It’s All America’s Fault

Living in China in the early 1980s, I used to marvel at all the pointless fakery that went on. They had a “parliament” that never debated anything, “newspapers” with no news, “trials” where nothing was tried, the verdict having been decided in advance. Why do they bother? I wondered. I began to suspect that the answer was: Because America has these things. See how rich, how successful they are! Therefore we must have these things too. Then we shall be rich and successful, like America! (Bertrand Russell, reporting on his visit to Russia in 1920, said that the aim of Lenin and his Bolsheviks was: “To make Russia as industrialized and Yankee as possible.”)

In my pessimistic moods, I think that constitutional government is a sort lucky fluke that random peoples stumble on from time to time, once in a millennium perhaps. The English figured it out somehow in the early-modern period, and carried it to their colonies, who improved on it. The Roman republic had a pretty good shot at it for a while, till the very success of their system made their territories too large for the system to manage. Similarly with the ancient Greeks. A scattered few other places — Western Europe, Japan, India, Taiwan — look as if they have got the right idea. I wouldn’t say their grasp on it is always very firm, but at least for few decades their parliaments will debate, their judges judge, their newspapers report news. Most of the world, though, including all of the Arab world, is sunk in political darkness, which is the natural state of mankind. The people of these places know that something is lacking, but they just can’t figure out what the heck it is. We built the runways and the conning towers and the hangars — look! Why won’t the cargo come?

It must be America’s fault.

via John Derbyshire on war on National Review Online.

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