December 15, 2014

Overcoming political decay

Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy

If I had to highlight two books of 2014 that will be considered classics in the near future, the first would be Piketty's on Capital in XXI century, and the second would be the Francis Fukuyama one: Political Order and Political Decay.
Both are worth reading. I've just finished the Fukuyama one, and covers one topic that appears in everyday headline news: corruption. In chapter 5 you'll find a wider explanation of patronage and clientelism and its impact on democracy.
Patronage is sometimes distinguished from clientelism by scale; patronage relationships are typically face-to-face ones and exist in all regimes wether authoritarian or democratic; whereas clientelism involves larger-scale exchanges of favors between patrons and clients, often requiring a hierarchy of intermediaries.
Clientelism is very different from a purer form of corruption where an official steals from the public treasury and sends the money to a Swiss bank account for the benefit of himself and his family alone. This type of corruption is sometimes labeled, following Weber,  prebendalism.
Fukuyama gave a speech to present his book last October at Harvard. Comments on his book appeared at FT, WSJ, The Guardian.or The Economist :
Political decay can take away the great advantages that political order has delivered: a stable, prosperous and harmonious society.
In my opinion, there are many signs of political decay. The question is wether we will be able to overcome such a situation in a disconnected state. Meanwhile, a better understanding in a historical perspective as the Fukuyama one, is highly recommended.

PS. Video of the Presentation at Harvard Institute of Politics

PS. Just released. OECD Foreign Bribery Report. An Analysis of the Crime of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials
Bribes are generally paid to win contracts from state-owned or controlled companies in advanced economies, rather than in the developing world, and most bribe payers and takers are from wealthy countries.
Bribes were promised, offered or given most frequently to employees of state-owned enterprises (27%), followed by customs officials (11%), health officials (7%) and defence officials (6%). Heads of state and ministers were bribed in 5% of cases but received 11% of total bribes.

PS. An example of how excess of transparency may inhibit some talented individuals to commit to public service as officials. We are creating strong barriers for a future high performing public service.