Among the more audacious intellectual escapades of the postwar period, one must include Francis Fukuyama’s prediction that the new post-Soviet era would usher in the “universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” World history has been refuting Fukuyama’s “End of History” thesis pretty much since the day he promulgated it. Now Fukuyama, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, offers a piece in The Wall Street Journal hailing the so-called administrative state (and its cousin, known as the “deep state”) as crucial protectors of democracy. But he couldn’t have it more wrong.
American constitutional government, Fukuyama avers, “depends on the existence of a professional, expert, nonpartisan civil service.” True enough. But then he adds that this is because “government cannot function without public servants whose primary loyalty is not to the political boss who appointed them but to the Constitution and to a higher sense of the public interest.” Indeed, writes Fukuyama, “the U.S. needs a deep state, because it is crucial to fighting corruption and upholding the rule of law.”
Let’s parse these characterizations. By invoking the specter of tyrannical power, Fukuyama seeks to demonstrate just how outlandish this perception really is. But tell it to Carter Page, who came under intense FBI scrutiny (including electronic surveillance) based on warrants obtained through false information. If what happened to him, as outlined in detail by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, isn’t tyranny, then the word has no meaning. Indeed, the Horowitz report demonstrates more broadly—and starkly—just how dangerous an unrestrained administrative state can be…
The glaring gap in Francis Fukuyama’s thinking is an inability to understand or even perceive the ongoing challenge of human nature, the one and only constant in history and politics. Back in 1989, when he was musing about the ultimate triumph of Western-style liberal democracy as a final world phenomenon, just a fleeting look at the force of human nature, along with a cursory survey of world history, would have told him that such a prediction was utterly ridiculous. And today, as Fukuyama waxes eloquent about the role of the deep state in protecting democracy from who knows what, we are well-advised to question whether he has sufficiently taken into account the essence of human nature and the dangers it can pose when expansive power is unchecked. Perhaps, in pondering Fukuyama’s latest commentary, we should place greater stock in the superior wisdom of the “poorly educated” Andrew Jackson.