TAC‘s Mark Nugent (who designed the maps for The Origins of Political Order) and myself ventured to AEI yesterday for Francis Fukuyama’s talk on the origins of modern political forms. I like very much Fukuyama’s definition of the rule of law as constraint on executive power, though I don’t entirely agree with him that this is something China has always lacked. Fukuyama finds the rule of law in this sense to have roots in transcendent religion, something else in which he finds China deficient. But for him strong constraints on centralized power aren’t always a good thing: if it’s rather terrifying that China can displace over a million of its citizens to create the Three Gorges Dam, it’s not only frustrating but developmentally crippling that India’s mixture of tribalism and democracy at times prevents even basic infrastructure projects from going forward.

Fukuyama is interesting even when he’s wrong, and in this talk he’s right about a great many things — perhaps most of all the line he takes from Charles Tilly: “the state makes war and war makes the state.”

Here, by the way, is Steve Sailer’s take on Fukuyama and The Origins of Political Order.