The rule of law has its origins in religion. It is only religious authority that was capable of creating rules that warriors needed to respect. Religious institutions in many cultures were essentially legal bodies responsible for interpreting a set of sacred texts and giving them moral sanction over the rest of society. ... China never developed a transcendental religion; perhaps for this reason, it never developed a true rule of law.
(Why some countries developed strong and capable states and why others did not): Key to these different outcomes was the sequence by which different countries reform their bureaucracies relative to the moment they open up their political system to wider democratic contestation. Those countries that created strong bureaucracies while they were still authoritarian, like Prussia, created enduring autonomous institutions that survived subsequent changes of regime into the present. On the other hand, countries that democratized before a strong state was in place, such as the United States, Greece, and Italy, created clientelistic systems that then had to be reformed. The United States succeeded in this; Greece did not; and Italy was only partly successful.
Greece by this description resembles not just southern Italy but also other low-trust societies of the sort I described in Trust, like those of southern China and many parts of rural Spain and Latin America. In such societies, neighbors are not potential helpmates but dangerous rivals, which is why domestic architecture in all of these places tend to turn inward to hide the family’s wealth from prying eyes. In such societies, businesses tend to remain small and family owned over the generations, rather than evolving into large-scale modern corporations run by hierarchies of professional managers. Businesses often keep two sets of books, an accurate one for the family and another for the tax collector; rampant tax evasion is socially approved because the state is regarded as just another dangerous stranger.
Something similar happened to the state-owned National Bank of Greece. Up until the early 1980s, it had been a highly respected island of meritocracy within the Greek government, with some 90% of its personnel being recruited through examinations. This changed with PASOK’s rise in 1981; the party expanded the bank’s overall payroll by as much as 50% (to some 16,000 employees) and exempted the new hires from competitive examinations. The number of patronage appointees thus increased from 10% to 40% of the workforce, with promotions to higher grades being entirely controlled by the party. When Mavrogordatos asked the bank’s personnel manager what total employment was, the latter said that only a court order could force him to divulge that figure.
The contemporary CCP earns legitimacy today due to its economic performance. But it also has an important extra margin of support as an embodiment of Chinese nationalism.
As some observers pointed out at the time, the stability of modern Western Europe was built on ethnic cleansing that had taken place in earlier historical periods, which modern Europeans had conveniently forgotten.
The one political principle Sukarno was not interested in including in his synthesis was Western liberalism, precisely because this doctrine did not provide a justification for a strong state that would play an integrative role in forging a national identity.
Tanzania’s founding president, Julius Nyerere, played a role similar to that of Sukarno in Indonesia. He explicitly built national identity around socialist ideology rather than ethnicity, … He argued that ethnic fractionalization was a grave threat to the socialist project and therefore made efforts to suppress what he labeled “tribalism”. Like Sukarno, he had little patience with Western liberal notions of pluralism and wanted one-party rule in order to restructure society.
I suggested earlier that successful democracies have benefited from historical nation-building projects that were achieved by violent and nondemocratic means. What was true for Europe is also the case in developing countries like Indonesia and Tanzania.
The social transformation was at this point very incomplete, however; even in the most economically advanced European societies, the middle class still constituted a minority of the population. These middle classes were themselves split between those who wanted strong legal protections for their persons and property rights, and those interested in broader democratic participation. The majority of European populations remained peasants, artisans and tradesmen, and an incipient working class that was at this point largely unorganized. The European situation was thus comparable to that of emerging market countries like Thailand and China today. The conservatives in 1848 were able to break the revolutionary momentum by splitting the ranks of the middle class through appeals to nationalism, and by playing on its fears of disorder.
A different sort of argument was made against democracy by a series of conservative Italian thinkers, who asserted that it was pointless to open up the franchise since true democracy was impossible to achieve. This view was first articulated by Gaetano Mosca, who stated that the different regime types—monarchy, aristocracy, democracy—made little difference to actual life because all were in the end controlled by elites.
The economist Vilfredo Pareto (familiar to economics students as the inventor of the Pareto optimum) made a similar case for continuing elite domination regardless of the type of regime. Based on his statistical studies of income distribution, he formulated a “Pareto’s law,” which argued that 80 percent of wealth was held by 20 percent of the population across time and space. Since this was akin to a natural law, efforts to remedy it through political measures like expansion of the franchise or income redistribution were pointless.
These conservative Italian thinkers were making a variant of the argument put forward by Marx himself, namely, that the advent of formal democracy and an expanded franchise would not improve the lives of the mass of the population but would simply preserve elite dominance in a different form.
Thus conflicts that in Sweden and Japan would be solved by quiet consultations between interested parties through the bureaucracy are fought out through formal litigation in the American court system. This has a number of unfortunate consequences for public administration, leading to a process characterized, in the words of Sean Farhang, by “Uncertainty, procedural complexity, redundancy, lack of finality, high transaction costs.” By keeping enforcement out of the bureaucracy, it also makes the system far less accountable. In a European parliamentary system, a new rule or regulation promulgated by a bureaucracy is subject to scrutiny and debate, and can be changed through political action at the next election. In the United States, policy is made piecemeal in a highly specialized and therefore nontransparent process by judges who are often unelected and serve with lifetime tenure.