrupts our system in new and inventive ways. 

Read the Fukuyama article for details. His conclusion is downbeat: we're trapped in a bad equilibrium that is perhaps endemic to democracy. However, I think that we can improve. We made significant changes in our political system during the Progressive Era, although not all of them have worked as intended, such as the California referendum fiascoes. I'm supporting Root Strikers (led by Lawrence Lessig) and Represent Us, both grass-roots efforts to limit the corruption caused by money flooding through our political system. A cure all? Of course not, but it could help, and it's worth the try. In any event, if you care about our political system and how it's broken, Fukuyama's article is a good place to start.