Friday, December 30, 2016

The Bad Seed

I knew all along that no good would come from promiscuously allowing them into the E.U. and then NATO. 2016 has shown the price to be paid.

Like the rise of Soviet communism and both World Wars, the Western liberal order’s apparent collapse in 2016 could turn out to be yet another historic upheaval that began in Eastern Europe. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s brand of “illiberal democracy” was quickly adopted by Poland’s de facto ruler, Jarosław Kaczyński, and is now making inroads in the heart of the West—first with the United Kingdom’s “Brexit” referendum, and then with Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s nascent democracy has already given way to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s strongman rule, and the Philippines is now led by a populist authoritarian, Rodrigo Duterte. As we head into 2017, something is clearly rotten in the state of democracy.

...Illiberal democracy subverts the idea—held by European social democrats and American democrats since the Civil Rights era—that working-class and minority voters should forge a progressive alliance to counter conservatives. Intellectually, such a “stronger together” alliance makes sense; but it has three major flaws that Orbán and Kaczyński have exploited.

First, the economic interests of white (or native) working-class voters and those of minorities are often not aligned, because they are competing with one another for jobs and social benefits. This is especially true when slow growth turns the division of the economic pie into a zero-sum game. When funds are limited, should the Hungarian government spend money on educating Roma children, or on retraining displaced ethnic Hungarian workers?

Second, working-class voters often adhere to traditional conservative values. While a farmer in Eastern Poland or a factory worker in Michigan might be persuaded to support gay rights or women’s empowerment in exchange for economic redistribution, working-class voters have not supported such causes in large numbers.

Illiberal democracy is effective because it disentangles desired goods from unwanted add-ons, which is the essence of modern business innovation. Just as Airbnb allows us to find lodging without unnecessary hotel frills, illiberal democrats offer working-class voters economic help with no civil-rights strings attached.

Third, in many electorates, members of a social majority seem to value vilification of minorities as an intrinsic good, irrespective of wealth transfers. And as Yale University’s Amy Chua and others have shown, targeting minorities can be a highly effective tool for political mobilization.

...Like many successful products, illiberal democracy offers voters a fundamentally straightforward value proposition. Contrary to progressive agendas, the illiberal message is easy to understand, not only because it is often mendaciously simple, but also because its two target groups’ conservative cultural values inherently align.

Moreover, illiberal democracy can ignore issues that it considers as a non-essential, such as human rights and the rule of law: its only imperative is to satisfy its customers. More surprisingly, illiberal democrats also do not seem to be overly concerned about economic growth. Hungary had a relatively robust recovery after the 2008 recession, but its economy is now slowing; and in both Poland and post-Brexit UK, the high economic costs of illiberal democracy are already apparent. If Trump pursues his promised trade protectionism, he will likely push the entire world into recession.

...Those of us who have lived in Orbán and Kaczyński’s world understand that illiberal democracy is no temporary aberration. It has all the hallmarks of a carefully conceived, innovative political strategy that may prove to be sustainable. Indeed, in a few decades, we might look back and wonder how liberal democracy, with all its complexities and internal tensions, managed to hold on for so long—unless, that is, progressives treat 2016 as a wake-up call, and finally start to innovate, too.


Anonymous said...

The problem with liberal democracy is that liberal politicians began representing looting Robber Barons while leaving the people to rot.

Over the past 40-year neoliberal era the size of the economy has more than doubled. That should mean that people have twice the real income and twice the real wealth than they had 40 years ago. Instead they have considerably less while real incomes are falling and they are drowning in personal and government debt.

The reason this neoliberal pseudo-democracy is failing is because it's based on corruption and lies and politicians oblivious to all the destruction they've wrought.

Take a look at Trudeau Jr. His government announced today he is trying to forge a free-trade deal with China. Like Obama and the Clintons, he doesn't have a clue.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @11:43 said...
Yep. Banksters supported by the corrupt plutocracy are the problem.
The illiberal democracy is a democracy West have now.
As I said before; Orban, Kaczynski (Erdogan too, but he has Kurdish issue to grapple with) are leading nationalistic governments putting interests of ordinary people first...

Gyor said...

The left is partly responsible for turning minorities and the working class majorities against each other.

The for the last decade has extremely demonized the white majorities in many countries, as well as demonizing the male gender with "privelge" none sense encouraging a future push back.

To fight back against illiberal democracy as you call it, the left has to tone down political correctness, it has to stop demonizing men and whites, it has to stop supporting corrupt dingle berries like Hillary Clinton, and it has to go back to focusing on equality, universality, brotherhood/sisterhood, and reject intersectionality and man hating institutional feminism (but not women rights), and stops treating working class men and whites as the enemy.

Remember the vast majority of minorities are working class too.

Also the current economic system needs to be transformed thanks to technological changes, such automation.

Anonymous said...

"The left is partly responsible for turning minorities and the working class majorities against each other."
Ha! On Purpose?

The Mound of Sound said...

Anon 11:43 - how unspeakably disingenuous of you to lay the blame on liberals, bad as they are, while ignoring entirely the greater sinners, Conservatives and Republicans. That really guts your credibility.

The Mound of Sound said...

A..non, I beg to differ. Look at the levels of corruption in these new "populist" regimes. Those aren't governments "putting the needs of ordinary people first." Stripping the populace of basic constitutional protections that rein in government excess is hardly looking after them, except in the sense of organized crime. Then again, a certain German dictator did many wonderful things for his people - before he plunged them, and much of the world, into conflagration.

The Mound of Sound said...

Gyor, there is much in what you've written that's quite accurate, enough that it obscures where we differ. Thanks.

The Mound of Sound said...

Happy New Year everybody. Thanks for your interest and comments this past year. Your contribution has been much appreciated.