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  • Hi, I'm John Green, this is Crash Course World History and today in our final episode of

  • this World History series we're going to return to some of our favorite themes, like the rise

  • of the state; maybe the idea of "The West"; and also we're going to speculate a little bit about the future.

  • Mr. Green! Mr. Green! No, no, no...I-I thought you were from the future.

  • Nope! I'm from your future, Me From the Past, so I know that NSYNC doesn't stay together,

  • but I'm from my present. Although, now I'm from my past. No, present again. That's the

  • problem with the future, me from the past. It keeps briefly becoming present and then becoming past.

  • And then of course people watching the videos will be watching them in their present, which

  • will be my ever more distant past. And they could be watching them in ten years, the things

  • that I have predicted will have come true or not come true, and I will look like a genius

  • or an idiot. Ahhh I'm freakin' out Stan! Just roll the intro.

  • Man, I'm glad that intro pulled me out of that logic loop. I could have been stuck in

  • there forever, which reminds me that forever itself is a very weird concept. I think the

  • only thing we can say about forever is that the future is forever.

  • So Americans are pretty proud of their democratic government and its history, but in world historical

  • terms, democracy has not been the norm. Like the 20th century was the high tide for democracy

  • worldwide with the number of democratic governments increasing dramatically, but the 2000's so

  • far have seen something of a anti-democratic renaissance with the number of democracies

  • that shouldn't actually be called democracies, doubling between 2006 and 2009. Like the People's

  • Democratic Republic of Korea, despite having democratic in the name, not particularly democratic...

  • I'm sorry for saying that Kim Jong-un, but it's true... He's behind me, isn't he Stan?

  • You'll be gone in 20 years, that's my first prediction.

  • Also, while democracy can sound great, no countries have ever actually practiced pure

  • democracy. Unless you count Ancient Athens which a) was not a country, it was a city

  • state and b) it excluded women and slaves from the political process so it wasn't really

  • a pure democracy. Because you know, like, most people didn't get to participate in the government.

  • What we call democracies today are actually the result of a number of revolutions in political

  • thought that happened mostly in the west between the 17th and 20th centuries. Like, we've talked

  • a lot about the first of these revolutions in political thought which happened in the

  • 17th century with the creation of the centralized nation state in Europe. And then there was

  • the political breakthrough put forth by John Stuart Mill, who envisioned a night watchmen

  • state that was like too small to infringe on individuals' freedoms but efficient enough

  • to be functional and useful as a government.

  • Then in the late 19th and early 20th century, the west developed the idea of the modern

  • welfare state, enshrining the belief that the state should provide things like education,

  • health and unemployment insurance to enable citizens to lead fulfilling lives. The welfare

  • state relies on government planning and bureaucrats who get their jobs not based on high birth

  • but on merits and also data-driven answers to problems. And so we saw the rise of technocrats

  • and intellectuals influencing government policy. To quote the book called "The Fourth Revolution,"

  • there were two things new about this welfare state. "The taxation of the entire population

  • to provide benefits for the unfortunate and the removal of the 'poor law' stigma from

  • social welfare. The poor were now victims, not layabouts."

  • So, in contemporary Europe and the United States, everyone pays taxes, right. Whether

  • it's consumption taxes or property taxes or income taxes or whatever. And we don't view

  • poverty merely as personal failing but as a problem that needs to be addressed. And

  • although imperialism certainly made it problematic for these ideas to spread completely throughout

  • the world, the ideas did prove very powerful, like India adopted a heavily top down welfare

  • state based on British principles once it became independent. And even when the liberal

  • democratic state came under ideological attack from fascists and communists, it was able

  • to triumph by mustering the resources to win World War II and meet the Soviet Challenge

  • during the Cold War. And for most of the 20th century, western democracies have been on

  • the whole, pretty successful in providing peace and stability and prosperity to their own citizens.

  • And yet, many parts of the world are turning away from these ideas now. Why? Well, one

  • of the reasons democracy may be falling out of favor is that many of the most successful

  • countries in the world, at least in terms of economic growth are not democratic. There

  • are democracies experiencing tremendous economic growth like Brazil and India. But then of

  • course there's China. And China along with countries like Singapore have looked to the

  • west for guidance on how to create capitalism but they've been much less interested in adopting

  • Western models of governance.

  • Let's go to the Thought Bubble.

  • So Singapore might only have 5.2 million inhabitants but it has very effective government. The

  • architect of its success, Lee Kuan Yew, has argued that cultural values are the explanation

  • and that Asians are quote, "More focused on the family, more devoted to education and

  • saving; and more willing to put faith in a Mandarin elite than the West." But it's probably

  • more due to Singapore's being more authoritarian, more interventionist, and more bossy in following

  • Lee's Hobbesian view that, "Human beings, regrettable though it may be, are inherently

  • vicious and have to be restrained from their viciousness."

  • Although Singapore isn't technically a one party state it's also very far from a traditional

  • democracy. Like in 2011 Lee's People's Action Party won 60% of the vote and 93% of the seats

  • in Congress. That may sound terrible but it has an upside. Knowing that their party will

  • win elections allows Singapore's politicians to focus on something else. Namely long-term

  • planning. If any of the particularly "Asian" traditions cited by Lee have fueled Singapore's

  • success it's that Mandarin ideal of choosing and promoting skilled bureaucrats based on

  • merit. The most interesting thing about Singapore's government is that, at least by Western standards,

  • it's remarkably small, with like, for instance a world class education system that consumes

  • only 3.3% of Gross Domestic Product. They also have a required retirement fund in which

  • Singaporeans contribute 20% of their paycheck and their employers kick in another 15.5%.

  • AND as you'll already know if you watch our show Healthcare Triage, Singapore has one

  • of the most efficient and fascinating health care systems in the world. Thanks Thought Bubble.

  • And then there's China with its gleaming skyscrapers, enormous number of billionaires, and what

  • is now the second largest economy in the world. Now, of course, there's also the air pollution,

  • the growing income disparity, the terrible working conditions, but hundreds of millions

  • of people in China have emerged from poverty in the last 50 years. And this was all accomplished

  • by a very repressive state, so repressive, in fact, that they can't see this video. The

  • Chinese model of governance has often been called authoritarian capitalism and its architect

  • was Deng Xiaoping. He was very impressed by Singapore and sought to copy them, and in

  • many ways, the Chinese Communist party has been very successful at that. Despite some

  • official corruption, the Chinese state is very efficient and has presided over an incredible

  • economic and social transformation in the past 30 years. So we expect, like, rigid central

  • planning from Communist parties, right? But in China, rather than setting goals for every

  • facet of the economy, the party makes sure that it's represented in most big companies,

  • private and state-owned.

  • And the biggest companies owned by the government dominate strategic industries like energy

  • and transportation and telecommunications. The Communist Party’s Organization Department

  • appoints all senior corporate figures in China. And in general theyve done a good job of

  • promoting good managers that help the companies to grow.

  • And China certainly wants this model to go global, since its state owwned companies have

  • funded 80% of China’s direct foreign investment in the last 30 years, which allows commerce

  • to advance Chinese diplomacy, extending the nation’s so-calledsoft power.”

  • So who knows if this will actually work, but when Chinese state companies are able to build

  • the new African Union headquarters in Ethiopia, for instance, it sends a powerful signal to

  • African nations that this is a system where people can get things done.

  • Meanwhile, in the United States and much of Europe... a little bit of a struggle to get

  • things done. So Chinese state capitalism may sound like the wave of the future, or at least

  • the wave of the present. But maybe not. It has some serious drawbacks. First, the close

  • ties between business and politics opens the system up to massive corruption.

  • Fortunately, here in the United States, we don’t have any ties between business and

  • politics, so you won’t see any corruption here!

  • But there are also other drawbacks to authoritarian capitalism, like state-run industries tend

  • not to be responsive to investors, which limits private investment. And in the long-term,

  • that may limit the money available to them to keep growing.

  • Also, with a lot of these state-owned industries, it’s not actually clear that theyre productive

  • or profitable because they rely so heavily on government subsidies.

  • And finally state-owned industries don’t to a great job of encouraging the freedom

  • of expression that fuels a lot of, like, cultural and intellectual industries like, for instance

  • Hollywood. Which is more cultural than intellectual.

  • The Fourth Revolution quotes one Chinese commenter as saying: “We have [kung-fu] and we have

  • pandas, but we could not make a film like Kung-fu Panda.”

  • Also, this kind of state-run industrial policy is very effective sometimes, but it’s not

  • clear that it’s going to be effective all the time. Like it may work better for building

  • roads and cell towers than for creating software, for instance.

  • So it seems to work for less developed nations that need to build infrastructure and industry;

  • it’s much less clear that it will be effective when they need to move over to being service economies.

  • And what I find fascinating is that China has created this new path to economic growth

  • in part by looking to its ancient past to revitalize its government. Because they've

  • created a new education-based meritocracy, which is a modern version of the Han examination system.

  • It’s sort of like a state run version of Plato’s Republic, and polls indicate that

  • most Chinese people are pretty comfortable with it. I mean, things ARE getting better in China.

  • Like philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen argues that "Chinese-style meritocracy is good at

  • focusing on long-term problems and bringing in independent experts."

  • That said, China’s government isn’t always as meritocratic and effective as some might

  • want to believe. I mean, the Chinese version of twitter is a litany of complaints about

  • poor schools and dirty hospitals and inept local officials.

  • And in the wake of the Sichuan earthquake, when many children died because of poorly

  • built schools, there was widespread outrage over the government's inability to like, get things built well.

  • All that noted, it’s important to be aware that China embodies a challenge to the idea

  • that the West has all the answers in terms of economics and government.

  • Particularly after the 2008 financial crisis, the Chinese were the ones lecturing about

  • government and fiscal policy and claiming that the American political system was rewarding

  • mediocrity over talent. And lots of Americans would agree with these Chinese critics. I

  • mean, we can’t even get a long-term highway bill passed, let alone like, long-term planning

  • for the overall economy.

  • In a representative democracy, the best way to get elected is to make promises, usually

  • for lower taxes or for more or bigger benefits. Or my favorite -- for both. Also, democratic

  • governments are very susceptible to interest groups extracting benefits for themselves.

  • Just as autocratic governments are very susceptible to, you know, autocrats extracting benefits for themselves.

  • And the problems of democracy can be a bit of a vicious cycle. Like in the United States

  • at least, we're incredibly dissatisfied with our government, especially Congress, and this

  • is partly because weve come to expect so much from government that they constantly let us down.

  • Also, for the last 35 years or so, because people are so dissatisfied with government,

  • one of the main strategies for winning political office is to talk bad about the government

  • and to say that government is the problem.

  • But of course, if we have too much government, that’s a problem that can only be fixed

  • by the government. So where does this leave us? Well, maybe we

  • have reached the end ofthe rise of the west?” that began with the nation state.

  • But it’s really hard to predict the future! Like when I was in high school I wouldn’t

  • have predicted that so many people would be learning about history and science from YouTube

  • videos, much less that China would become the world’s second largest economy.

  • If you’d asked me if 500 million people would emerge from absolute poverty between

  • the time I graduated from high school and the time I started hosting Crash Course World

  • History, I would have been like, no way!

  • But I wouldn’t have said that. I would have cursed in class because I was a surly, terrible student.

  • But here are my predictions -- I think that China will continue to be a one party state,

  • and a very successful one, as long as that combination of state and industry continues

  • to provide a rising standard of living.

  • But I don’t think it’s going to happen in the U.S. or Europe, even if it would lead

  • to more efficiency.

  • The major differences between these two models of governance is that unlike communism and

  • western style capitalism, they aren’t in direct conflict. Like, they can coexist.

  • And I think authoritarian capitalism and western style capitalism WILL coexist, but I also

  • think that probably in that process Western style democracies will find that over time,

  • they have money to do less.

  • And I think we may have a lot to learn from countries like Singapore, especially as new

  • technologies enable greater efficiencies in providing services, thereby making a lot of

  • jobs obsolete. Possibly including mine.

  • I mean, these days robots are writing some reasonably good short stories, and Stan now

  • has enough tape of my voice that he could make an excellent artificial me.

  • One of the reasons we focused so much in this world history series on the factors that go

  • into making a nation state is that while lots of people think that nation states are about

  • to go away, I don’t.

  • Yes, corporations are becoming more powerful and multi-national, but in many ways China’s

  • rise to power was the result of a nationalistic desire to amass wealth and power that has

  • its roots going back at least to the 19th century, if not earlier.

  • But I want to make two observations here at the end -- first, whatever you think will

  • happen in the future, whatever you think is happening now, even what you think happened

  • in the past, really depends on what information you choose to focus on.

  • So this year weve tried to look at really big-picture history and approaches to the

  • study of history and how we learn about it, because there are choices involved.

  • For instance, we focused a lot on the rise of the nation state and trade, but we could

  • have focused on the changing role of the family or the impact of technology on lifespan or

  • changes and continuities in religious practice or any number of other things.

  • The other thing I want to say about history and the future is that neither is actually determined.

  • 30 years from now, of course well know a lot about what happens in the next 30 years,

  • but well also be looking at the past differently from how we look at it now.

  • And YOU are a part of that. The choices that you make over the course of your life will

  • shape history both in the future AND in the past. In short, we ask you to think about

  • history and how to study it because we are counting on you.

  • But history encompasses a lot and there is more than one history of the world. I hope

  • you've enjoyed some of the versions that weve presented. Thank you so much for watching.

  • Crash Course is filmed here in the Chad and Stacey Emigholz Studio and it’s made possible

  • by our Patreon supporters, including Charlie Shread and Scott Delea who are our cosponsors

  • of today’s video. Charlie, Scott -- thank you so much.

  • Patreon is a great website that allows you to support Crash Course directly on a monthly

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  • Only about 3% of Crash Course viewers need to pay to support the other 97%. So to the

  • 3%, we say thank you, to the 97%, we want to say thank you too. If it becomes 4%, who

  • knows, you might see more World History videos in the future. Thanks again so much for watching

  • and as we say in my hometown, don’t forget to be awesome.

Hi, I'm John Green, this is Crash Course World History and today in our final episode of

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Democracy, Authoritarian Capitalism, and China: Crash Course World History 230

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