What Makes A Government Legitimate?

Or: The CFR Takes Hans-Hermann Hoppe Mainstream

As M. Rothbard pointed out, no government can long survive without the support or at least the grudging toleration of the majority of the ruled. On this account the fortunes of quite a few Western “democratic” governments are looking shaky. Those of China’s non-democratic overlords by contrast seem far more solid.

Non-democratic rulers are often decried as being illegitimate. Li Shimo (Eric X. Li) at TED points out that if legitimacy is defined as the [majority] approval of the ruled (obviously a debatable point), then the current Chinese government would appear to be one of the most legitimate anywhere in the world.

This speech goes back to an article which Mr. Li published in the CFR magazine Foreign Affairs in January 2013 entitled “The Life of the Party – The Post-Democratic Future Begins in China“. Full text is here: http://www.viet-studies.info/kinhte/FA_LifeOfParty.htm. Take note of the publisher.

Here is an excerpt:

Westerners assume that multiparty election with universal suffrage is the only source of legitimacy. I was asked once, “the Party was not voted in by election, where is its source of legitimacy?” I said, “how about competency?”

We know the facts: In 1949 when the Party took over, China was mired in civil wars and dismembered by foreign aggressions; average life expectancy was 41. Today, it is the second largest economy in the world, an industrial powerhouse, and its people live in increasing prosperity.

Pew Research polls Chinese public attitudes. These are the numbers in recent years, and they have been largely consistent in the last couple of decades:

Satisfaction with the general direction of the country – 85%
Those who report significant progress in their lives in the past five years – 70%
Those who expect the future to be better – a whopping 82%

Financial Times survey of global youth attitudes just released:

93% of China’s generation-Y are optimistic about their country’s future!

If this is not legitimacy, I’m not sure what is.

In fact, according to the Pew poll, Chinese have more confidence in their leaders and future than any other country surveyed.

Li Shimo concludes the speech with the following observation:

… the era of their dogmatic universalism is over. Let us stop telling people, and our children, there is only one way to govern ourselves and a singular future towards which all societies must evolve. It is wrong, it is irresponsible, and worst of all, it is boring. Let universality make way for plurality. Perhaps, a more interesting age is upon us. Are we brave enough to welcome it?

The speech transcript in original and Chinese translation is here: http://www.guancha.cn/li-shi-mo/2013_06_19_152386_s.shtml

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This entry was posted in Observations, Society, Statism, Status Quo and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What Makes A Government Legitimate?

  1. brad waddell says:

    has any country ever changes so rapidly as China? they leaped forward so quickly that the changes must seem almost magical – pretty much as soon as the internet exists we use smart phones to access it by voice control!

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