As we contemplate the non-trivial possibility of nuclear war, the end of history (that is, the end of social discontent and major wars) was envisioned by Francis Fukuyama in his book. The last and last man in history (Simon and Schuster, 1992) seems very, very far. Moreover, his triumphant liberal democracy was conceived as highly democratic but still far from liberal in the classical liberal sense. Its downfall is the issue regulationsI review this much talked about book by Fukuyama as well as the author’s most recent book Liberalism and its discontents (Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux, 2022). I show how, between the two books, Fukuyama’s thought moves closer to classical liberalism, although many weaknesses remain. (See “Fukuyama: Fascinating Book, With Some Baggage,” Regulations 45:3 [Fall 2022], pp. 48–53; Also in html version.)

Fukuyama now clearly recognizes the need to limit democracy, but his practical proposals are often inconsistent with theoretical principles. An example I give in my review:

no reason, [Fukuyama] Explaining “why economic efficiency must transcend all other social values,” is a key point when one understands that economic efficiency is the means by which voluntary exchange accommodates, without coercion, the preferences and values ​​of all individuals.

As an example of desirable democratic choice, Fukuyama proposes the prioritization of work over consumer welfare. The question is whether “man” is a “eating animal” or a “producing animal”. “It is a choice that has not been given to voters under the hegemony of neoliberal ideas.” The absurdity of putting such a choice before the voters is easily demonstrated by imagining a referendum that would ask “the people”: “Which animal do you (or we) want to be, a consuming animal or a producing animal?” Ask yourself what that would mean X% (< 100%) deciding one way or the other. "We're all producing animals and now let's get back to work!" More realistically perhaps, we can imagine the complex basket of practical policy measures and electoral promises associated with such choices and proposed to arguably ignorant voters, who understand the consequences of the actions even less than their proponents. Of course, the only liberal solution is to let each person decide for himself what kind of creature he wants to be, Impersonal Constraints generated by the equally free choice of all other individuals.

EconLog readers may find other points of interest in Fukuyama’s book in addition to my critique. This reflection helps to draw together many threads in the critique of liberalism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.