It’s been 26 years since Francis Fukuyama published The End of History, arguing that liberal democracy marked an endpoint in human political development. The title led some to misunderstand the book’s meaning. Both the title and the book’s premise were largely an intellectual jab at Communists who had used this Hegelian language of historical inevitability to argue that their system must eventually triumph. Still, there was reason to imagine in the 90’s that rule of law, reason, human rights, and leadership selected in free elections were unbeatable pillars of successful social order.
As the new liberal democracies in Eastern Europe falter into illiberal democracy, and the world’s most powerful free nations stagger under their own weight, the risk of simply reverting back to less ideal forms of government seems very real. It’s easy to fault Fukuyama for imagining that liberal democracy might be inevitable, but it’s harder to attack his central thesis. Is there a better form of government out there waiting to be imagined and adopted? If liberal democracy isn’t the pinnacle of human social order, then what is?
For a couple of weeks I’ve been wrestling with this question and it may take a few more weeks to put an answer into text. What do you think? Are there credible alternatives to liberal democracy that could produce a higher standard of living by some definition?
Leave off all the dystopian doom scenarios. They’re obvious, easy, and not all that interesting. Remember, Donald Trump, Brexit, Turkey and Vladimir Putin are not counter-examples against the “End of History” premise, they are merely our failures to sustain history’s penultimate governing order. The question remains: Is there a better system of human social organization than liberal democracy? If so, what would it look like?