Rawls and the New Whigs 2: the failures of the Right

Why has our world gone so disastrously wrong? Is their a way forward? Today we look at the failures of the right wing project

In 1991 the Right had the game of History in its hands. All the nostrums of the Left-Marxism, collectivism, socialism-were smashed by the failure of the Soviet Union. The Right’s notions of individual Liberty, the supremacy of the market, had not only triumphed, but seemed to constitute an irresistible force in human affairs. Human society, under the tutelage of a hegemonic United States, would move toward ever greater freedom and prosperity. The Right were the true inheritors of the Enlightenment, and the rest would follow. Yet within twenty years this position had been irredeemably squandered. How did this happen?

To look for an answer one need go no further than the right-wing belief sphere of websites, chat rooms, TV studios and newspapers. Where the word “Liberal” is flung around as the greatest imaginable form of insult, a form of intellectual and moral treason. They forget their greatest icons-Smith, Hayek, Thatcher- were proudly self-proclaimed Liberals, anxious wherever possible to reduce constraints on human freedom, in the name of ever wider, ever more efficient markets. This intellectual confusion masked a terrible truth. The Right was always divided into two latently hostile tribes-the Free Marketeers and the Ethnic Nationalists, In the 1990s the flow of money could temporarily bridge this chasm. But the massively growing inequalities and the massive flows of migration, inherent features of a market system, steadily antagonised the nationalists. The whole edifice fell in in the crisis of 2007-8, and the Ethnic Nationalists, bewildered and afraid, rose in angry rebellion. They have been rising ever since. Everywhere.

Populism attempts to retain the loyalty of these ethnic nationalists to a system which has brought them to the brink of ruin. Yet its attempts to relentlessly address the consequences of economic failure, while studiously avoiding any discussion of the causes, results in disastrous outcomes of which Trump and Brexit are only the most egregious examples.  No true Free Market can long survive the election of an undemocratic government, where no one’s property is safe from the President’s greed. The Free Marketeers know this; but wince in fear of the conclusion.

The Left’s traditional answers, socialism and collectivism, have been discredited, as we will see . Yet the problems we face-climate change, pandemics, growing totalitarianism- are both overwhelmingly vast and urgent. A naïve, almost undergraduate, faith that free markets will wash away all problems betrays the same intellectual inadequacies as cavalry generals faced with tanks. We believe that freedom is not just a pleasant licence but is actually the optimal economic and intellectual outcome. It can  survive, and even prosper, as we shall see in later parts of this series.

In the next part-The failures of Communism and The Left


#hayek #adam smith #margaret thatcher #free markets #inequality #donald trump #brexit

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s