Thursday, December 08, 2005

State-Building by Francis Fukuyama

A couple of weeks ago, ConflictedFundraiser gave me Francis Fukuyama's newest book, State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century, to read as something to do on my Ryanair flight to Italy.

It is three lectures he gave put into a book. They are extremely interesting and he has plenty of points about state-building. His first point is that the Bush administration's efforts in Iraq have created most of the problems with building the state governance we are experiencing now. Under the Provisional Coalition, America stamped a heavy footprint on the new Iraq. That footprint didn't fit the situation on the ground and increased resentment toward Americans and other ethnic/sectarian groups.

Instead, Fukuyama advocates the approach taken by the world community in Afghanistan as a better way to strengthen state infrastructure and the rule of law. A very lightly, lightly approach. A strengthening of the executive office (maybe a propping up of the Karzai government), so that the legislative and judicial branches of government can develop without influence from the president. (i.e. If Karzai starts messing with the elections/parliament or judges, the Western powers will withdraw their security support of him and his government. Karzai oversteps his bounds at his own peril.) ZenPundit has a deeper analysis on this point.

However, one thing that stopped me dead in my tracks was the unintended consequences of international help for starving Africans (or genocide in Darfur). I am a strong advocate for international intervention when there are major natural disasters or violations of human rights. Yet, Fukuyama points out that as other nations, or more commonly, NGOs step in to do the job of the local government, they unintentionally undermine the local government. While Western government have been trying to build public institutions in developing nations AND provide essential services, Fukuyama argues that those two are in direct contradiction. By supplying the local population with what they need, an NGO directly undercuts efforts to make local government legitimate in the eyes of the populace. The local population turns to the NGO and the local government simply becomes a way for corruption to flourish and the enrichment of a few.

The result is a bloated government that does nothing for the people they govern. Fukuyama sites some stats that the Office of the President of Kenya balloons about 500% during a 10-year period (these are off the top of my head, can't find the exact figure). The World Bank and IMF solution is to reduce the scope of the state, but that also weakens their capacity to do the things we expect of the state including law and order, national defense, property rights, individual rights and fighting corruption.

It is a vicious cycle. As a progressive and Christian that believes strongly in the Good Samaritan principle, what am I to do? Helping hurts over the long term and not helping hurts right now.