Failure Is an Option
Two scholars scan history to find that nations fall because once-open institutions become closed and corrupt. If this sounds ominous, it should.
Are we likely to go the way of Venice? According to Acemoglu and Robinson, the greatest strength of inclusive institutions is that many groups in society have a stake in defending those institutions; as with the robber barons over a century ago, a threat posed by a powerful elite should evoke popular political resistance. Acemoglu recently said, “We need noisy grassroots movements to deliver a shock to the political system,” citing both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street as potentially helpful developments. As he recognized, however, the one with more staying power—the Tea Party—has been co-opted by well-funded, elite-dominated groups (including Americans for Prosperity). If a popular movement can be bankrolled as easily as an attack ad, it is hard to see what money can’t buy in politics. The next test for America will be whether our political system can fend off the power of money and remain something resembling a real democracy—or whether it will become a playground where a privileged elite works out its internal squabbles.
Post a Comment