By Arnold Kling
Max Borders makes a case that nation-building can work.
What’s more, while institutions can and usually do develop or evolve over time — much in the same way that DNA evolved from auto-catalytic processes and from simpler amino acids, and these from yet simpler molecules — once genes are understood and isolated, they can be transplanted, or “spliced.”
This genetic analogy suggests the presence of a rule-set, and actors in a given situation will find it beneficial to play by a rule-set or not. They are more likely to comply with new rules if there are positive, self-reinforcing incentives to do so (as well as harsh consequences of non-compliance). The more Iraqis come to understand the incentives generated by positive rule-sets, the more likely positive orders will emerge. But this may require a period of adjustment.
Borders pays attention to those who disagree with him, including yours truly. In fact, I give Borders credit for linking to Gus diZerega, who writes,
I take my Hayekianism pretty seriously. Societies cannot be easily molded, the task is too complex, local knowledge is too important.
…Western imperialism killed millions – on a scale that proportionately is not necessarily that much better than what happened in Communism. It did it differently. But it did it. And in the process developed many of the institutions later put to such use by the Communists and Nazis, such as concentration camps.
I think the best we can do is set an example and encourage others to adapt that example to their own circumstances…smaller countries that we do not have to deal with should be made clear pay a price for the forms of government they have. But the price should not be in being bombed or occupied by us.
I do differ from my more firmly anti-interventionist colleagues on two issues. First, I think that the doctrine of state sovereignty is such bunk that we are justified in invading and stopping any government that is committing mass murder on its own people…
Second…I think we are justified in invading any country whose democracy government has been overthrown…to re-establish the democracy.
I call your attention to the phrase “the doctrine of state sovereignty is such bunk.” I think that expresses an important libertarian view.
Look around the world. How many governments are there that you consider legitimate? Obviously that depends on your definition of “legitimate,” but I set the bar somewhat high, and offhand my guess is that fewer than 30 percent of the members of the United Nations qualify.
What follows from that is that the UN itself can hardly be a legitimate body. That’s what makes me totally baffled any time someone looks hopefully to the UN as a solution for some problem.