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what has happened to the US.

In the long peace since the end of the second world war (and the
shorter but deeper peace since the end of the cold war), American society has drifted back
towards a condition of relative ungovernability. Its historic faults have come back to haunt it.
American politics is what Fukuyama calls a system of courts and parties: legal and democratic
redress are valued more than administrative competence. Without some external trigger to
reinvigorate state power (war with China?), partisanship and legalistic wrangling will continue to
corrode it. Meanwhile, the US is also suffering the curse of all stable societies: capture by elites.
Fukuyamas ugly word for this is repatrimonialisation. It means that small groups and
networks families, corporations, select universities use their inside knowledge of how power
works to work it to their own advantage. It might sound like social science jargon, but its all too
real: if the next presidential election is Clinton v Bush again well see it happening right before
our eyes.
True political stability comes when the positive and negative sides of democracy cohere: when
people who control the power of their governments also come to value them
Fukuyama is keen to emphasise that a strong state doesnt have to mean a large one: he tries not
to take sides in the argument between the proponents of big and small government. Stable
societies can operate with a lean welfare system (Singapore) as well as a far more extensive one
(the Netherlands). But his argument does have one counterintuitive insight that is deeply
pertinent to our present democratic discontents. If strong central authority is needed to make
politics work, then even people who want to shrink the state need to be careful they dont shrink
its capacity to govern at the same time. This is the paradox of mature political development: if
you want a less controlling state you need strong state control to achieve it. Otherwise you get
what has been happening in the US (and to a lesser extent in Britain) over the past generation: a
widespread attempt to achieve leaner and more efficient government has only succeeded in
bloating it and making it more bureaucratically oppressive. The only thing that can rein in the
state is a more powerful state. The politics of austerity is a very precarious balancing act.
So what happened to the end of history? At the heart of this book is a tension that Fukuyama
never quite resolves between democracy as a positive value and democracy as a negative one.
The positive value is dignity: people who rule themselves have a greater sense of self-worth. The
negative value is constraint: people who rule themselves have far greater opportunities to
complain about governments they dont like. True political stability comes when the positive and
negative sides of democracy cohere: when people who control the power of their governments
also come to value them. That is not true at present. Where democracy has come to mean dignity
in Egypt, for example constraint is chaotic and counter-productive. Where constraint is fully
functional as in the US dignity is in short supply. In its place is a politics of resentment and
complaint, manifested as deep-seated partisan intolerance. Fukuyama points out the irony that
the US institutions that currently poll best with the American people the armed forces, Nasa
are the ones that experience the least democratic oversight. The institutions Americans really
hate such as Congress are the ones they control themselves.
This book offers the best account I have read of how we reached this point. Its slightly flat
academic style hides a wealth of insights worthy of the greatest writers about democracy. It is not

all doom and gloom. Fukuyama retains faith in the capacity of smart leaders to find a path out of
the cave. He insists that geography is not destiny and history is not fate. Countries continue to do
well or badly according to the political choices they make. Costa Rica is a relative success story
because during the 20th century its politicians got the big decisions right. Argentina has
squandered many of its advantages because its politicians got them wrong. All this takes time to
play out, however. Even the US needed the best part of a century to get its house in order. And
time may no longer be on anyones side.
The pace of technological change along with rising ecological risks means that the shocks will
keep coming, though its far from clear that states will acquire the capacity to deal with them.
Twenty-first-century wars such as the one against Isis that is just getting going are
increasingly bitty and piecemeal, fought at one remove by drones and proxy armies. They are as
likely to erode government authority as to enhance it. The politics of complaint is on the rise
almost everywhere. In a coda to the 1989 essay that made him an intellectual superstar,
Fukuyama wrote that the end of history will be a very sad time. He was more right than he
knew.