*The Origins of Political Order*

That is the new book from Frank Fukuyama and the subtitle is From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution.  A few points:

1. Every page is intelligent and reasonable.

2. It is a useful general overview of what we know about the origins of states, with full coverage given to the non-Western world, most of all China.

3. My single sentence summary would be: “I am showing you how some polities developed workable, strong states, based in accountability, and how others did not.”  If that is it, I would rather that the empirical material were more focused on the “model” and less on overall general narrative.  Ultimately the organization sprawls.  Nonetheless, this book is an important implied revision of public choice economics, with the focus on history and the question of how strong states get built.

4. In its scope and method, this book feels late 19th century.

5. I am not convinced by the discussion of why earlier China did not progress, found in the range of 51% on Kindle.  Fukuyama seems to suggest they simply weren’t interested in doing better.  I would be happier if so much did not rest on that question.

6. One implication of the analysis is that we should not be very optimistic about the current revolutions in the Middle East.

7. Try this sentence: “The very lateness of the European state-building project was the source of the political liberty that Europeans would later enjoy.”

8. The section on biology could use a major dose of Robin Hanson.

Here is one useful review.  Here is a review from The Economist.


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