Blame the identity apostles – they led us down this path to populism

With its over-defensive advocacy of minorities, the left has jeopardised half a century of liberalism

I have no tribe. I have no comfort blanket, no default button that enables me to join the prevailing hysteria and cry in unison, “Of course, it’s all the fault of X.” Meanwhile we everywhere see the familiar landscape clouding over. There are new partings of the ways, disoriented soldiers wandering the battlefield, licking wounds. The liberal centre cannot hold. It cries with Yeats, “What rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

I confess I find all this somehow exhilarating. Cliches of left and right have lost all meaning, and institutions their certainty. Even in France and Italy, European union is falling from grace. A rightwing US president wins an election by appealing to the left. In Britain, Ukip can plausibly claim to be supplanting Labour. A Tory prime minister attacks capitalism, while Labour supports Trident. Small wonder Castro gave up and died.

Conventional wisdom holds that it is the “centre left” that has lost the plot. The howls that greeted Brexit, Donald Trump and Europe’s new right are those of liberals tossed from the moral high ground they thought they owned. Worse, their evictors were not the familiar bogeys of wealth and privilege, but an oppressed underclass that had the effrontery to refer to a “liberal establishment elite”.

Paul Krugman, field-marshal of an American left, stood last week on his battered tank, the New York Times, and wailed of Trump’s voters: “I don’t fully understand this resentment.” Why don’t the poor blame the conservatives? He had to assume the answer lay in the new Great Explanation, the politics of “identity liberalism”. He is right. It is 20 years since the philosopher Richard Rorty predicted that a Trump-like “strong man” would emerge to express how “badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates”.

This prediction has now gone viral. Likewise, the historian Arthur Schlesinger warned that a rising campus intolerance, of “offence crimes” and “political correctness”, would endanger America’s national glue, its collective liberal consciousness.

The latest guru on the “what Trump means” circuit is the US political psychologist Jonathan Haidt. Conversing with Nick Clegg at an Intelligence Squared event in London last week, he was asked over and again the Krugman question: “Why did poor people vote rightwing?” The answer was simple. There is no longer a “right wing”, or a left. There are nations and there are tribes within nations, both growing ever more assertive.

Lees deze column van Simon Jenkins verder op The Guardian

The closing of the liberal mind

ll that seemed solid in liberalism is melting into air. In Europe the EU struggled for over seven years to reach a trade deal with Canada, one of the most “European” countries in the world; at the same time, banking crises are festering in Italy and Germany and the continuing migrant crisis continues to strengthen far-right parties. In Britain Jeremy Corbyn’s strengthened hold over Labour following an ill-considered attempt to unseat him has reinforced a transformation in the party that reaches well beyond his position as leader. At a global level, Vladimir Putin is redrawing the geopolitical map with his escalating intervention in Syria, while the chief threat to the repressive regime Xi Jinping is building in China appears to be a neo-Maoist movement that harks back to one of the worst tyrannies in history. A liberal order that seemed to be spreading across the globe after the end of the Cold War is fading from memory.

Faced with this shift, liberal opinion-formers have oscillated between insistent denial and apocalyptic foreboding. Though the EU is barely capable of any action, raddled remnants of the old regime – Ed Miliband, Clegg, Mandelson, “the master” himself – have surfaced to demand that Brexit be fudged and, in effect, reversed. Even as the US election hangs in the balance, many are clinging to the belief that a liberal status quo can be restored. But Trump’s presidential campaign has already demolished a bipartisan consensus on free trade, and if he wins, a party system to which his Republican opponents and Hillary Clinton both belonged will be history. Dreading this outcome and suspecting it may yet come to pass, liberals rail against voters who reject their enlightened leadership. Suddenly, the folly of the masses has replaced the wisdom of crowds as the dominant theme in polite discourse. Few ask what in the ruling liberalism could produce such a debacle.

The liberal pageant is fading, yet liberals find it hard to get by without believing they are on what they like to think is the right side of history. The trouble is that they can only envision the future as a continuation of the recent past. This is so whether their liberalism comes from the right or the left. Whether they are George Osborne’s City-based “liberal mainstream”, or Thatcherite think tanks, baffled and seething because Brexit hasn’t taken us closer to a free-market utopia, or egalitarian social democrats who favour redistribution or “predistribution”, an entire generation is finding its view of the world melting away under the impact of events.

Today’s liberals differ widely about how the wealth and opportunities of a market economy should be shared. What none of them question is the type of market globalisation that has developed over the past three decades. Writing in Tribune in 1943 after reviewing a batch of “progressive” books, George Orwell observed: “I was struck by the automatic way in which people go on repeating certain phrases that were fashionable before 1914. Two great favourites are ‘the abolition of distance’ and ‘the disappearance of frontiers’.” More than 70 years later, the same empty formulae are again being repeated. At present, the liberal mind can function only to the extent that it shuts out reality.

It is not surprising that there is talk of ­entering a post-liberal moment.

Lees dit essay van John Gray verder op de New Statesman

Wij kapitalisten houden van mensen

Niet het kapitalisme heeft de groeiende ongelijkheid en de crisis veroorzaakt, zegt Yaron Brook, maar de bedilzieke overheid. ‘We kunnen niet omgaan met het succes van het kapitalisme en daarom zijn we ons eigen succes gaan tegenwerken.’

Hij voelt zich meer thuis bij de demonstraties van de Tea Party dan bij die van Occupy. Toch leest Yaron Brook een boek van iemand die de ‘nieuwe Marx’ wordt genoemd. Tijdens zijn vlucht naar Nederland heeft hij uren zitten lezen in ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’. In deze onwaarschijnlijke bestseller – inspiratiebron voor linkse leiders en opiniemakers over de hele wereld – zet de Franse econoom Thomas Piketty uiteen waarom ongelijkheid is toegenomen. Hij pleit voor een vermogensbelasting van 80 procent voor de superrijken.

In de lobby van een hotel aan de Amsterdamse Prinsengracht laat Brook zien dat zijn gevoel voor ironie het niet heeft afgelegd tegen de jetlag: “Je ziet wat voor offers ik breng voor de goede zaak.” Want als er iemand is die altijd klaarstaat om erop te wijzen dat je louter voor jezelf leeft en geen enkele verplichting hebt aan anderen, is het wel de directeur van het Ayn Rand Institute, dat vergaande individuele autonomie bepleit. De Amerikaan gruwelt dan ook van de pogingen om ongelijkheid te bestrijden; die ziet hij als een aanval op onze vrijheid. In zijn boeken en presentaties neemt Brook het op voor het kapitalisme.

Uw pleidooi lijkt een typisch geval van slechte timing. Groeiende ongelijkheid wordt gezien als een gevolg van het kapitalisme.
“De huidige toename in ongelijkheid is net zo goed een gevolg van overheidsbeleid. Neem de beslissing om de banken te redden en de rijken vrij te stellen. Of neem de beslissing om de rentevoet rond nul procent te brengen. Wie heeft daar baat bij? Niet de gewone mensen die een beetje proberen te sparen. Een lage rente helpt de rijken op de aandelenbeurs, de investeerders in riskante ondernemingen en de banken op Wall Street. Zulk beleid leidt tot meer ongelijkheid.”

Lees dit interview door Marco Visser verder op Trouw