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Francis Fukuyama on American Democracy and Accountability

Yoshihiro Francis “Frank” Fukuyama is an American political scientist, political economist, and author. Fukuyama is known for his book The End of History and the Last Man (1992), which argued that the worldwide spread of liberal democracies and free market capitalism of the West and its lifestyle may signal the end point of humanity's sociocultural evolution and become the […]

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This is KCSU, Stanford.
Welcome to entitled opinions.
My name is Robert Harrison, and we're coming to you from the Stanford campus.
That's right, entitled opinions may be the only place in this part of the world where
you can hear the Hungarian atomic blues brothers, a superb trio from Budapest.
We have a show for you today that I've been looking forward to with Francis Fukuyama.
I've been a fan of Professor Fukuyama since 1992 when he published his book The End of History
and The Last Man with its Cojevian, Hegelian-based understanding of political conflict,
ideology, and world history.
We followed that book up with Trust, the social virtues, and the creation of prosperity in 1995,
our post-human future 2002, the origins of the political order 2011, and more recently,
political order and political decay from the Industrial Revolution to the present day 2014.
And those are just some of the titles to his name.
For a while, Professor Fukuyama was associated with the rise of American neo-conservativeism,
but he eventually became disenchanted with the form it took during the George W. Bush administration.
In 2006 he wrote, "What is needed now are new ideas, neither conservative nor realist,
for how America is to relate to the rest of the world.
Ideas that retain the neo-conservative belief in the universality of human rights,
but without illusions about the efficacy of American power and hegemony to bring those ends about."
In the same year he wrote, "Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version,
and it has returned as farce when practiced by the American neo-conservative who believe
that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will."
Two years later, in 2008, he endorsed Barack Obama stating,
"It is hard to imagine a more disastrous presidency than that of George W. Bush.
It was bad enough that he launched an unnecessary war and undermined the standing of the United States
throughout the world in his first term, but in the waning days of his administration,
he is presiding over a collapse of the American financial system and broader economy that will have consequences for years to come."
As a general rule, democracies don't work well if voters do not hold political parties accountable for failure.
And that statement makes reference to what Professor Fukuyama believes is one of the three pillars
of Western political institutions, namely accountability.
Along with the modern state and the rule of law, accountability is crucial to a functioning democracy,
and Fukuyama has spent much of his career thinking about and advocating for accountability,
the rule of law and modern statehood.
Indeed, his current title is Senior Fellow of the Freeman Spolley Institute for International Studies,
and he is the Mossbacher Director of Stanford Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law.
He is also a courtesy professor of political science here at Stanford, Francis Fukuyama. Welcome to the show.
Oh, thanks very much for having me.
You published a very interesting article a few months back in the winter 2018 issue of the journal "Deadlifts" called
The Last English Civil War, in which you remind us that England experienced a civil war roughly every 50 years from the Northern conquest
in the 11th century up until the glorious revolution of 1688, 1689,
and that England was politically stable after that point up until the present day.
And in your view, the reasons had to do first with the slow accumulation of law and respect for law
that had taken place over the intervening centuries, and second with the emergence of a strong English state and English national identity by the end of the Tudor period in the early 17th century.
And the main argument of your essay, if I understand it correctly, is that the durability of the 1689 settlement,
and with it the political stability of England were due to what you call normative factors, especially, and I quote you here,
The growth in the belief by all English political actors in the sanctity of constitutional government and more broadly that the sovereign should be under the law.
And you go on to write, "European political development was different from other parts of the world because of the three basic political institutions, a modern state rule of law and accountability,
it was law that emerged first. Of all European countries, England saw the most precocious development of the rule of law."
So your review of the English political history from the Norman Conquest to the glorious revolution in your essay argues that accountability and the rule of law are essential when it comes to creating stable and durable liberal democracies and that there are important lessons to be learned here
when it comes to our attempts today to bring an end to civil wars that are taking place in many of the countries around the world. Do I get you right on that?
Yes, that's right. So I should give you a little bit more context for why I wrote that essay.
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which publishes "Deadless," had sponsored a large conference in which quite a number of other Stanford professors participated on civil wars that was led by
Steve Krasner in Political Science and Carl Heikenberry at FSI. I think clearly the conference was driven by the Syrian Civil War and the Syrian experience of this conflict that's destabilized the Middle East and Europe and much further field.
And the attempt was to try to figure out why these civil wars happen and what the international community can do to stabilize those sorts of situations.
And so they asked me to participate and I had actually been reading a lot of English medieval history. This all started, I mean, my last couple of books were very historical.
So I had academic reasons to do this, but actually part of it was the game of Thrones I've been watching this show which was roughly modeled on the wars of the roses.
And I thought myself, well, was the actuality this bloody? And so I actually started reading quite a number of books about medieval English history and I realized among other things that was actually worse.
The reality was actually worse, but in the course of it I did start to think about this odd conundrum that basically the English fought a civil war roughly every 50 years from the Norman Conquest up until 1688 culminating in the great civil war of the 1640s.
And it's a very curious thing that they should be so unstable just like a contemporary developing country up to that point. And then after the glorious revolution, not a single civil conflict up until the president, I thought that might shed some light on what was going on, or it might give you some insight into why it was hard to stabilize contemporary civil wars.
So that was really the origin of the project and why I started writing on that subject.
So you propose a number of reasons why you believe the glorious revolution brought an end to these ongoing civil wars.
Those reasons I imagine are speculative. I mean, in the sense that one can provide evidence for those claims, but there's nothing a priori that says another civil war could not have happened after that revolution.
I mean, in the social sciences, you never prove anything definitively. But I do think that if you look at the historical record, you do gain certain insights.
So the argument that's made in current conflicts is that you get a stable settlement because the contending parties have maximal goals.
They fight to a deadlock. They cannot get their maximal goals. And so they settle for the second best, which is some kind of negotiated solution. And this is how you get to stability.
And, you know, one of the things that really occurred to me, for example, in reading the history of the Magna Carta, it was exactly that kind of outcome.
So the barons were fighting King John, in 1215, they reached essentially a stalemate. And so they signed this document in which King John agreed to these legal restrictions on his powers.
But rather than leading to a stable outcome, I mean, it wasn't even six months before King John decided the balance of power shifted. He didn't have to accept these constraints. And he started the war over again.
And so it seemed to me that this current view that wars are just the outcome of the rational calculation. And by the way, this is a very popular view in the Stanford political science department that you can understand politics in terms of the rational self-interested calculations of the different political actors.
It seemed to me that this wasn't really right. And that by the time you got to the 17th century, the status of something like the Magna Carta actually had, it had really changed a lot.
So back in the 13th century, it wasn't worth the paper, it was written on, you know, as the parties demonstrated. But by the 17th century, it had become this almost sacred document.
That was important to the self-understanding of people in England. It was regarded as a foundation of English liberties whose violation would entail huge moral consequences.
And so the normative understanding of the rule, role of a constitutional document like the Magna Carta had shifted enormously.
Now, the only problem is that there are quite a few centuries between, you know, the 13th and the 17th. I have this quote from Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister of Britain saying that the rule of law is very hard to establish, especially in the first five centuries.
And I think this is a good example of this because it really did take a tremendous amount of time for law and these kinds of constitutional constraints on power to really sink in to become part of English identity in a way that gave them, you know, this sanctity that they eventually came to possess.
So there are a number of terms that we might want to clarify to begin with the word normative, which is crucial in your thinking about this.
And when you say normative changes, do you mean changes in mentality of a people?
Well, it's partly mentality. A norm is simply a rule that is accepted, you know, within a society by which people regulate their behavior. They're usually informal and they have to do with people's underlying values.
And so when I say that a normative change had come about in England by the 17th century, what I mean is that the idea of a constitution, the idea of the rule of law, had, it's not just another idea that people regard the law as something that has almost religious overtones and the idea that the king must be under the law rather than above it, is something that every English person, every English person,
every English political actor believes. And that's what a normative change is.
Yeah, so it does have something to do with the kind of assimilation of an ideology of ideas, yes. And therefore, change in mentality, where...
And by the way, you wouldn't think this is controversial because most people accept the fact that there are norms and ideas, but there is a kind of materialist understanding of history that says that actually all of these ideas are just
epiphenomenal to these underlying material interests. And I think this is a good example of that.
Well, for sure. And I want to discuss that more in depth because clearly you are not aligning yourself with the rational choice explanations.
And I know this from your other works as well, that you're not a Marxist materialist believing that it's material conditions that are fundamental in shaping history, but that rather,
and you even write that normative changes in English political consciousness and innovative ideas about political sovereignty that took hold in the second half of the 17th century.
So, consciousness ideas, it sounds Hegelian to me, which I like because it suggests that ideas open up the space of history and that there's a way in which not completely, but to a great extent, ideas determine the course of the institutional histories that nations fall.
So, that's right. So, I think that both the Marxist and contemporary rational choice economists actually join hands in believing that it's really only material interest that matter and that ideas are really secondary.
And, you know, their big opponent historically was Max Weber. So, Marx had this understanding of modern capitalism that it was simply the result of technology and material conditions.
And Weber actually stood that on its head. He said, "No, you couldn't have the emergence of modern capitalism without different ideas concerning the legitimacy of unlimited accumulation of capital, of the work ethic, of different things that he associated with Calvinism."
And so, he said, actually, the material world was a reflection of the ideal one. My own view is that both of these are right and that you don't need to make a choice because there are plenty of cases where material conditions do affect the way that people think about things and there are also cases where ideas are autonomous and they shape the way that we perceive our own interests.
So, I think causality moves in both directions.
Well, if rational choice theory is alive and well, here at Stanford and elsewhere, it's surprising to me because so much of recent history in the last couple of decades seems to fly in the face of rational choice or self-interest, you know, rational self-interest when it comes to trying to explain the behavior of either certain political actors or even political entities like nations where their self-interest doesn't seem to be what's...
foremost in their decision-making.
Well, that's right. I mean, you know, the most obvious case is a suicide bomber.
A suicide bomber gives up the most important material interest that he or she has, which is their own life in the name of some idea that they've gotten from a religious source and religion in general has made a big comeback in recent decades.
There's religion, there's ideology, but there's also what you speak about in the end of history of the Platonic notion of themeos, which is this faculty in the soul or this drive for honor, acknowledgement, some will to distinction or correlated with that can be shame and so forth.
One needs, and I think a lot more subtle psychology these days if you're going to negotiate with certain political actors out there for...
Is North Korea a good example perhaps, perhaps not, but there is a lot more at stake when you're dealing with a leader like that than just his calculations on what is in his self-interest or his country self-interest because so much of the policies
work directly against certainly economics self-interest.
No, that's right. So I'm glad you brought up Phumos, this Greek word that means it's usually translated by spirit or spiritedness.
It gives me an opportunity to advertise a book that I'm going to have coming out in September on identity, which is all about Phumos because yes, you're right.
So the modern economic model says that people are rational utility maximizers, meaning they have a bunch of material self-interest, but they're rational and so they pursue those interests self in a very clever way.
But Plato, many centuries before, had said actually there's this third part of the soul that desires recognition.
It desires other people's affirmation of your dignity or your worth. And in my view, that's really the big driver.
In fact, Hegel argued that human history was really driven by this desire for recognition and all the great struggles were really not so much over material goods and the division of resources, this sort of thing, but over people's status, the desire that other people recognize their dignity or their worth.
And for me, that's undeniable, but I gather that some of your colleagues in political theory might not embrace this idea that's so much of what drives history is the desire for recognition and distinction, honor.
I think in political theory, it's much better established, I think the problem really, the economists who have this very pared down model of what drives human beings, but there are a lot of theorists that have written about this Charles Taylor, the Canadian political theorist has written about the politics of recognition, I think in a very insightful way.
I think there's a broad recognition that this is really an important driver of human behavior. Now, when you get into contemporary politics, it's all over the place.
Vladimir Putin says Russia has been humiliated by the West that used its period of weakness in the 1990s to drive NATO upwards borders.
Xi Jinping talks about the 100 years of humiliation that China suffered at the hands of Western imperialism.
So, a lot of politics is really about politicians, well, it begins with real feelings of disregard and low self-esteem, and then it's exploited by politicians who want to mobilize people on the basis of anger at the way they've been treated.
So, could we speak or have you spoken, you may well have, and maybe it's coming to me now because I lately remember something in the end of history, but a politics of Ushantima or what a Nietzsche called resentment.
And it seems that either this resentment is real, genuine, or it's oftentimes contrived in order to create the pretext for certain kind of actions, but it's true that it seems that everyone feels slighted.
And it's this anger's, angry reaction towards the perceived lack of recognition, proper recognition that drives not only the actors in far-flung countries, but even here, even closer to home.
So, in the end of history, if you actually read the book to the end, which you obviously did, I talk about Fumos, and there's actually two forms of it.
So, one, I made up this neologism, Isophumia, meaning I want to be recognized as your equal.
And then Megalofumia, which is, I'm better than you.
And then, both of these, I think, are present in politics, and both of them present dangerous, really, to democracy.
I mean, they're also the support for democracy.
So, you were a bell against the tyranny, like they did in Tunisia back in 2010.
You know, they're complaining about authoritarian governance, not respecting the dignity of ordinary citizens.
So, democracy itself rests on the desire for equal recognition, but it also drives nationalism, where a country feels it's been slighted.
So, Hitler made use of that kind of resentment on the part of Germans that thought the international system wasn't recognizing them adequately.
Megalofumia, I think, is a special problem, especially in democracies, because there are always going to be fantastically ambitious individuals.
And I think, if you go back to the Federalist Papers, the American Founding Fathers were quite aware of the history of the fall of the Roman Republic, in which the Republican institutions were undermined by Julius Caesar, by a single ambitious individual.
And a lot of their thinking about the design of the American Constitution was meant explicitly as a barrier to what they called Caesarism.
You know, they didn't want a powerful politician to arise in an American context, and that's why we have all these checks and balances to prevent that from happening.
In the political sphere we do indeed, and we can talk more about whether they're holding up in our own day and age.
With regard to the framers of the Constitution, they also created enough room in the sphere of the economy, or commerce, in order to allow Megalofumia to actually become a productive force of the ego-driven founder of companies or railroad, barrens, or things and things of that sort.
They were able to ingeniously actually re-appropriate a proper role within a delimited sphere for this desire for distinction.
Especially here in Silicon Valley, we got a lot of these characters running around who build a billion-dollar internet companies, and they're not being driven by the fact that they're lacking some necessity if they don't make the next billion dollars.
It's clearly this desire for recognition.
It turns out, by the way, that I didn't remember this until somebody pointed it out, but actually had mentioned Donald Trump back in the original 1991 or '92 book version of the end of history.
What I had said was exactly what you had stated that it looked like there were enough outlets for his ambition just in being a wealthy businessman, but sure enough we're here 25 years later and wasn't enough, so he has to go into politics as well.
In fact, you go into politics, the dogma is that you go into politics because you have a thirst for power, but the new phenomenon is, I don't think Donald Trump cares about power as much as he cares about attention.
It's not even Megalothimia in the way that Achilles wants to be standing outside and shining in his red there.
It's associated with a slightly different psychological phenomenon of vanity, which can never get enough reassurance because it's fundamentally insecure in itself.
There's never enough that will... So whether it's traditional Megalothimia, I'm not sure, but it's certainly the case that individuals can take control of entire politics and nations, and this is something I still have a very hard time understanding about if Putin were to disappear as a particular person from the Russian political scene, everything he stands for would probably collapse in the way.
Collapse in the wake of his personal disappearance, the same for Erdogan and Turkey.
But how is it that individuals can take such possession over entire nations? Is it because we are biologically a pack animals and that the leader we just naturally invest all this authority in a particular individual?
And was that what the founders of the American Republic were particularly apprehensive about?
Well, I think people develop authority for different reasons. I think that a lot of the populist leaders are building off of something real.
Globalization over the last 40 years has generated a lot of prosperity, but it's tended to be very concentrated and a relatively narrow group of people.
This kind of global class of oligarchs or billionaires. And a lot of people feel left out of that process. And actually in the developed world, a lot of working class people have actually experienced downward social mobility.
So it's not surprising in a certain sense that you get a demagogue leader that gets up and says, "Well, the reason this is happening to you is foreigners. It's immigration. It's China.
It's all of these malign outside forces." And I think that's a lot of the reason why you're getting this kind of explosion of populism in the present.
But I think it also does build on a general human desire for followership. I mean, people actually want to be led.
I will say, however, that those cases you mentioned are really different. Putin has not left any institutions in his wake. So if he goes, it's not clear what's going to happen in Russia.
Who the successor is, what the power structure is going to look like.
The thing that you have to say about the American system is that it's highly institutionalized.
And I've argued and I continue to believe that those institutions, those check and balance institutions, will withstand the assault that they're currently under by the president.
And in the end, they'll come out, OK. I hope I'm right about that.
I tend to agree with you. I'm also, I'm hoping.
But at the same time, that would seem to concur with what you said about the English situation where this country has had sufficient time to adopt a normative view of the rule of law.
It's become sacrosanct, no rule of law, accountability, limited government, and the kind of paranoia about tyranny.
The republic was founded on, as you say, a paranoia about the drift towards tyranny. So we have internalized and incorporated the beliefs, values, and ideas that stand behind such a democracy.
Although, so what's really worrying is that for some part of the population, that's gotten eroded in the last few years.
And I would just take the example of the republican support for this campaign that Trump has launched against the FBI.
Right? So normally conservative voters, republicans like law and orders, they really like the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.
And this one happens to be investigating the president and his family and his close associates, and Trump doesn't like that.
So he's launched this smear campaign against the entire institution and the Justice Department of which it's a part, which I think is a remarkable assault on a very fundamental American institution, which up till now had been regarded as a pretty neutral, non-politicized,
the institution. And I guess where you could imagine the rule of law really breaking down this normative commitment is when you see partisans, you know, other republicans who support this campaign against one of their own institutions simply because they're partisan loyalists, you know, that they want their guy to win.
And that's really what's very worrisome, I think, about what's been happening lightly.
Again, that's a question. What, you know, how does this system have enough checks and balances to contain even that sort of excess when it's not just on the part of the president, but his party.
And then this tenaciously loyal base of 40% of, you know, the people, the electorate.
But let's assume that the checks and balances are going to hold out the question of what does one do for civil wars and other places of the world today, whether it's Syria and Somalia and so many other places and do the lessons that a country like England teach us through its long history of civil war.
Is there something transitive about that? Is there a way that you can bring about normative change in countries outside of the West that have a different set of traditions, different histories, different, you know, religions and there's so many circumstantial differences that it might not seem obvious that one can do anything to promote normative change?
Well, my article basically is fairly pessimistic with regard to what outsiders can do to bring about these kinds of normative changes. I mean, as I said, you know, it was only 500 years in England until they began to take root and obviously that's not a time scale that is relevant for any contemporary civil war.
There's a couple of ways of interpreting that. One is you should just be cautious before you jump into one of these things as an international player, you know, as the United States or as the United Nations or the international community.
And I think we've had a lot of examples where we were excessively optimistic about what the international community could do to stabilize these situations and all we did was kind of paper over these cleavages and then the moment you pull away.
They all come back. I think that's the situation right now in Bosnia and other parts of the Balkans. I do think that it does suggest that the real solutions have to come from within these societies with leaders that do generate different sense of, you know, for example, national identity that transcends the factions that we're fighting in the civil war.
And if you have visionary leadership, that's something that can come about, but it's not something that, you know, the UN Secretary General or the President of the United States can just declare is going to happen.
It's true, but nationhood, I gather, is very important for you and the fate of nations is not certain at all anymore. And oftentimes these civil wars are due to the fact that you have what's sometimes called dysfunctional states or a nation that then got divided into its ethnic constituencies.
How committed are you to the notion of the strong nation state?
Well, it depends on how you define the word strong. So I think that countries need an overarching national identity. The problem in Kenya or in Nigeria is that there is no idea of Kenya or there really is no sense of Nigeria as a nation.
Both of these are heavily divided by ethnicity, by religion, by geographical region. And so if you're official in one of these countries, you say it's more important to send money from the public treasury back to my region or back to my tribe or back to my ethnic group, then it is to serve this larger public entity, you know, the country.
And so I think it's a very damaging thing not to have it. Now we tend to be very skeptical about strong national identity precisely because that was associated with the kind of aggressive nationalism that resulted in two world wars in catastrophic world wars.
And that's obviously a big danger. And so I think the trick is that you need a liberal national identity, meaning you need a national identity that's based on a kind of civic understanding of the basic constitutional requirements to keep divided societies going.
And that has to be filled with some emotional content because people need to, you know, their hearts need to be beat faster when they hear in the national anthem and when they hear the narrative of the story of where they as a people came from.
And I think in the end that is the only solution to these deeply divided societies where sect, religion, ethnicity has led to generations of conflict.
And the most stable nations have somehow managed to create that larger sets of identity over different groups.
And what about transnational institutions? Because if I go back to the quote I read at the beginning that you think that what is needed now are new ideas about how America is to relate to the rest of the world.
And you say that you retain the neo conservative belief in the universality of human rights. I think you can retain the belief in the universality of human rights without being neo conservative.
You can be a French revolutionary or something of that sort.
When we're talking about the universality of human rights seems to imply a transnational federation of nations if not, you know, it's not exactly the United Nations, but something where every human being in any part of the world qualifies for these basic rights.
So every human being by virtue of being human has these natural rights that should be observed regardless of jurisdiction.
Which is an idea that has arisen. It's an idea. But the problem is that rights are not meaningful unless they are enforced.
And the only bodies in the present world that can actually enforce rights are actually states. And we live in a world that's divided into a lot of states. The UN cannot enforce rights across borders.
Human rights lawyers, the international court of justice cannot enforce rights. You need a state to do that. And if it's the state that's enforcing the right, then I think the jurisdiction of those rights is necessarily smaller.
I think that the way I interpret this universal, these universal rights is everybody has a right to live in a state that will enforce their individual rights. It does not necessarily mean that any given state has an obligation to enforce the rights of any given individual living in some other part of the world.
But you say what's needed is new ideas, neither New York and Southern nor realists. What do you mean by realists in this case?
Well, so realism is a school in international relations theory. It's kind of the counterpart of this homoeconomicus in economics that states are these rational unitary actors and they pursue a kind of narrow understanding of self-interest.
And the world would actually be better off if states stuck to that rather than pursuing idealistic missions like bringing democracy to the rest of the world. Henry Kissinger is probably the American statesmen, most closely associated with that view.
He thinks that the United States has had this messianic role that it has accorded itself that is actually destabilizing and strangely enough, let Amir Putin thinks that that's also the case that we Americans take these ideas too seriously.
My personal view is, and why I was trying to reconcile both realism and these kinds of universal ideas, is that I actually do think the United States does have a role in being an inspiration and a protector of democracy outside the borders of the United States.
So in that sense, I am not a realist. On the other hand, I believe that you've got to be very prudent about that because the United States has got limited resources, limited power. We vastly exaggerated what our military power could do in other countries like Afghanistan and Iraq.
So we have to be careful. So in principle, we want to support these rights, but we have to be judicious in the application of American power and resources and actually bringing that about.
So do you think American idealism is a more efficacious political agent than Realpolitik, Alec Kissinger?
Well, I think that it's been pretty important. I mean, if you think about the entire post-World War II international system, it's described as a liberal international order, meaning that it's underpinned by both economic and political institutions that maintain open trade, flow of peoples and ideas, democracy where that's possible in a system of collective security.
And if you step back, it's worked really well. The world has gone through this extraordinary period despite the Cold War and terrorism and other things of largely peaceful development, which has led to a huge amount of security through, and if you're thinking of just things like the elimination of poverty under five mortality, women's rights and so forth.
It's been enormous gains in the world over the last 30 years, and I would say that a lot of that is due to this liberal international order.
And that, I think, would not have been brought about simply by a United States that was pursuing a narrow understanding of its own national interest.
That's Donald Trump. I mean, Donald Trump says, I'm not going to do anything for you unless you give me something back.
That's got to be an immediate exchange. If you don't give me back something, I'm not going to do a thing for you. I'm not going to lift a finger on your behalf. That was not the attitude that the U.S. took after 1945.
Oh, far from it. You have asked not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country, which inspired and mobilized a whole generation of young people with a kind of idealism that then took institutional forms as you've been describing in that respect.
So, are you darkly pessimistic about our present?
Well, so I really think that we are in a very unusual situation where we have a president who does not believe in any of the kinds of values I believe in, and that almost every other president has articulated, certainly over the past, at least since
I think, you know, worse than that, he really does seem to have an affinity to people like Putin, Erdogan, CC and Egypt, Duterte and the Philippines, all of whom these strong men that he's praised and congratulated and so forth.
And so that's a very bad situation. On the other hand, I do think that the American system of checks and balances in the end is going to hold up.
The ultimate check is an election. We're going to have an election in November of this year, which I actually think is going to be one of the most consequential elections because I think, you know, as a leader, I mean, a democracy can make a mistake on any given election day.
I think Trump himself wasn't actually expecting to get elected and somehow, you know, he did.
But I probably wish as he hadn't in this secret way. And he probably doesn't, does wish that he hadn't.
But, you know, people have time to evaluate and see whether they actually like what they got. And I think, you know, that's really going to be the test of American democracy.
And we get back then to the word accountability that you hold your politicians accountable for their failures or an administration accountable. It was a terrible shock, you know, for most people here in California, at least within this environment when Trump was elected.
And I think it's going to be a much worse shock if, in the 2018 elections midterm elections that it's not going to correspond at all to the expectations that there's going to be this blue wave and then a take over at least of the House of Representatives by the Democrats and so forth.
If it's more of the same sort of embrace of Trump, then where are we?
Well, the longer it goes on, the worse it is in terms of institutions. I think if there's a quick repudiation then, you know, the system will survive just fine and it'll go back to its earlier equilibrium, which by the way wasn't a great.
There are a lot of problems with the old equilibrium, but it's better than, you know, the erosion of institutions. And then if he actually gets reelected in 2020, then I think all bets are off then I think you could see a real, you know, undermining of some very basic institutions in the United States and that's when, you know, I don't know, try to get a passport to Australia or something.
There's this other psychological phenomenon that I think doesn't get enough attention, which is, for example, the relationship between Trump's infinite need for attention and the media's infinite need for Trump in a kind of relationship of co-dependency.
I've just remember for months before the elections that this strange sort of being locked one into the other in a sort of blind reciprocal, you know, a cycle that I said if they don't shut up about Trump, then they're going to get him elected because the more outrage, the more there was this addictive,
need to visit his persona and his politics with horror that it just seemed very probable to me that it was just going to serve his purposes.
And we haven't gotten over it and even I've a victim to this extent that when I get home and if I'm tied to turn on the news, I'm just waiting and almost addicted to what did he do today? Let me, you know, be locked into it.
And when the news doesn't have to do with Trump, I kind of lose interest a little bit. This is pathological.
I mean, it is. You're right. You're absolutely right. I mean, that's why in a certain way he was just absolutely brilliant, you know, he understood that he had figured out how to keep himself in the spotlight in ways that other people would be much too embarrassed to try to imitate.
But, yeah, you're right. I feel the same, you know, every, I mean, I'm kind of addicted to Twitter and you're right when there's no Trump news where there's no outrage, same, well, it's kind of boring news to even though there's a war in Korea or, you know, whatever.
So can I ask just one practical political opinion of yours, which is in the wake of what, of our pulling out of the Iran deal, is this really a been-knided move on the part of the administration?
Well, I think it's a very foolish thing to have done. The deal was working. You know, they really did permit inspections and they were really standing down on their nuclear program.
It's true that the deal didn't cover other things like ballistic missiles and terrorism and so forth, but it did what it was, you know, meant to do.
I think it's a really bad idea to pull out of it, especially when you're trying to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
I do, however, with caution people who are predicting utter disaster that Iran is really in a very weak position right now, much weaker than when this deal was initially negotiated.
And so it's possible that, you know, certain amount of pressure is really going to lead to some kind of internal change, which is what I think the Trump people are hoping for.
The trouble is that if it does lead to the hardliners taking over the restarting of the nuclear program, then I think it's pretty clear that, you know, people will put the military option back on the table.
We'd be a real disaster. Yeah.
Well, just one last question of curiosity on that front.
Why if in the wake of when the deal was signed and sanctions were lifted, why have things become so much worse in Iran rather than better?
And if having signed the deal did not help them economically to flourish, then what sort of motivation would you expect them to have in order to persist with it to
despite the U.S. withdrawing? Well, it was a little bit complicated what happened. First of all, they did not get this wave of investment that they were hoping for because there are still remaining sanctions on American banks.
And so you didn't get as much opening up of Iran as possible. But the other thing is that it's the power balance within Iran.
We have these hardliners were presented in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and other conservative institutions and they're still very powerful force in that country.
And I think will not be deterred by some of these economic measures. So I think that's really why they have not changed in a way that we've hoped.
Well, Frank Guayama, can I ask you one last question that is outside of the sphere of politics? And a student of mine who was the one who made first contact with you actually, Truman Chen, who was also associated with entitled opinions, he was not able to come today.
He would have liked to have been here and he often records the shows and so forth. Let me read you what he sent me in an email this morning. He said, "I'm excited to hear you speak to Professor Fukuyano precisely because he's moved away from the humanities and more towards political science while you and your podcast stand as exemplars of humanistic thought."
He generally characterizes shift of his as one of disillusionment and I think it would be wonderful to hear in more detail what affected that shift, whether his shift is indicative of a latent critique of the humanities, more broadly and their relevance and whether that is valid or not in your opinion, namely in my opinion.
I'll leave my opinion out of it. Okay, so that's a great question. I wish we had another hour to discuss it because it would require that long.
So I really believe in the humanities. I was a class-ex major as an undergraduate so I could read Plato and Aristotle in the original language.
As I mentioned to you, I actually spent a year in comparative literature right out of college. I got disillusioned really because I spent a half a year in Paris. I studied with Jacques de Rieda,
about, I met Julia Clisteva and Svetan Todorov in this whole generation of postmodern French thinkers and I decided that there was something deeply wrong with their perspective because they were basically taking this niche in position, that there's only, there's no facts, only interpretations, but they still had all of these essentially Marxist commitments.
It didn't make sense that that was the thing about Nietzsche's that he was ruthlessly honest. He said, "Well, if God is dead, if the Christian God is dead, if Western civilization has no moral foundations, then why not fascism? Why not the stronger ruling the weaker?"
It's just as valid as anything else whereas I think a lot of people that adopted postmodernism wanted to keep their egalitarian commitments politically so that there are always going to be people on the left while shooting out the legs from any ideological position.
Because that's really the logical implication of that strand of thought. I just said, "I don't want anything to do with this. I think this is a fundamentally intellectually dishonest position."
That's the moment.
That's true, but French deconstruction is not the humanities.
I know it's not the humanities at the moment that I was making that decision. It had arrived like this huge wave from France.
Especially at Cornell where I got my PhD and you studied as an undergraduate, correct?
That's right.
That's where especially romance studies was the bastion of deconstruction in the 70s and early 80s.
It's not the humanities. I would say actually a more traditional view of the humanities where you actually think you can learn something by reading great authors and philosophers, literature and so forth.
I think that that is extremely important. I would say by the way, I don't think that Stanford emphasizes that nearly enough.
I mean, everybody wants to be an engineer and an entrepreneur, but that side of their intellectual development, I think, tends to get a little bit neglected.
I think that's really too bad.
Well, that's one of the vocations of this radio show entitled "Epinions is to Fight Back Against that dominance, that overzealous embrace of the virtual and technological and keep the flow of ideas going on air."
It sounds like we have to have another show. I hope you'll promise to come back on our entire opinion so we can talk about the book that you said you were working on now about
Dumas, an identity.
Also, another book of yours, which I really admire a lot, is on the post-human thought, post-human future.
And perhaps we can also even approach that topic. But meanwhile, thanks again, Professor Fukuyama for joining me on entitled "Epinions" and thank Victoria Molle, here for the great job she's been doing as our producer and you take care.
Alright, thank you very much.