Just before the G2 Summit, Putin gave an interview to the Financial Times, where he said liberalism is "obsolete." That liberal ideals conflict with the interests of most people. Naturally, he got a fiery response from many in the West, but how much truth is there to what he said? He may not be right on many issues, but there is a lot of truth to what he says on this matter.
Vladimir Putin said liberalism is "obsolete" in an interview he gave before he left for the G20 summit. He said liberal ideals conflict with the interests of most people. That's the central question of this debate. If he's correct, then surely, we should discard liberalism, as governments are duty bound to deliver the will of the majority, not minorities.
EU President Donald Tusk lashed out at Mr Putin's comments, telling reporters he "strongly disagreed" with Mr Putin's sentiments on liberalism. He said, "Whoever claims that liberal democracy is obsolete also claims that freedoms are obsolete, that the rule of law is obsolete and that human rights are obsolete." David Miliband ex UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from 2007 to 2010 and now chief executive of the International Rescue Committee, said in a BBC radio interview, in response to Mr Putin's statement that "liberalism is about protecting the rights of individuals." Liberalism is not about protecting the rights of individuals, it's about infringing those rights through stealth. Liberal changes (political and economic) are not introduced through consensus but slipped through the back door, thereby weakening democracy, infringing our freedoms and ignoring the rule of law.
As a British citizen, I often hear that we are "a tolerant and understanding society." Who decided that? On what basis are we more tolerant and understanding than citizens of other countries. What process have we been through which others have not? These are just words, used by so-called liberals to "sell" concepts which are culturally, morally or nationally unacceptable to the populace. In his recent interview, Putin said, "Liberals cannot simply dictate anything to anyone." Unfortunately, they do, and it's this approach which is eating away, at the cultural, and moral fibre of nations. Why does Britain have strong anti-discrimination laws, if we are a "tolerant, understanding society?" Because we are no different from any other nation, who have liberal ideas foisted upon them and have difficulty in reconciling previous "norms" with this "new order."
Mr Putin said Russia had "no problems with LGBT persons… but some things do appear excessive to us. They claim now that children can play five or six gender roles. Let everyone be happy, we have no problem with that. But this must not be allowed to overshadow the culture, traditions and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population." Are Russians any different to Brits or Americans in this regard? Political correctness forces the majority into silence and acceptance. In plain language, changes are introduced through stealth, and the majority coerced into accepting them through the need to be "politically correct."
One can afford to be liberal when the impacts of one's ideas have little or no negative impact on oneself, or one directly benefits from them. Unfortunately, for the majority, they generally have very little padding (financially or socially,) so change invariably affects them. Therefore changes need to be introduced cautiously and with a full understanding of its impact, and acceptance by the majority. Liberalism, by definition, is more fringe than centre, so it serves minorities, not majorities. Therefore, liberal changes seldom serve the needs of the majority, but rather self-interests. This applies equally to political and economic liberalism.
Globalisation and liberalism.
Globalisation and liberalism are two concepts central to the wealthy elite’s strategy to optimise wealth, but which are harmful to the rest of us. Globalisation and liberalism are catchy phrases which strike a chord with modern society. We want to think of ourselves as global - interconnected and open-minded - liberal thinkers. We warm to terms like globalisation - it sounds good. Interconnected global trade and cooperation, compared to national self-interest, which sounds backward and inward-looking, nothing to do with modern, forward thinking. The same applies to liberalism. We would rather be called liberal than narrow-minded, as liberalism implies mental agility, an ability to appreciate multiple ideas. To accept different ideas.
Free market economics has another name it's called "neoliberalism" - new liberalism and it plays a central part in globalisation. What they want is for the government to liberate business, take away restrictive laws and allow business to operate freely from government intervention. In reality, what they want is for governments to take away restrictive laws, allowing them to produce and trade anywhere in the world, but retain all the other restrictive laws which protect their wealth. In fact, with increased power and influence, they demand greater protection for their wealth and lower taxes. This is not liberal thinking but devious manipulation.
This neoliberalism is the foundation of globalisation. Globalisation has none of the glamour or glitz one may associate with an interconnected, and cooperative world. It results in winners and losers for national economies. The only real long-term winners are the wealthy one per cent, who use global resources to produce low and sell high, thus optimising their profits, while dodging national taxes, by locating head offices in tax havens. Nothing glamorous about that. How many people in developed economies are suffering from austerity, while the rich grow richer in leaps and bounds?
We need to be clear on the importance and value of nationalism and weary of liberalism for reasons explained below.
I want to draw an analogy between a family and government because, we often expect the government to act differently to how we behave towards our family, and yet, the responsibilities are similar. A family, like the government, has limited funds. Your priority as the family head is to ensure you look after family members with these limited funds. Should your funds extend beyond family needs, then you may help wider family and friends. The greater your funds, the further you may spread your generosity. As the family head, it would be unlikely that you would take in people off the street and look after them if such an act would adversely affect your ability to meet family needs - their food, housing, clothing, health, education needs, etc.
However, some people support borderless societies and call for governments to open their borders and take in new immigrants. However, that's not what they do in their own life. They place the interests of their own family first, and rightly so. Why then call on the government to act differently? A government has the same responsibilities to look after its citizens first. If by taking in new immigrants its funds are stretched, this adversely affects the quality-of-life for its citizens. Family and national interests must always come first. This is a basic human instinct to protect one's own. It's an instinct we should project through our governments. "Putting America first", or "Making America great" are not slogans Americans should cringe from, which many do. They think it's a backward, inward-looking approach - what nonsense. Nationalism is not just about restricting immigration, but also about nurturing and protecting national business interests, mainly manufacturing and citizens quality-of-life.
Despite the innate instinct to protect one's own, "liberal" ideas abound. It's possible to be liberal minded when one is isolated from the effects of one's liberal ideas. For example, supporting a borderless society when one is isolated from its negative effects. If the influx of migrants over-stretches infrastructure, causing withdrawal, reduction or failure of services, and one has the financial resources to protect oneself from these consequences, then one can afford to be liberal minded. If on the other hand, they affect one directly or one's family, and harshly, then one won't be liberal-minded about the effects.
Therefore, liberal ideas must be tempered not by the impact such decision have on one personally, but its impact on the average citizen - national interest. It's often difficult to stand in other's shoes, particularly if you are not well acquainted with their life, or lifestyle. For an affluent person to imagine the lifestyle of the average person, and what the impacts their liberal ideas may have on them would be difficult to appreciate. For liberal-minded individuals, a "unified Europe" where we are all "true Europeans" may appear to be something to work towards. However, there is a massive disparity between nations wealth and the quality-of-life within Europe. To be a unified, equal Europe, requires that all share the same quality-of-life. The burden in achieving this upliftment will be carried by the affluent nations for decades to come until some parity exists. However, it won't be the rich from the affluent society who feel the pinch, in fact, they may benefit, but rather the average person. It won't be so much that the average citizen from poorer nations will see massive improvements in their quality-of-life, but a lowering of affluent societies average citizens quality-of-life, to meet in the middle. Only the rich, shielded from these changes will enjoy the benefits. Why should affluent nations citizens (who are not affluent) bear this burden? Are you prepared to drop your family's standards while you help your neighbours improve theirs? So, why expect it of governments? Brexit was a cry from the average person to protect their interests.
Given the effects which free markets, globalisation and liberalism is having on national interests (globally,) it is understandable so-called "popularism" is on the rise. Popularism is the manifestation of populace discontent with government direction - ignoring national interests, and stripping nations of their wealth-creation potential. This has led to the lowering of quality-of-life for the majority in developed economies.
We see a populace backlash through Brexit and the election of President Trump, together with the rise of populist parties through Europe. Economists and political observers make comments like, "Italy is a wake-up call that populism is alive and well. There was a big wave of optimism after the French election, but the truth is that the problem definitely hasn't gone away." Similar language to this is used glibly by people of the same ilk, referring to nationalism and popularism as "the problem." However, had they applied only the smallest shred of logic to their thought process, they should have seen that free markets, globalisation and liberalism are the cause of our problems, because, that's the strategy we've been following for the past four decades. Why on earth would we want to return to what is creating our problems? The populace is right in calling for a change to a system that does not serve their needs. Nationalism and protectionism are how the average citizen can protect their quality-of-life from the avarice of Big Business and vested interests. Through the strategies of free markets, globalisation and liberalism, we have seen wages stagnate, manufacturing infrastructure stripped from developed economies, and infrastructure stretched beyond breaking point. It can't be a return to a strategy that's hurting the average citizen, as misinformed and misguided political leaders (and political commentators) are calling for.
Putin isn't right on many things, but on liberalism he is.
Copyright © Adrian Mark Dore 2019.