Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Der Untergang des Abendlandes

Yesterday's post was about how the eurozone countries have been forced to vote for an ugly fringe party in order to achieve economic sanity. I am not sure that liberal democracy has the emotional resonance required to resist this.

Let's look at this way. The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama was published in 1992. The thesis of the book was that Western liberal democracy had won: it was the endpoint of human political evolution. Of course, people said, we're not really at the end of history. But did they imagine that the pillars of Western liberal democracy would be so devoid of supporters within the space of one generation?

Free trade? Here's this week's Economist: "It is hard to imagine ... a leading Western politician being lauded for a defence of free trade. Neither candidate in America’s presidential election is a champion." And that's in the Land of the Free. On this side of the Atlantic, do you remember all those people marching down the streets in favour of TTIP or the EU's free-trade agreement with Canada? Nope, me neither.

Free speech? Take your pick: no-platforming, hate speech laws, you name it. Here are just a couple of straws in the wind.
- 4 years before Fukuyama's book (and just one year before the article on which it was based), The Satanic Verses was published. It was a 1988 Booker Prize finalist and won the 1988 Whitbread Award. You may recall that it caused some controversy and that the Establishment stood up to defend Salman Rushdie. Last year, however, cinemas refused to show an advert in which a carefully-diverse set of people take turns saying the Lord's Prayer. You may have more difficulty recalling that controversy.
- Here's another example: "A freshman tentatively raises her hand and takes the microphone. “I’m really scared to ask this,” she begins. “When I, as a white female, listen to music that uses the N word, and I’m in the car, or, especially when I’m with all white friends, is it O.K. to sing along?” // The answer, from Sheree Marlowe, the new chief diversity officer at Clark University, is an unequivocal “no.”" She's not as scared as Salman Rushdie was, I'm sure. But the people she is scared of are much closer to home.

Democracy? Here's that voice of sanity, Martin Wolf in the FT, saying, "Under a President Trump, democracy would lose credibility as a model for a civilised political life". So it seems we're just one bad election in one country away from the final discrediting of democracy.

Oh well. Liberal democracy has had a good run. My guess is that the history books will rank it up there with the Roman Empire, so that's not too bad, is it?

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