Monday, October 6, 2008

The End of History? Once again, no.

Francis Fukuyama has written a piece for the latest issue of Newsweek, and GWS can't figure out why he's still a respected thinker. It's been sixteen years since Fukuyama argued in The End of History that liberal democracy will be "the final form of human government," so GWS was a little shocked to read this in the Newsweek article: "The American brand is being sorely tested at a time when other models---whether China's or Russia's---are looking more attractive."

Whatchew talkin bout Francis? Didn't you make most of your money by arguing that since the Soviet Union crumbled, nothing could be more attractive than liberal democracy?

Fukuyama goes on to insist (aphoristically) that "Reaganism (or, in its British form, Thatcherism) was right for its time," because red-tape had inhibited growth so much that we just couldn't take all that financial stability. He trots out the old whipping boy, the Soviet Union's anemic growth in its final 15 years, as proof that Reagan's policies were smart. See? We won the Cold War. U-S-A, U-S-A! Why are you asking so many questions about why the USSR fell? Clearly, it was our willingness to cut taxes while spending absurd amounts of money on SDI that directly led to Soviet production shortages and capital illiquidity. QED.

Remind me again why this guy has tenure at Johns Hopkins?

Forget for a moment that Fukuyama has no problem with Reagan's cognitive dissonance about the size of government. Forget also the details over which Fukuyama glosses. Doesn't the fact that he's been asked to write this article negate the thesis of his best-known book? Four pages in, he remarks "Globally, the United States will not enjoy the hegemonic position it has occupied until now." The move from a unipolar to a multipolar world is old news, but GWS is simply blown away by Fukuyama's ability to write that the U.S. is no longer the sole superpower without mentioning the powers with whom we'll share global responsibility. Of course, two of those likely powers (Russia and China) operate under systems that, while occasionally difficult to classify and understand, are certainly not liberal democracies. It's clear we're not witnessing the end of history, but hopefully we're seeing the end of the relevance of that myopic book.

So the take-away here is simple, a fact obvious to anyone with a calendar: history is not over, Francis, and liberal democracy is by no means guaranteed to remain a force in this world. GWS does commend your ability to make obscene amounts of money off such a sophomoric idea, but please, Frank, shut the hell up already.

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