Author Topic: How to save Liberal Democracy?  (Read 1427 times)

crazy canuck

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Re: How to save Liberal Democracy?
« Reply #45 on: July 14, 2018, 11:48:17 pm »
You seem to imply that the two kinds of democracy or either populism or rule by technocrat.  I find both those alternatives wanting, which is really what drew me into this book. 

I am not implying that there are two types, but rather, that populism and technocracy are the extreme forms of a constitutive tension in liberal democracies between egalitarianism and hierarchical organization, the ancient fears of "mob rule" and "plutocracy", "crowd politics" and "rule of the enlightened experts". This was the tension brilliantly exposed by Yes, Minister.

Issues are typically traversed by this tension. For instance, it's quite rare that we want to politicize the inner workings of urban sewage system - we are usually quite happy with leaving that matter to experts, up until the point where technocratic solutions reveal themselves to having been quite permeable to experts helpfully supplied by lobbyists, "old boys clubs", quite willing to paper over, or ignore, real suffering, industrial poisoning, etc. Conversely things that concern the Common Good (however unstable the definition may be) being removed to the much more opaque purview of the administrative state can lead to real concerns about its accountability.

I am not sure I have a clear solution either. But what seems to me to be quite pressing, is to articulate forcefully what the value of democracy is, which can't be done without a vision of what the Common Good ought to be, and what the future ought to bring. The fact that we will, of course, never fully agree on it, should not disqualify its political existence: i.e., to begin with the idea that the Common Good does not exist actually robs democracy of its purpose and only makes it a factional struggle for control. Cynics may say it never was more than that, but I think this may be one of those self-fulfilling prophecies: treat it as an amoral struggle, and suddenly, every dirty action becomes not simply permitted, but encouraged in order to win.

We are in agreement.  Regarding your last point, I think we started going badly off the rails once the "End of History" and the victory of liberal democracy was proclaimed.  From that point on we stopped considering what made liberal democracy work - why bother, it had won. There was nothing that could take its place.

This ties in nicely with the point Jacob makes (thank you for the clarification Jacob).   Politicians and the business elite began to dismantle the institutions of liberal democracy.  With no competitor the costs were not seen to be justified any longer.   And now we are here, in a world where a right wing US demagogue can dismantle what took generations to build.

And if we really want to depress eachother, if someone as thoughtful as you has no clear idea of the solution - who does.  :)
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dps

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Re: How to save Liberal Democracy?
« Reply #46 on: July 15, 2018, 01:09:27 am »

Populism is not a disease of democracy. It's part of it. This is where Mounk's book fails, IMO, because the author wants to cling to the idea that populism is morally bad, without examining its fundamental role in the making of democracy itself. 


Thank you Oex.  That's kind of what I've been trying to say.  I don't necessarily agree with all the rest of your analysis, but IMO this part is right on point.

The Brain

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Re: How to save Liberal Democracy?
« Reply #47 on: July 15, 2018, 11:41:11 am »
Quote from: Harvard University Press
Mounk identifies three key drivers of votersí discontent: stagnating living standards, fear of multiethnic democracy, and the rise of social media.

So it's not relative wealth or income, but actual living standards. The positive thing if it's fear of multiethnic democracy is that at least it's not fear of multiethnicity itself. Social media cannot be shut down in a liberal democracy so we'll just have to live with that one.
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Razgovory

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Re: How to save Liberal Democracy?
« Reply #48 on: July 15, 2018, 01:05:52 pm »
@ Jacob, imo leftist populism is just as bad as the right wing populist.  Both provide simplistic answers and both can easily veer into autocracy as their simple answers don't solve the problem.

Populism is not a disease of democracy. It's part of it. This is where Mounk's book fails, IMO, because the author wants to cling to the idea that populism is morally bad, without examining its fundamental role in the making of democracy itself.   The whole system is set up to contain precisely what it unleashes - that is, egalitarian impulses in a society that would still enshrine pretty significant hierarchies. It has historically served as "corrective" when those hierarchies became more rigid, but also -- according to circumstances -- more brittle.

Sure, we can decry populism's simplistic answers to complex problems. But it is usually an answer to those "complex solutions" that have a habit of being leisurely discussed by people who are often quite shielded from any consequences of their decisions. What populism usually attempts to do, is cast the problem back in moral and, essentially, political terms (which emphasizes decision, and responsibility) - as opposed to technical, expert terms (which usually emphasize constraints and depersonalization). This is why any attempt to undermine populism with more technocratic arguments will fail: it's just more fodder for those who attack it. 

So, we can certainly denounce left wing populism and right wing populism as "equally bad", as a mode of argument. But right-wing populism will not fade away with self-satisfied technocratic argument. As a moral system, it needs to be fought back on moral terms, and we need to either figure out a way to "moralize" the sort of technocratic form of liberalism we have collectively created in the last 30 years or find counter-discourse. I am not optimistic about the former: much of the promises of economic redistribution sans State authority now ring hollow, and so much of economic discourse has emphasized powerlessness of the political towards economic authority. The answer, as far as I can see, from the technocratic left, has been to emphasize historical achievements of liberalism - especially in relations to legal rights. It may be convincing, but doesn't really address the future (and is utterly meaningless when opposed to people who decry the extension of those rights in the first place).

This is why left-wing populism is not "equally bad" for me: as a moral system emphasizing the equal dignity of all, it still rings vastly superior to right-wing nativism. At this point, we are quite far from advocating for the gulag - when that time comes, I'll join the right-wing populists in advocating for the beauty of traditions...


So what does this good left-wing populism look like?
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Jacob

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Re: How to save Liberal Democracy?
« Reply #49 on: July 15, 2018, 01:14:42 pm »
So what does this good left-wing populism look like?

Do you mean good in the sense of laudable? In that case, I think Oex already outlined the answer - good left-wing populism is centred on the notion of equal dignity for all - workers rights, women's right to vote, desegregation et. al. are all examples of morally laudable left populist issues, IMO.

If by good you mean "effective today", then that's more of an open question these days I'm afraid...

Razgovory

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Re: How to save Liberal Democracy?
« Reply #50 on: July 15, 2018, 01:26:14 pm »
Actually, I'm kinda wanting see examples.  The most positive I can think of is Syriza in Greece, but that's far from good.  The worst example I can think of is Chavez in Venezuela.
I've given it serious thought. I must scorn the ways of my family, and seek a Japanese woman to yield me my progeny. He shall live in the lands of the east, and be well tutored in his sacred trust to weave the best traditions of Japan and the Sacred South together, until such time as he (or, indeed his house, which will periodically require infusion of both Southern and Japanese bloodlines of note) can deliver to the South it's independence, either in this world or in space.  -Lettow April of 2011

"I love how Raz just becomes the caricature for exactly what he is claiming doesn't actually exist...and he doesn't even know it! He is 100% oblivious to the irony of his own statements." - Berkut telling a lie.

Raz is right. -MadImmortalMan March of 2017

Jacob

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Re: How to save Liberal Democracy?
« Reply #51 on: July 15, 2018, 01:42:51 pm »
Actually, I'm kinda wanting see examples.  The most positive I can think of is Syriza in Greece, but that's far from good.  The worst example I can think of is Chavez in Venezuela.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2018, 01:44:59 pm by Jacob »

The Brain

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Re: How to save Liberal Democracy?
« Reply #52 on: July 15, 2018, 02:48:29 pm »
Sweden has had strong left-wing populism for decades, and a "right-wing" populist party threatens to become the biggest party in the September elections. I think the answer lies elsewhere.
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Oexmelin

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Re: How to save Liberal Democracy?
« Reply #53 on: July 15, 2018, 02:58:14 pm »
What answer?
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The Brain

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Re: How to save Liberal Democracy?
« Reply #54 on: July 15, 2018, 03:02:24 pm »
What answer?

How to fight right-wing populism.
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Tamas

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Re: How to save Liberal Democracy?
« Reply #55 on: July 15, 2018, 03:08:23 pm »
Quote
left-wing populism is centred on the notion of equal dignity for all - workers rights, women's right to vote, desegregation et. al. are all examples of morally laudable left populist issues, IMO.

Ok so those should be liberal ideas except for the workers rights part where they go overboard and suffocate the economy, like France.

But my main point is, these don't seem to be populist left ideas to me. Not in the last 15-20 years at least (workers' rights excepted). In fact, pushing the boundaries on equality is precisely what seem to have alienated the working class from the left.

I do agree that leftist populism is a possible, albeit very dangerous antidote to losing to the far right. However, it will have to be on the same avenue where the left has always won - economic benefits to the "plebs", simple enough ones so it will register next to and instead of "immigrants are taking your jobs and robbing you blind and they have a different skin colour, plus gays are yuk".

Let's hope we are not at the point where this is the only alternative though.

Razgovory

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Re: How to save Liberal Democracy?
« Reply #56 on: July 15, 2018, 03:08:43 pm »
Actually, I'm kinda wanting see examples.  The most positive I can think of is Syriza in Greece, but that's far from good.  The worst example I can think of is Chavez in Venezuela.


What makes these "populist"?
I've given it serious thought. I must scorn the ways of my family, and seek a Japanese woman to yield me my progeny. He shall live in the lands of the east, and be well tutored in his sacred trust to weave the best traditions of Japan and the Sacred South together, until such time as he (or, indeed his house, which will periodically require infusion of both Southern and Japanese bloodlines of note) can deliver to the South it's independence, either in this world or in space.  -Lettow April of 2011

"I love how Raz just becomes the caricature for exactly what he is claiming doesn't actually exist...and he doesn't even know it! He is 100% oblivious to the irony of his own statements." - Berkut telling a lie.

Raz is right. -MadImmortalMan March of 2017

Tamas

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Re: How to save Liberal Democracy?
« Reply #57 on: July 15, 2018, 03:11:53 pm »
Sweden has had strong left-wing populism for decades, and a "right-wing" populist party threatens to become the biggest party in the September elections. I think the answer lies elsewhere.

Do you think that is related to migration?

Maybe the liberals got too far ahead of the median mass of people's opinion, and not putting artificial stops to multi-cultural mixing was a mistake.

Then again of course, that whole migration and multiculturalism topic is giving the decisive support to the fascist government in Hungary, and the country has no measurable sized immigration from different cultures.

I don't know, maybe we are just fucked.

The Brain

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Re: How to save Liberal Democracy?
« Reply #58 on: July 15, 2018, 03:25:58 pm »
Sweden has had strong left-wing populism for decades, and a "right-wing" populist party threatens to become the biggest party in the September elections. I think the answer lies elsewhere.

Do you think that is related to migration?

Maybe the liberals got too far ahead of the median mass of people's opinion, and not putting artificial stops to multi-cultural mixing was a mistake.

Then again of course, that whole migration and multiculturalism topic is giving the decisive support to the fascist government in Hungary, and the country has no measurable sized immigration from different cultures.

I don't know, maybe we are just fucked.

My impression is that the established parties handled immigration in a way that made room for a new voice in Swedish politics. Whether there would be a similar movement under some other banner if immigration wasn't a big issue in Sweden I do not know. 
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Jacob

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Re: How to save Liberal Democracy?
« Reply #59 on: July 15, 2018, 04:05:52 pm »
What makes these "populist"?

Each one of them only got enshrined in law and regulation after long campaigns mobilizing people en masse.