Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Francis Fukuyama on Iran and Rule of Law

Francis Fukuyama has an op ed in today's Wall Street Journal which argues that the Constitution of revolutionary Iran provides avenues for the development of a more integrated state:
"Compared to Section Eight [of the Constitution], the references in the Iranian Constitution to God and religion as the sources of law are much less problematic. They could, under the right circumstances, be the basis for Iran’s eventual evolution into a moderate, law-governed country.

The rule of law was originally rooted in religion in all societies where it came to prevail, including the West. The great economist Friedrich Hayek noted that law should be prior to legislation. That is, the law should reflect a broad social consensus on the rules of justice. In Europe, it was the church that originally defined the law and acted as its custodian. European monarchs respected the rule of law because it was written by an authority higher and more legitimate than themselves.

Something similar happened in the pre-modern Middle East. There was a functional separation of church and state. The ulama were legal scholars and custodians of Shariah law while the sultans exercised political authority. The sultans conceded they were not the ultimate source of law but had to live within rules established by Muslim case law. There was no democracy, but there was something resembling a rule of law."
I agree with much of his analysis. Indeed, I made similar observations early last year in my post Law and Revolution in Iran, though of course Fukuyama's prose is much easier on the ears.

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