The Best Working Political System that Exists
There exists a proven blueprint on how to better run a country, one that permits businesses to grow while protecting the interest of the majority. It’s just not as complicated as political leaders make it seem.
Many analysts have lately mocked Francis Fukuyama’s “The End of History and the Last Man” (published in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union). Fukuyama had predicted the world would quickly converge towards liberal democracy and capitalism. With the indisputable rise of China, clearly the world has not converged around liberal democracy. However, Fukuyama’s thesis is still essentially correct. We did come together around capitalism. Furthermore, the backbone of his theory, that liberal democracy and capitalism are very likely the last and best political and economic system humanity will develop, remains valid.
At best, undemocratic systems, like those in the Gulf states, curtail free speech. At worst, they breed all sorts of human rights abuses from the criminal and corrupt dictatorships that proliferate in Africa (or in Latin America with Venezuela and Nicaragua) to the nightmare that North Koreans are made to endure. Even if undemocratic states like China are case studies in rapid economic development (see my previous entry) material well-being is not sufficient for individuals to flourish. Plenty of studies have shown this. Only well run democratic and capitalist systems have so far been able to fulfil all our human needs for autonomy and self-determination.
There are two types of capitalist-liberal-democratic systems: the Anglo-Saxon and the Western European (Reinish). The main difference is in their economic paths. The Anglo- Saxon has a more “laissez faire” approach, while a “socialist” or redistributive order prevails in the Reinish system. Since the 2008 Financial Crisis, the Anglo Saxon has been showing unequivocal signs of decline. The United States is suffering from rising inequality and decreasing opportunity. I will mention only three examples: Amazon, owned by world’s richest man hardly paid any taxes in the last two fiscal years while thousands of people go bankrupt each year because they can’t afford to pay their medical bills; three Americans hold more wealth than the poorest 50% of the population (165 million); and the richest one percent of Americans live 15 years longer than the poorest one percent.
The UK seems to be heading in the same direction as the US. More so after its decision to leave the EU, a club of countries that many nations would dream of belonging to. A UN assessment in 2018 already states that one in every five citizens in the UK lives in poverty. And in Australia, where a much more moderate version of the Anglo-Saxon model exists, the ruling party that denies climate change but believes in lower taxes is today being brutally held to account by global warming and natural disasters.
But the Anglo-Saxon paradigm is not only showing cracks in the English-speaking world. It is also displaying them in Latin American, where Private health insurance, formal education and or pension plans are mandatory to have access to good quality services. In Chile, the advanced student of the model in the region, massive protests fueled by the extreme inequalities have been taking place for the past three months. Colombia, a less shining apprentice, is similarly enmeshed in a wave of protests not seen in forty years. Colombians are demanding, amongst other things, better public services and a more progressive taxation system.
As several comprehensive studies show — the Human Development Index, the World Happiness Report or the British Legatum Prosperity Index — the Western European paradigm offers its citizens a superior quality of life. The recipe is simple: free trade, progressive taxation systems, and an efficiently administered welfare state. This provides for the material and educational needs of citizens and generates a more egalitarian society and a more satisfied population. It is also worth highlighting that of today’s three main world powers — the US, China and the EU — , the EU is by far the most responsible global citizen. It is much more committed to the most pressing global cause, climate change, and contradictions aside, it’s the strongest advocate to the respect of human rights worldwide.
The most prosperous and egalitarian societies in Western Europe are all parliamentary democracies except for France. There are several readily observable advantages of this system over the presidential one: firstly, citizens subscribe to a set of ideas or principles, more than to an individual or group of individuals, preventing parties from being captured by charismatic leaders with their own agendas; secondly, because there is no limit to reelection, there is a more long-term design of policy; thirdly, they are better able to make room for upcoming political inclinations as the rise of Green parties all over Western Europe demonstrate. And lastly, parliamentary systems encourage compromise and commitment. The party that obtains the highest number of votes in such a system is typically obliged to make concessions to their natural allies and oftentimes to their opponents to form a government. This creates a political culture based on cross-party cooperation.*
Clearly, there is no flawless political system. It can be argued that in the past ten or twenty years Western Europe has lagged behind the US and China in technological innovation. But again, there are comprehensive indexes that compare how all economic systems are performing. What is surprising is that still today and against all evidence, the models continue to be pondered. Why is public administration so slow in adopting “best practices” compared to private ones? When a company develops a better feature on a product or service, rivals rush to copy it. Think about flat screen TVs or free Wi-Fi in hotels. How long did it take competitors to catch up? Not long.
Governments that can afford to and do not offer universal health care or high-quality public education or decent pensions, are the equivalent of companies producing smartphones without cameras. There exists a proven blueprint on how to better run a country, one that permits businesses to grow while protecting the interest of the majority. It’s just not as complicated as political leaders make it seem.
*Although being a parliamentary system, the UK resembles more the presidential system in the fact that there are two main parties that eclipse all the rest.