Fukuyama Talks to NRO

by Matthew Shaffer

Don’t miss my interview with Francis Fukuyama over on the home page. He’s recently published a new book on the Origins of the Political Order, and he speaks with NRO about it, revisits The End of History, meditates on liberal democracy’s prospects, describes “How Christianity Undermines the Family” (and why that’s a good thing), and even tosses in a little bioethics. A sample: 

SHAFFER: Could we trace Western ascendance to that one factor, the rule of law?

FUKUYAMA: That’s what’s interesting about the present period. A lot of economic theory says you can’t have modern economic growth without Western-style rule of law. Economists who believe this are thinking about two critical things — property rights and contract enforcement. And there’s a lot of theory and a lot of empirical evidence that show that these are in fact important. The problem with that theory is that it doesn’t really square with the facts in contemporary China. As everybody knows, for the past three decades, China has been growing at double-digit rates and they don’t have Western rule of law.

I think you can rescue the theory in the long run, because without rule of law they can’t keep this up. In a way the challenge that contemporary China poses it that they are doing well, and in the short run they’re doing better than the United States without having these Western institutions. The real challenge is the long-run sustainability of that system, or of the two systems. And looking at that in the long-run, I would still bet on the West, with its rule of law and systems of checks and balances on authority.