The little book Why Nations Fail has come my way. Its doctrine is quite plain and could be used to explain why any organization does well or does not. Or, at least, its doctrine could offer theories on the “why” of national political existence, why some with limited resources and burgeoning populations implode while others at least mope along.
The two authors (it takes a village) offer historical evidence that government is helpful as it includes, even if it must intrude to do so. Nations that find ways to be “inclusive” in government survive (even thrive), while “extractive” governments (and nations and denominations and churches and families) tend to suck the life out of their host body. In national politics the failing nation or party concentrates power and opportunity in the hands of a few. Hopelessness ensues. The Hopeless Class may see revolution as the least bad way to redress grievances.
One remembers the American Revolution was born out of the great financial debt of the American Planter class to the merchants and tax men of (then) Great Britain. Washington and Jefferson were geniuses, to be sure, but the incentive for their participation in revolution was born the moment they realized they would never get out of debt to Britain. The centralized monarchy held the power/opportunity in the court of a mentally distressed King. There would never be opportunity for advancement in the Americas. They would always be a colony; shipping cheap raw goods to the Mother Land in order to buy the more expensive manufactured goods in return. The imbalance would always choke colony.
A purely extractive political scene can be viewed this way. Egypt, for instance, has a series of insuperable issues, any one of which may destroy its ability to function as a nation. Population growth, religious bigotry (Christians are particularly at risk in Egypt; the Arab Spring did not help them), environmental degradation and the low national esteem for women could make one of the world’s oldest civilization a black hole. When an entity suffers from one or more potentially lethal problems, the tendency of the ruling class (all nations have them) may be to make its own place secure, rather than work for the general good of the nation. Power adheres to power, more so in the desperate hour.
In Egypt now, a democratically elected government, no matter how heinous some of its actions, has been toppled by revolution, apparently to the tolerant bemusement of other secular powers. I know, I know. What could they do, if they were prone to act at all?
I have three suggestions of what other governments of other organizations of whatever kind might do.
Appreciate the lethal dilemma(s) of the dying nation. Egypt may just disappear. Their population was 20 millions in the 1980’s. There are about 80 millions today in the same space, vying for the same resources. This will not work. Women have to be empowered to say no to repetitive actions that lead to over population. This is possible in a modern age without using abortion as birth control. The society aiming to stabilize its population does need the will to say no. Have you ever noticed the ability/will to say no in social policy most effectively comes from the followship rather than the leadership? Leadership can point a direction and offer options/opportunities.
Admire the salvific nature of those persons/groups/organizations that can intrude to include. As an Evangelical Christian, I am repeatedly struck by the ignorance in this world of the way God intrudes in human history in order to include humans in heavenly sanctioning. The number of persons who asked Jesus to come be the kind of Messiah he became was very small, as evidenced by His reception. Many of his co-religionists wanted a Messiah, but only to restore the Kingdom to Israel. Jesus had larger ideas.
When I tell my neighbor the story of Jesus I may be seen as intrusive. My neighbor is a good fellow who keeps his yard and turns off the music at his pool every night at nine. He is a better edger/trimmer than I am. I cultivate more lovely roses but they do most of the work themselves, so I should not brag. I intrude on my neighbors with the religion I choose, inviting the question, “Who is to know if you are right?”
I choose this religion because in Jesus the God of Heaven intrudes on earth among humankind in order to include. He offers leadership, power, heavenly opportunity on earth to all His adherents. The Church does not always follow His direction, but that is the Church, not the Savior. Jesus offers opportunity for slaves, women, lepers and centurions. This is worthy of my admiration.
Accept the necessity of specific change(s) in all ruling organizations in a world of lethal competition for scarcer resources. My mother in law remembers “hog killing weather.” This was the time in the autumn in Texas when a farmer would kill, hang and butcher a hog for the winter. The carcass would hang for some time in a smoke-house prepared to use the colder weather as an ally against spoilage. My mother in law says there is no “hog killing weather” anymore.
Call it “global warming” or whatever you wish, it is no longer possible (sane) to ignore the evidence of our eyes. This water planet of ours, so fecund, so vital, is increasingly crowded. Everyone on it is a soul, to be sure. All of us benefit when the all of us have the basic, minimum rights. If these rights (life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness,which the American framers understood to be the maximum human good available with the minimum of government extraction/intrusion) are compromised in one part the rest of mankind has cause to question its own validity.
Jesus taught specific change in culture. His most memorable statements were those to persons like the Samaritan woman at the well, to whom He preached (yes, preached) spiritual change or to Nicodemus, a ruling elitist with a good heart, to whom Jesus preached rebirth. Those who want to know what Jesus thought about the sanctity of the soul (and durable danger to the soul) should read His moving allegory in Luke 16, where He turns religious thought on its head in the story of Dives and Lazarus. Or, His final solution for inclusion in His Kingdom in Matthew’s record, wherein Jesus said, “Wherein you have done this (good works) to these, the least of my brethren, you have done them (good works) unto me,” (Matthew 25:31-46).
Cultures that survive (even thrive) in the immediate future will be those who work a blessing on all other cultures, within and without their borders. We are about run out of resources to “extract,’ so the predatory practices of government, religion, media, et alia, will no longer suffice. A ship’s captain does not prosper if he holds the bridge while the vessel slips beneath the waves. The coming cataclysm might be yet avoided, if we would only accept the (undoctored) evidence of human history.