The Corner


In discussing a recent piece by Robert Kagan, Ross Douthat had this to say:

“One note of caution, though: Kagan persistently refers to our main potential challengers, China and Russia, as “autocratic” nations, which strikes me as a confusion of terms. And this confusion makes him less attuned than perhaps he should be to the possibility that the current Chinese model of government, in particular, might increasingly inspire sympathy (and emulation) as well as fear. I’m no China expert, obviously, but it seems to me that the People’s Republic has moved steadily away from the autocratic model of Mao and Deng, and toward what might be described as a one-party meritocracy – a rule by the best and the brightest in which the path to power for a talented individual is open enough to co-opt precisely the kind of people who would ordinarily be leading agitators for democracy. Whether this model is sustainable in the long run remains to be seen, but if you’re a developing nation looking for a path to modernization (or, perhaps, a particularly anti-populist EU bureaucrat), the Chinese system promises all the benefits of liberal democratic capitalism without the messiness of, well, democracy. I’m still enough of a Fukuyaman, even now, to suspect that China will eventually democratize, but in an unstable world with an interconnected global elite, I think we underestimate the ideological appeal of an undemocratic meritocracy at our peril.”

Interesting, and the reference to the EU is worth remembering when you read things like this (via the Open Europe Blog):

“At a meeting of the Centre for European Reform yesterday EU officials discussed their strategy for adopting the EU Constitution without a referendum. Former Italian PM Giuliano Amato said, “They decided that the document should be unreadable. If it is unreadable, it is not constitutional, that was the sort of perception. Where they got this perception from is a mystery to me. In order to make our citizens happy, to produce a document that they will never understand! But, there is some truth [in it]. Because if this is the kind of document that the IGC will produce, any Prime Minister – imagine the UK Prime Minister – can go to the Commons and say ‘look, you see, it’s absolutely unreadable, it’s the typical Brussels treaty, nothing new, no need for a referendum.’ Should you succeed in understanding it at first sight there might be some reason for a referendum, because it would mean that there is something new.”


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