Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with the Financial Times that western liberalism is obsolete. Its obituary is being written by everyone from former Trump adviser Steve Bannon to Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban and journalists like Edward Luce and James Traub. Authoritarian China is ascendant. Free trade, the rule of law, freedom of movement and toleration are in trouble around the world. So has the cluster of ideas known as western liberalism had its day?
Liberalism has outlived its purposeShow moreShow less
Liberalism, or more accurately liberalism contains within it an inherent contraindication. It claims to care about human rights, equality, and democracy, yet gives power to a select few. Capitalism and democracy while at first seeming to be compatible, are in fact anything but. Capitalism is based in hierarchy while democracy is based in horizontalism.
Capitalism is at the heart of liberalism. The private control of property allows for some to have far more interest over economic institutions then other members of the same society. While the myths liberalism circulates attributes such wealth as earned, social mobility in liberal democracies has continued to decline. Income inequality is a direct result of such undue influence as those at the top of liberal society become uncountable to those below them. As a result the owners of capital have no interest in spreading the wealth of society to those bellow them.
This contraindication can also be seen within liberal governments. Representative democracies are forced to balance both popular policies and moneyed interests. An elected representative must balance the people who they are supposed to represent with the interests of those who have the power to keep them in office. Fundamentally the undue influence of elected officials relates to them not actually being the voices of a democratic assembly. Rather liberal governments teach their citizens to outsource the act of governing to specialists and become unable to organize themselves.
Liberalism seems to be coming to an end. The contradictions within such societies becoming more and more explicit by the day. However this will not necessarily lead to a more egalitarian society, rather those with control over liberal society may continue to possess undue influence after its fall.