FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Failing Nation

What are the necessary elements for the success of a modern nation state?

According to one justifiably popular and well-written book, Why Nations Fail, it all has to do with inclusive political and economic institutions which foster technological change which in turn leads to increasing prosperity for the many.

Two key aspects upholding such institutions are a strong centralized state and the rule of law. Without these two, a nation cannot hope to advance socially, politically, or economically.

The negative of this rosy picture are nations which maintain and promote extractive political and economic institutions which serve the interests of a narrow elite.

Both cases, the inclusive and the extractive, tend to reinforce themselves through time by a process known as institutional drift. This is an historical tendency for institutions to maintain, strengthen, and reproduce themselves over time similar to the biological processes involved in genetic drift.

Importantly the authors also take the time to mention Robert Michel’s seminal idea concerning the iron law of oligarchy which explains the historically documented tendency that large, complex organizations of any kind (democratic, socialist, conservative) fall under the sway of a small elite exercising absolute if cosmetically hidden power.

Our authors optimistically suggest that this law is not destiny and can be sufficiently controlled by ever expanding democratic institutions in civil society.

Opposed to this buoyant idea of increasing mass prosperity and political participation is Francis Fukuyama’s discussion of Neo-Paternalism in his thought provoking magnum opus The Origins of Political Order.

In short, much like the earlier Michel, Fukuyama sees present day democracies drifting towards ever more nepotistic patterns of behavior where elites seize power and reward and distribute the fruits of that power to their close associates within their networks of influence.

In effect, both men, see, as did Marx before them, the “constitutional democracies” as a sham as a kind of theater behind which the levers of power are exercised authoritatively with little regard to the true interests of the masses below them.

In such an environment of centralized elite control, “media openness” can do little to rout out the opaque workings of carefully, surreptitiously orchestrated power.

Thus, a superficial reading of history might lead us to believe that we live in an increasingly “inclusive” society reflecting a rising tide of technological progress and economic prosperity. However, a closer look, might reveal a modicum of beneficence bestowed upon the many; while the Machiavellian few have managed behind a facade of democracy and nationalism to achieve unheard of sums of wealth, power, and influence once only dreamed of by despots, dictators, and demagogues of the past.

More articles by:

December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail