Sunday, May 17, 2015
Does Liberal Democracy Have a Future?
The liberal state is destined to perish. All the political experiments of our day are anti-liberal.
--Mussolini in 1932
Robert Kuttner begins his assessment of the relative health and viability of liberal democracy in the pages of The American Prospect with this quote and points out that we could say the same thing today.
The world's largest economy today is China, a country that is anything but liberal or democratic. The Chinese, beginning with Deng Xiaoping, discovered to the delight of autocrats everywhere that liberal democracy is not necessary for a flourishing market economy, contrary to generations of received wisdom declaring that capitalism and democracy necessarily belong together.
The United States, the world's first constitutional democracy, is now a democracy in name only and an oligarchy in all but name. Low turn-out elections in heavily gerrymandered districts is not democracy but a fig leaf. A bitterly divided and increasingly disenchanted and resigned electorate gives its active assent through the vote, and its passive assent by staying home on election day, as an increasingly powerful small moneyed class effectively purchases a new government more to its liking.
Europe endures lingering economic crisis and austerity policies. Those problems together with identity crises and resentments caused by immigration create a dramatic rebirth of far right, and even racist, politics.
Religious fundamentalists and nationalist fanatics of all kinds everywhere openly attack Enlightenment era ideas central to the modern constitutional state, and not just the liberal democratic state. Tribal identity counts above all else for both the fundamentalist and the nationalist. Their worst enemy is liberal cosmopolitanism. They reserve their worst wrath and hatred for those groups that they perceive to have benefitted from liberalism (e.g. gays and lesbians, Jews, women, racial and ethnic minorities, etc.) Daesh's openly genocidal crusade is only the most extreme manifestation of this violent and radical anti-liberalism, but it is certainly not the only one.
Freedom and Dignity for all as a birthright will only survive if we believe that Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite mean much more than an inscription over the door of a French post office.
Posted by Counterlight at Sunday, May 17, 2015