At the time we’re preparing for this conference, the Chinese media is debating whether China should have a constitutional government. Chinese people started their struggle [i.e. Action] of trying to build a constitutional government since the beginning of 20th century. Many mishaps and bitter lessons [i.e. Learning] happened during the previous 113 years. But until today, they are still not able to build a true constitutional government nor to reach to a full consensus [i.e. Understanding] of the necessity of a true constitution. Why?
Two economists, Acemoglu and Robinson, co-authored a 570-page tome “Why Nations Fail” last year based on 15 years of research, trying to answer a vital question “why are some nations poor and others rich?”. The book has been praised highly by a big number of scholars, including at least five Nobel laureates, and opinion leaders such as Francis Fukuyama. It is quite fair to say that this book represented a mainstream academic thinking at least in the field of economics.
Their main point is that, open pluralistic political system leads to “inclusive” institution which then leads to sustainable growth, while “extractive” institutions tend to end up poor and unsustainable. Geography or culture should not be explanations of whether a country can obtain prosperity, only institution can explain. Extractive institutions are those extracting wealth from groups of society to benefit a small group, while inclusive institutions provide open opportunities to everyone in the society.
Bill Gates criticized this book as “disappointment, analysis vague and simplistic.” I agree most of Gates’ observations, but I would like to say more from a cybernetic perspective. Economists sometimes use cybernetic concepts such as “feedback” or “self-fulfilling prophesies”, but most of time they do not see circular causalities of various types underlying the phenomena they targeted to explain. Linear causality models do not work because they cannot really capture the complexity of what exactly going on. This book falls short to explain my question at the beginning, i.e., why Chinese people cannot build a true constitutional government so far? A true constitutional government is the first step towards the “inclusive institution,” even some constitutions are not “inclusive.” Without a true constitution the society is far from “rule of law,” it might be in absolutist monarchy, totalitarian despotism or rule by covert jungle law.
Let’s use self-organization theory to decipher the dynamics of institution formation, to answer the key question raised at beginning.