Ενώ η Ελλάδα παραπαίει βουτηγμένη στο λαϊκισμό, ο κόσμος εισέρχεται ραγδαία σε μια νέα εποχή.
Άρθρο του ιστορικού και δημοσιογράφου Tim Stanley, «Οι Φιλελεύθεροι πρέπει να κατηγορήσουν τους εαυτούς τους για την παρακμή τους. Έκαναν πολλά λάθη».
Τα σφάλματα του Φιλελευθερισμού, η αυταρέσκεια των ιδεολογικών ελίτ, ο ρόλος του έθνους-κράτους, οι πρόσφυγες, η Βρετανία και το BREXIT.
Liberals should blame themselves for their decline – they got so much wrong
We are the leopards, after us will come the jackals. So says a Sicilian aristocrat facing revolution in Lampedusa’s novel The Leopard – and he would say that, wouldn’t he? When a social or political class faces extinction, they are bound to predict disaster. It’s a rare loser who admits they deserve their fate.
What’s been true for kings and commissars is now true for liberals. Liberalism appears out of vogue; the world is being swept by popular authoritarians. In some places, it’s not pretty. Around 2,000 suspected criminals have been killed without trial in Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs in the Philippines. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wants to bring the death penalty back to post-coup Turkey.
Comparing such thugs to Western conservatives might seem a stretch, but embattled liberals are doing it. They bemoan the populism behind Brexit and the anti-Burkini campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy. Most of all, they live in terror of a Trump victory in November’s presidential elections – a victory that is unlikely but not impossible, and that is bad enough. Trump,who performed a beautifully choreographed trip to Mexico this week to boost his credentials, articulates populism in catchphrases. Build a wall. Put America first.
To the intellectual vanguard of liberalism, it seems as if mankind faces a choice – in the words of the political scientist Yascha Mounk – between “undemocratic liberalism and illiberal democracy”. One is elitist but respectful of the rights of minorities and thus benign. The other is the will of the majority imposed through the ballot box. Liberals fear that the majority has become bigoted and near-suicidal. If only we could vote the voters out!
But liberals have to take their own share of blame for the state of the West. After all, they’ve been running it for several decades. Badly.
Who exactly are they? In a sense they are all of us, for liberalism is part of the West’s DNA in the way that Islam defines Arabia. It’s best understood as an approach to politics – a cult of reason and an attempt to navigate change in such a way that protects individual liberty while meeting society’s needs. Cutting a path between collectivism and libertarianism, Left and Right, it sees the state as the juggler of competing demands for power and money. Its activists – found in most mainstream parties and at the heart of power – have fought for civil rights, suffrage and separation of church and state.
In 1989, they appeared to win the world. The Berlin Wall fell. The communist alternative was dead.Liberals dared to proclaim the End of History – and politics here in Britain settled on the centre ground, diminishing choice. Tony Blair aped Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron aped Tony Blair. I’m old enough to remember when Jeremy Corbyn was an obscure relic and the Lib Dems were more popular than Ukip.
Now everything has changed, and there’s reason to fear the demagogic jackals. But the big beasts of liberalism – the Blairs, the Clintons, the Camerons – need to recognise that they made mistakes after the Cold War. They adopted policies that were not inherent to liberalism but were, upon reflection, just very bad choices. Choices largely responsible for the mess we’re in. They didn’t have to embrace the Eighties model of hyper-capitalism. Yes, it worked for a while, but not as a long-term investment. It wasn’t necessary to sacrifice domestic manufacturing upon the altar of globalisation, put all the economic chips on the property market or ally politically with the banking industry.
Nor did liberals have to go to war quite as frequently as they have. They fussed over Iraq, but signed up enthusiastically for operations in Afghanistan, Mali, Libya and Syria. There’s no denying that the West’s targets in these wars were wicked, but the consequences of bombing and invading have not been peace or women’s liberation but the extension of radical Islamism and the creation of millions of refugees.
Liberals might have been able to make a sound moral case for taking said refugees if they had not embraced – unnecessarily – mass economic migration. Labour’s decision in 2004 to open the British labour market early to eastern Europe was unilateral. It did not have to be done. The result was a growing perception that immigration has a negative effect upon wages and public services, fuelling a backlash against open borders that is now felt most harshly by asylum seekers. Worse: many people now regard immigration as a conspiracy by liberal elites – who will not acknowledge its effects and who charge its critics with racism – to change the country by stealth. Liberal snobbery has done as much to poison the migration debate as nationalism ever did.
For liberals are not as tolerant as they think. They have always accepted that a little tyranny is necessary to protect liberty – hence Cold War liberal leaders helped erect the security state and allied with vitriolic anti-communists (Joe McCarthy dated John F Kennedy’s sisters in the Fifties, who recalled that he talked endlessly about the evils of Marxism and then “kissed very hard”). And in recent decades liberals have used the state to promote political correctness. At best it’s a new code of manners for a multicultural society. At worst, it is thought-policing, attempting to make people say things they don’t really think. Prejudices have not been so much confronted as suppressed.
The communists made the mistake of believing they could make everyone equal by declaring them to be so. Liberals thought society was more tolerant because they banned vile words from the public sphere. Only now are liberals learning that this is not how human beings work. The revival of nationalism might indicate that people do still define themselves by ethnicity.
Or maybe it doesn’t. It’s also possible that voters are reacting rationally – rather than emotionally – to policy failure. Which brings us to Brexit. Since the June 23 referendum, liberals have hit us with academic papers, speeches, TV documentaries etc analysing why the British people voted Leave, and the answer seems to be everything from racism to class to love of imperial weights and measures.
Few liberals have yet to concede that it might have had something to do with the EU being rubbish. The EU, the greatest liberal project of them all, simply doesn’t work. There’s nothing inherently liberal about trying to make 28 countries operate as one, but liberals chose to make it their crusade. The British see its flaws and voted out.
It’s possible that the same cold calculation lies behind the success of Donald Trump. Polls suggest that a significant proportion of his voters don’t actually like him. But they’re angry at disappearing jobs, ceaseless wars and illegal immigration. They look at Hillary Clinton, one of the West’s last true liberals left standing, and they see someone responsible for a lot of their problems. On balance, they sigh, better him than her.
For me, I would prefer to praise liberalism than see it buried. It has done a lot of good for civilisation; many of its tenets are civilisation. But political traditions have to adapt to survive. Liberals, alas, have refused to accept their mistakes. They prefer to cast them as moral necessities and question the decency of those who challenge them. Their opponents are not all animals. Their ex-voters are not all monstrous fools. And liberals must learn that you’ll never win a voter over if you keep calling them stupid.