Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Daniel A. Bell

Daniel A. Bell is a professor of political theory at Tsinghua University, in Beijing, and author of The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy.

A few weeks ago, I couldn't decide what book to assign for my "International Political Ethics" seminar. Then I read John J. Dilulio Jr's Washington Monthly review of Francis Fukuyama's new book, Political Order and Political Decay. Dilulio shows that Fukuyama wrote a book for the ages, with a straightforward takeaway that can be applied in different political contexts: Well-governed countries need to balance strong bureaucracies with institutions that curb government power. Hence, if China needs less government, the United States needs more. Dilulio ends the review with something you don’t often read: a strirring ode to federal bureaucrats in the United States.
I was hooked and decided to assign Fukuyama's book. One little problem is that the Chinese government had recently warned against teaching "Western values." But that same government had invited Fukuyama to China. Fukuyama's views were widely reported in the media, including his argument that China needs the rule of law and democracy to constrain the government's power. Fukuyama delivered a talk at Tsinghua University. My students attended, and we continued the discussion over dinner. It was one of the most rewarding classes in my teaching career, and none of it would have happened without Dilulio’s witty and thought-provoking review. If you're short on time, just read the first paragraph. It is impossible not to sympathize with somebody who writes those words!

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