The Decay of American Political Institutions
FRANCIS FUKUYAMA Published on December 8, 2013
We have a problem, but we can’t see it clearly because our focus too often discounts any political
institutions in the United States are decaying. This is not the same thing as the broader phenomenon of societal or civilization decline, which has become a highly politicized topic in the discourse about America. Political decay in this instance simply means that a specific political process—sometimes an individual government agency—has become dysfunctional. This is the result of intellectual rigidity and the growing power of entrenched political actors that prevent reform and rebalancing. This doesn’t mean that America is set on a permanent course of decline, or that its power relative to other countries will necessarily diminish. Institutional reform is, however, an extremely difficult thing to bring about, and there is no guarantee that it can be accomplished without a major disruption of the political order. So while decay is not the same as decline, neither are the two discussions unrelated.
Theories of aging and senescence look at build up of damage in DNA, build up of poisons in cells, build up of damage in limited repair tissues, etc. I see government as a living entity with the same sorts of problems. This is why to a large extent progress has occurred with the birth of new governments (and often the death of the prior one.) The US was set up to purposely operate in a sort of continuous creative destruction and did well till the forces of ‘progress’ figured out how to jam a spoke in this wheel of change. For about fifty years things kept going, even got better because competent first generation operators were in place and constant change is not always very pretty. Now we are well into senescence and things are going to hell because this is not an era where sclerotic systems are treated gently.