Fukuyama asks: What is governance?
In a new commentary published this week, Francis Fukuyama asks: How should we measure governance? The question is important but neglected: “Everyone is interested in studying political institutions that limit or check power . . . but very few people pay attention to the institution that accumulates and uses power, the state.” Existing measures, he says, are “woefully inadequate.”
What’s needed, Fukuyama argues, is a method of gauging the ability of governments to make and enforce rules, and deliver services, regardless of whether that government is democratic or not. The critical dimensions of executive branch quality are capacity and autonomy, Fukuyama says. Other considerations, such as impartiality, have limitations as indicators of state quality.
It’s also important to recognize variations in governance within nations, Fukuyama adds. Existing measures like Transparency International’s Corruptions Perceptions Index “treat single sovereign states as the unit of analysis. Yet it is obvious that the quality of governance varies enormously within countries.”
Fukuyama says that his commentary is intended “to serve as a basis for discussion. As we cannot measure what we cannot adequately conceptualize, we have to start with the concept first.” Free access to the commentary.
Francis Fukuyama is the Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. His books include The Origins of Political Order (2011) and The End of History and the Last Man (1992).