Good Governance Series: Which Government Is Best?
Of all the governing styles in the world, does one country stand out as more successful than the others? Shaken by the financial and debt crises, and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaders are being forced to re-examine their ideas of “good governance.” In an introduction to a four-part series, SPIEGEL reviews their progress.
Western democracies consider themselves to be efficient, farsighted and just — in other words, prime examples of “good governance.” But in recent years, the euro and debt crises, along with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have shattered faith in the reliability of Western institutions. Disconcerted Europeans are casting a worried eye at newly industrialized nations like China and Brazil. Can the West learn something from countries that for so long sought its advice? In an introduction to a four-part series, SPIEGEL looks at how the world is governed today.
If it were measured soley by the millions of refugees and migrants who leave their homes in Asia, Africa and Latin America in search of a better life each year, there would be little doubt that the West has won the battle between political systems.
Six of the world’s 10 most attractive destinations for immigrants lie in North America or Europe. Yet the four countries from which the most people emigrate to the United States — Mexico, China, the Philippines and India — are all growing dynamically. Even though many migrants never reach their intended destination — often getting stuck in places with worse conditions than those they faced back home — the politically free states of Europe and America are still so enticing that hundreds of thousands of people still try.
Twenty years ago, American political scientist Francis Fukuyama declared with the title of his 1992 book that we had reached “The End of History” and that Western liberal democracy had established itself as “the final form of human government.” Both the flood of immigrants and popular uprisings to unseat autocratic leaders — first in eastern Europe, then in the Balkans, in Ukraine, Georgia and now in the Arab world — seem to prove him right.
But does his claim still hold true? Two decades after the end of the Cold War, Western elites can look back on a series of mistakes and setbacks that suggest Fukuyama’s conclusion is questionable or at least premature. The erosion of the rule of law in response to the attacks of 9/11, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, financial and economic crises have raised serious doubts about the quality of Western governance.
At the same time, the economic upswing and growing political clout of authoritarian states, especially China, gnaws at the self-assurance of those who, to bowdlerize Winston Churchill, consider democracy the best of all the inadequate forms of government in existence.