[I]t turns out that honesty (truth) is the most important political institution, because it permits people to trust, which in turn permits risk taking, which in turn permits capital accumulation, which in turn produces economic velocity, which in turn produces prosperity. You might not think it matters so much, but of all the institutions humans have invented, creating an incentive to tell the truth is perhaps the hardest one. And while we in the west, particularly the anglo-germanic west, take it for granted that telling the truth is ‘good’ in some sort of civic or spiritual way, the fact of the matter is that the rest of the world, outside of christendom, not only does not think that way but does not feel that way either.
Truth is a ‘universalist’ good. Only westerners are more universalist than familial or tribalist. We are the only people to have done it. We stomp around the world with our suicidal universalism promoted as a spiritual good, rather than contract and rule of law that hold us accountable for trades. It is quite possible to construct enforceable contracts as long as the language facilitates it,and by using an alternative language if not, and from the habit of rule of law, property rights, and enforceable contracts, an upper commercial class will form from the wealth generated by using them. Others, seeking entry into the commercial class and its resulting wealth, will adopt the behavior, and this becomes an upper class norm that people must demonstrate in order to participate in economic prosperity, and failure to participate in that norm will leave one in poverty.
Our civilization evolved truth telling first, because of our tactics in war. But most civilizations must have a reason to evolve property, truth telling, and therefore trust.
But just because a civilization evolves a normative technology, does not mean that the institutions that perpetuate that technology cannot be spread. They can. Anything that enforces a norm, can be used to instill a norm.
The technology to export around the world was (a) title registry – ie property rights. (b) contract law (c) trial by randomly selected jury (d) juridical (law) universities, with extraordinary performance requirements rather than recitation. One can use recitation of facts with those who already understand the norms, but one cannot instill facts dependent upon norms that do not exist.
For these reasons, democracy was damaging to societies. One can administer a territory in whatever way necessary for the production and service of the commons. And a leader can certainly seek rents this way, and not be threatened by commercial activity. But the means by which one conducts commerce via property law has nothing to do with that, and as such, there is no need for property rights and law to be part of the government – instead property law constructs the institutional means of cooperating within society itself, independent of government. Government need do nothing about it, except not to interfere.
Judges resolve disputes based upon property rights. Advocacy is for the church. Administration of the commons for the government. Mixing the three functions Commerce, Culture and Commons is a recent mistake even in our western cultures – the church, law and state must be independent creatures to keep each other from excessive rents.
We really screwed up the world. We gave them science, accounting, medicine and law, and the moral charter to service the population. But we also gave them democracy, which is dangerous luxury good. And we did not give them the means of producing the common law, which is the first NECESSARY good.