The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die
Author: Niall Ferguson
The decline of the West is something that has long been prophesied. Symptoms of decline are all around us: slowing growth, crushing debts, aging populations, anti-social behaviour. But what is the cause? The answer, Niall Ferguson argues, is that our institutions - the intricate frameworks within which a society can flourish or fail - are degenerating.
Representative government, the free market, the rule of law and civil society: these were the four pillars of Western societies, which set them on the path to global dominance after around 1500. In our time, however, these institutions have deteriorated. Our democracies have broken the contract between the generations by heaping IOUs on our children and grandchildren. Our markets are distorted by over-complex regulations. The rule of law has metamorphosed into the rule of lawyers. And civil society has become uncivil society.
While the Arab world struggles to adopt democracy, and while China struggles to move from economic liberalization to the rule of law, Europeans and Americans alike are frittering away the institutional inheritance of centuries. To arrest the degeneration of the West, Ferguson warns, will take heroic leadership and radical reform.
This book is based on Niall Ferguson's BBC Radio 4 Reith Lectures, which were broadcast under the title 'The Rule of Law and Its Enemies'.