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Sometimes on this show we get into Picayune details we get into Trivia. We get into a flu via today. I want to go back way back and talk about pretty much. The biggest issues in the world today joining me now is James Robinson he along with his co author. Third Darren Asamoah Glue have written the narrow corridor states societies and the fate of liberty if you recognize the names of those two authors yes about seven seven years ago they wrote the seminal book. Why nations fail which a lot of people have been thinking of lately? This is their newest effort to sort of redefine fine art experiment in civilization. Hello Professor Robinson. Thanks for coming on my pleasure. Let's Talk Leviathans and Hobb's shall we not. I mean this is an obvious place to start when you're talking about how to define liberty and society was your mental process to start with hobbs or to think about these issues and then you said you know it really really does come back to hops. Yeah I think we start with hopes but as soon as you start thinking about hold you see you know how problematic many of the things he said were and many of his arguments arguments. So it's about jobs but it's also about broadening and complicating the dissolved about you. Know what is it that crates crates liberty in a society right to be fair to Hobbs. You know he was writing in the sixteen fifty s and he was ahead of his time then and also he was living in an an age. I suppose that called out for order from chaos and our age is a little different from that. Yes that's right. I mean he was right in the middle of the English civil war and and he was he was saying you know that the solution to this was very strong central authority estate. which would stop this state of wars? He called it and provide you know basic older public goods and our starting point. Is that well. Actually you know that might have looked like a good idea during the sixteen fifties. But if you look at history you see that Leviathans of that sort. It's just as common that they actually create war as stop it so you you have to think about the governance of the Leviathan and in whose interests the Leviathan works and whose preferences it represents so the governance of the state is is critical. And that's that's a crucial part of the book. And when Hobbs was talking about war he spells it w. a. r. e. and it doesn't just mean war. WER and meant a sort of all manner of oppression and all manner of privation and all manner of anarchy absolutely and and the threat of it. It didn't actually have to happen. It was just the potential for or it could have enormous consequences for people's lives so yes it's a very rich. Argument is not just about international warfare as we might think about it right I read. Why nations fail? And I've been thinking about it. I think a lot of people have since populism began to sweep through Europe and then in the United States this is well you tell me but I look at this book as an acknowledgement. That success is not the same as not failure. I think you know the connection between this book and why nations fail Israeli. You know we're trying to get much deeper into the long run political dynamics that creating -clusive political institutions and we're trying to unwrap in some sense the challenges that ah politically inclusive societies face. You know in the idea of the narrow corridors within this corridor there's a balance between state and society not which is critical for having inclusive political institutions. But there's dangers on either side of the corridor you know there's dangerous when the state becomes comes to strong and starts to dominate society. But there's also dangerous when society becomes too strong disillusioned with inclusive political the institutions. And that's something that is not at all in. Why nations fail you know that? I think we emphasize very much. These kind of elite overthrow inclusive political institutions such as the case of Venice historically. But we underplayed you know you try to make these arguments simple and you know anyone can make a complicated arguments about the world you know so. Our job of social sciences at a social scientists is to try to find a simple way of talking about these things and I think at the time. We didn't didn't really have a way of talking about that. So we just sorta finessed it but obviously in the world today you see it's not elite Yuno discontent that's created trumpism or Taddei or you know many of these other movements it's actually popular discontent with the way things are and we couldn't talk about that in why nations fail but but we can with this book. So you're right you know. That's a perceptive comment that this framework allows us to illustrate much better these challenges challenges to inclusive political institutions. I WANNA I WANNA follow up on exactly what you just said but I also want to bring up the example example of Singapore. Because I think in the last book that was considered it was often held out as a very useful counterexample. For some of its neighbors and other states it is a non failed state is it is a highly functional state if you judge it based on failure but if you the judge based on the narrow corridor I don't know how much liberty Singaporean would have or Singapore society would have and I wonder if Singapore is an example of of the despotic Leviathan then the shackled Leviathan which is your framework for roughly functioning. State Yeah I mean. I think I'd say China is probably a better example than than Singapore. No theory explains everything and I think. It's very difficult to debase. A theory of comparative development around the case of Singapore. Because you know it's a small state it's island you know. It wasn't a poor country in nineteen in sixty. I had many modern institutions. And it's you know it's had the remarkable. It's remarkable history of leadership you know with the kind of vision. That's that's lacking in most poor countries and that's very hard as a social scientists to sort of explain where that came from. So I you know it's it's not liberal in the Western sense but it's not like China either so so if it's despotic. It's a fairly soft sort of despotism Singapore oh I would say I mean I think the Chinese cases much clearer obviously or North Korea. Or you know so. So that's that's a better example for us and you know here you'll raising this other issue. I think which is very different from why nations fail. which is you know? We're trying to talk not just about economic development. Of course that's important but also things that we think are fundamentally significant fo- for the quality of human life and what is it that makes society desirable. And you know this. Is this notionally of liberty. I think that's something. We value a lot. But where does that come from you know. How do you explain the enormous variation in that in the world? Now I want I want my listeners to think of because there are a lot of graphs in the book so I want to. I want them to think of two axes. And when you talk about the narrow corridor it's pretty much right in the middle of the two axes so it would be the line at a forty five degree angle from the zero point. Two axes are a strong state and a strong society strong state. I think we all understand that if it gets too strong it gets despotic. And it oppresses its people. But a strong society isn't the same as a week state and it's not exactly the same as anarchy so tell me what you mean by the Strong Society Eddie. Because I think it's a really interesting concept. Yeah I mean we mean how. Society is organized its ability to act collectively mobilize and that you know that. That tonal g bundles. You know many things into into it you know. Let let me give you an example. You know I mean and I think this is why the concept of liberty is so interesting hosting you know so so have you talked about China you know that would be an example of what we call a despotic Leviathan. Where the where the state is strong and society is very weak? And then you could say okay. Well there's not much liberty in China right you know but then there's many other parts of the world that definitely don't look anything like China look. Think about Yemen Yemen Yemen. There's not much liberty in Yemen either. But but the state dominant doesn't dominate society. In fact there's hardly any state at all in Yemen in society. All Power and authority. He is actually in society and society's very organized through troy and kinship groups and you know which which operate completely autonomously leap from the from the state and have resisted the state if you know the big story about the who the rebellion in some sense In Yemen is it's a it's a rebellion against society against the state to control the state to get the state back in its place. So so there's a society is organized and the State isn't no and that doesn't create liberty either but it's very different from China and I guess the Mo the more we thought about those sorts of examples and Lebanon. The you know the Philippines Pakistan Gaston Afghanistan. You know it's not that the state dominates society in Afghanistan. The state has never ruled the mountains. Enough Ghanistan never just the river valleys and the plains so we wanted to have a framework to think about that. You know one frame which we could help us pull all of that together. Are there examples in the industrialized allies world. Or maybe not. Because that's one of the things that makes it industrialized of a really really strong society. So you talk about Afghanistan Yemen. I understand this tribal. It goes back thousands of years ears but are there more modern examples. Maybe society has gotten ahead of the state. Absolutely I mean. I think that's a great question you know and that that in some sense you'll raising here. One of the what we think is the most original interesting parts of the book because Yes. It's true that you know society in Yemen. You know his powerful compared to Chinese society but I would say society in the United States or Western. Europe is even more powerful than Yemen because it's outgrown or it's dissolved these tribal structures Russell kinship structures. And it's able to act on a much broader and much larger basis. So that's that's an even more powerful society from all a perspective because it can broaden the agenda it cannot it can get out of the parochial -ness of tribes which can be very effective. But this could be even more effective so from our perspective respective you know the society in the United States is even more powerful than an and that's part of this process of what we call the Red Queen Effect. It's part of this competition Asian between the states and society and in that competition both state and society change and You know so that's my. That's that's the right and the Red Queen effect is that reference to allison one or Lewis Carroll where you have to be a pretty much run to keep up. So you're saying that a very well oh functioning western European or maybe I hope still. American experiment is Strong Society and the and the State is commensurately strong strong with the society. And that's that's where you get liberty exactly. Is there any examples on the other end of that access like the state and society are both equally week and that's working out in terms of liberty. Not Not too much. I mean we have a we have a concept which comes right at the end of towards the end of the book which we call the paper Leviathan. which is there are parts of the world tonight? You know I think of Latin America like this where you take a country like Colombia you. You know that you have a weak state and a and a week society so you'll Solta more balanced but You get stuck there and the red queen effect never comes into operation so so. But that's that's not liberty in that in that context you know Columbia was you know for many years. The kidnapping AH homicide and drug capital of the world can. It's still have had they've maybe we hope are just getting out of essentially a fifty year civil war..

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