February 23, 2019

Welcome to the Post-Liberal Order

“From the voting booths of Brazil, where the far-right Jair Bolsonaro was recently elected, to the boulevards of Paris, where throngs of protesters smashed windows, overturned cars, and set fires this past weekend, fury against the parties, politicians, and ideas that have reigned supreme for the past generation is spreading across the Western world and gathering intensity along the way.

The target of this ire is “the establishment” — and the establishment is, broadly speaking, liberal. It favors the free movement of money and people, and believes these policies will generate economic growth sufficient both to give people hope for the future and to pay for social services generous enough to help those struggling to keep up. That was the deal: Elect liberals of the center-left or center-right, and they will manage the economy and the welfare state, technocratically tweaking it a little this way and that, raising or cutting taxes a little here and a little there, while for the most part getting out of the way so that the market can perform its magic, enriching us all over time.

It didn’t work. In country after country, the policies embraced by the liberal establishment produced aggregate growth but benefits that were enjoyed only by some — namely, by the relatively well-educated residents of major cities and their surrounding suburbs, very much including the major cities where each country’s political and economic elites live and work. Elsewhere, people have struggled to keep up or fallen badly behind.”

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