Politics, recent

The Rise of the Ungovernables

2019 marks the thirtieth anniversary of Francis Fukuyama’s seminal essay for the National Interest “The End of History?” Its central hypothesis was that we were witnessing “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” That looked plausible in 1989, particularly when the Berlin Wall fell just months after the essay’s release. Thirty years later—not so much.   

To be fair to Fukuyama, he never suggested that the world had seen the end of geopolitical conflict or that democracies would experience no more of Macmillan’s “events.” Today, he continues to view liberal democracy as the best form of government, but he is less optimistic about its robustness. It’s hard to disagree with him. The Brexit chaos, the Trump presidency, the collapse of support for centrist parties across Europe, and the pervasive rise of populism and nationalism, all point to the growing fragility of liberal democracy. 

Why is this happening now? The usual response is to blame it all on the politicians. Leaders like Orban and Trump are subverting the institutions at the heart of liberal democracy. Political parties like Alternative für Deutschland and the National Rally are promoting illiberal and xenophobic policies. If only we had better leaders, democracy would flourish—so goes the argument.    

But bad politicians are hardly a novelty. Two thousand years ago, Cicero declared that “Politicians are not born: they are excreted.” Shakespeare’s Hamlet described a politician as “one who would circumvent God.” If we’ve always had bad politicians, then there must be other explanations for the current downward trajectory of liberal democracy. The four explanations most commonly proffered are greater competition from alternative political models, the increased complexity of modern democratic politics in a post-material world, the constraints on democratic states imposed by globalisation, and the emergence of a range of international threats like climate change and terrorism.         

But there is another explanation for liberal democracy’s troubles that is much less talked about and, in my view, more powerful—the fact that voters have become more difficult to govern.     

Many attribute that difficulty to voters protesting against the slings and arrows of economic stagnation or cultural dislocation. It is argued that voters are victims of everything from inequality and austerity to immigration and multiculturalism; that they are just responding to adversity. But something more fundamental is going on here. The nature of the voters themselves has changed.    

Obviously, in evolutionary terms human nature cannot change in a few decades. But attitudes and expectations can change rapidly, and this has happened in ways that have transformed democratic politics. Compared to voters in the decades following World War II, voters of the twenty-first century have an increased sense of entitlement, a higher regard for themselves and their opinions, and a less tolerant view of others. They are more demanding, more vitriolic and more thin-skinned. And it is not just millennials and Generation X. These changes apply to the baby boomer generation as well.   

I’m not saying that modern voters are poisonous egomaniacs. My point is simply that they are relatively more self-entitled, self-opinionated, intolerant, and prickly than earlier voters. And these relative changes have made it harder to govern them in a liberal democracy. What has caused these changes? A series of major developments throughout the last half century from the ascendancy of liberalism to the arrival of social media. Individually most of these developments have been very positive for modern society. Nevertheless, they have also brought about, indirectly and in different ways, changes in the attitudes and expectations, and therefore the behaviour, of voters.    

The first development was the ascendancy of liberalism with its focus on the autonomous individual and their rights. During the Cold War, the West trumpeted the superiority of liberal individualism over communist collectivism, a superiority that was vindicated with the collapse of the Soviet empire. However, in many democracies the hegemony of individualism has contributed to a decline in social capital and a loss of a sense of community. The self now rules supreme.

From the 1960s, liberalism sparked an explosion in the explicit recognition of human rights—from the traditional basic rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of worship to welfare rights such as the right to work, health, and an education, and on to a vast patchwork of more amorphous concepts such as the right “to take part in cultural life” and the right “to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications” (from the United Nations’ International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966). 

While the rights revolution has brought major benefits, one troubling byproduct has been the fostering of an entitlement mentality. This is partly attributable to the absence of any corresponding duties and obligations attached to the new-found rights. This is understandable given the oppression that the promotion of these rights was frequently directed at defeating, but it has not been without consequences.

The ascendency of liberalism was accompanied by the rise of consumerism. Mass production generated a boom in consumer goods and a corresponding boom in advertising to create demand for those goods. Citizens were bombarded with messages that they needed all these goods, that they wanted all these goods and, eventually, that they deserved all these goods. The latter is epitomised by the slogan for the cosmetics firm L’Oreal—“Because you’re worth it”. 

Today’s consumers are constantly told to buy because they’ve earned it, they deserve it, and they’re entitled to it. The good life is out there to be enjoyed by all and gratification should be instant rather than delayed. Not surprisingly, the path of consumerism through the decades has led inexorably to more entitled, narcissistic, and demanding consumers.       

The rise of consumerism went hand in hand with the advance of neoliberalism and the market. From the 1980s, Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” was taken by many as a justification for selfishness—everyone benefits from the butcher, the brewer, and the baker pursuing their own interests. Self-serving behaviour that might previously have been frowned upon could be justified as serving the greater good. For homo economicus, looking after number one is now both morally right and economically rational. 

In a market society, everything is a market transaction. Therefore, if someone wants something from you, they must offer you something in return. As Ayn Rand put it in Atlas Shrugged, there is no such thing as altruism. In addition, the need to succeed in the market means that individuals must self-promote and sell themselves. The rewards go to the assertive and the aggressive not the reticent and the modest.

During the same period that the market and neoliberalism have flourished, there has been a decline in traditional social norms and religion in most liberal democracies. These trends are clearly related. The valorising of traits like self-interest and self-promotion represents a shift from traditional values. It is also at odds with customary Christian teachings such as love thy neighbour as thyself and pride is a sin and modesty a virtue. 

The decline of religion in most liberal democracies has removed many of the constraints that previously applied to personal behaviour. America is the great exception. There, religion has held its own because it has proved much more adaptive (permissive?) than elsewhere, whether in terms of embracing the market ethos or accommodating the morals of President Trump.    

The erosion of traditional social norms has been hastened by elements of postmodernism and relativism—the idea that there is no objective truth or morality. Everyone’s views and feelings are equally valid. No one is “wrong.” Narcissists never doubted it.          

Closely aligned to both the decline of religion and traditional values and the rise of self-promotion has been the advance of what sociologist Frank Furedi calls “therapy culture”—the application of a therapeutic model to society and its problems. For some, this means focusing on the self and achieving happiness through self-actualisation or self-fulfilment. Integral to this is the nurturing of emotionalism and high self-esteem. The latter has become a goal in many sections of society. Every parent in recent decades knows that in sports teams and schools, every child gets a prize. The danger in a therapy culture, and in the indiscriminate promotion of self-esteem in particular, is that it encourages selfishness, narcissism, and an entitlement mentality.  Psychologists Jean Twenge and Joshua Foster have recorded a significant increase in narcissism in American college students over a 30 year period.

Furedi goes further and contends that the therapeutic imperative cultivates “a unique sense of vulnerability” and that the new social contract is “underwritten by the paternalistic assumption that the vulnerable subject needs the management and ‘support’ of officialdom and the state.”  The supply of that management and support has further entrenched entitlement. In the US context, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt describe encouraging vulnerability and learned helplessness as the “coddling of the American mind.”     

The most recent development that has contributed to changes in the attitudes and expectations of voters is the emergence of the internet and social media. This has coarsened private and public discourse. Most individuals are more comfortable being abusive when they can remain anonymous and many, even when identified, find it easier to insult someone when they don’t have to do it in person. Social media greatly facilitates both these forms of communication and has therefore opened the floodgates on personal invective and character assassination. As they have become more prevalent, they have also become more acceptable. Inevitably, this has flowed over into the offline world. Last century we witnessed the decline of deference. It is no longer declining—it has fallen off the cliff of social media. Admiration of expertise risks a similar trajectory as the Internet universalises knowledge while undermining truth. We’re all experts now. 

In addition to licensing vitriol, social media facilitates echo chambers where kindred souls can communicate in furious agreement, reinforcing each other’s opinions while ensuring that contrary views can be avoided. Confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance reign. All this breeds certainty, intolerance, and ignorance. These problems are exacerbated by the inevitable shallowness of so much social media. As Henry Kissinger has observed, “the digital world’s emphasis on speed inhibits reflection; its incentive empowers the radical over the thoughtful; its values are shaped by subgroup consensus, not by introspection.”

For many people, social media has created an “affirmation addiction”—a desperation to be liked, shared, retweeted, and followed. Combined with the growth of emotionalism under a therapy culture, this has led to a preference for feelings over facts and to a hypersensitivity to anything that challenges an individual’s identity or worldview.

When the collective impact of all these developments is considered, can anyone doubt that today’s voters are very different to those of 30 years ago when Fukuyama optimistically assessed the prospects for liberal democracy? For decades, the citizens of liberal democracies have received messages that they are worthy, esteemed, rational, and deserving, and that they should vigorously promote themselves and pursue their own interests. At the same time, many of the traditional social and moral constraints on their behaviour have fallen away. No one should be surprised that this has produced voters who are more demanding, more vitriolic, and more thin-skinned, and who have an increased sense of entitlement, a higher regard for their own opinions, and a less tolerant view of others. 

The implications for politics and governance are dire. Voters armed with a burgeoning sense of entitlement demand ever more services and benefits from their government. They react adversely to attempts to resist their demands. The higher the expectations of voters, the greater the sense of dissatisfaction when those expectations are not met. As the expectations gap grows, liberal democracy becomes more brittle. The current record levels of dissatisfaction, disengagement, and distrust in many liberal democracies are attributable more to the increasing expectations of high maintenance voters than to the unfortunate politicians trying to manage those expectations.

That management exercise is further aggravated by the increased polarisation that flows from self-regarding and self-opinionated voters. Convinced of the wisdom of their own ideas, such voters are less tolerant of compromise and less accepting when politicians seek the middle ground to resolve disputes.

As creatures of the market, modern voters are consumers first not citizens. They require something in return if a politician wants their vote. Accordingly, election campaigning is frequently marred by thinly disguised vote buying. The consequences of this for fiscal control are evident in budget deficits across the democratic world. Sadly, voters today would stare with either incredulity or confusion if any politician reprised John F. Kennedy’s “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

While more demanding of government on their own account, the self-regard of modern voters sometimes renders them less sympathetic towards others. Many are prone to what Professor Michael Sandel calls “meritocratic hubris”—the view that a person’s success is solely the result of their own efforts and a measure of their own virtue. That view enables them to rationalise an unwillingness both to pay tax and to support assistance for the less fortunate.

The affairs of state need long term planning. That conflicts with the short termism of voters groomed on instant gratification. A state also thrives on the application of appropriate expertise to policy making.  The self-opinionated, internet-educated voter presents a challenge to this approach. Try telling someone who has “researched” climate change on Reddit that they need to pay more for their electricity. 

Successful democratic politics requires informed citizens and something at least approaching an agreed set of facts on which a meaningful contestation of views can be based. Agreeing the facts among today’s voters is an increasingly problematic task. It is further complicated by the rise of feelings over facts as a measure for analysing issues.    

Thirty years ago, politicians took the pulse of the nation through meetings with voters and tracking “old media.” Now they stumble about in a shifting online world to distil what the voters want. In a virtual firestorm of demands and warnings, outrage and indignation, their priority is often survival rather than communication.

Liberal democratic politics have never been so difficult. So next time you’re complaining about how politicians are leading us astray and destroying the democratic process, remember the self-entitled, self-opinionated, demanding, and prickly voters they have to deal with.


Ross Stitt is a lawyer and freelance writer.  He has a doctorate in political science from the University of Sydney. You can follow him on Twitter @ross_stitt


  1. Doug Deeper says

    Could there possibly be another explanation? “Old liberalism” of the 1960s was long ago defeated by postmodernism, ID politics, and neo-Marxism. The left simply has a stranglehold on the means of propaganda and the narrative of our culture. From the font that is our universities has come an ideology that has degraded God (or anything beyond “Mark Zuckerberg intelligence” and AI), the nuclear family, traditional marriage, the desire for children (now allowing the murder of newborns), romantic love between biological men and women, clear gender identification (gender exploration encouraged at toddler age), a sovereign nation with borders, pride in what Western civilization has created, civility (much less manners), free speech, and free assembly (that is free of the Heckler’s veto and de-platforming). All of this is clear to all brave enough to see beyond the matrix. Thus you have the rise of the common people who are voting for a semblance of recognition of the human condition and human needs, and a return to, dare I say, common sense. Of course the elites use the now pejorative term “populism,” and blame Trump. But he did not create this environment we live in that has resulted in the tragic rise of depression, anxiety and suicide among the young who have never breathed the fresh air of a more wholesome and constructive environment.

    So if the author finds voters to be less controllable, I say, thank God, it is about time. Perhaps humanity can still be saved.

    • Princess Underlove says

      @Doug Deeper

      Oh noes! It was the evil SJW reptoids all along!

      Y’all really have a one-track mind dontcha? I’ll tell you what actually happened: the systems of mass communications created by progressives were infected and taken over by racists, misogynists, homophobes and all kinds of bigots. Progressives naively believed in free speech and free association without considering that all the infrastructure they created to facilitate and globalize communications could also be used by the worst scum that humanity has to offer. Right-wing subhumans appeal to the base instincts of bigotry that have ruled humanity, especially males, throughout most of history. In retrospect, it should have been obvious that opening discourse for vile, manipulative hate speech was only going to spread the disease of conservatism and cause a regression. Thus the only way forward is for progressives to abandon delusions of the good in humanity, admit that Nazis are a legitimate threat that can’t be allowed any platform and should only live in fear (if at all), start taking responsibility for their platforms and start cracking down on hate speech and other forms of reactionary bigotry. Speech is a tree that can only grow crooked, right-wingers have proven this beyond all doubt, thus new progressives have a duty to make sure toxic ideas are extinguished.

      • Wentworth Horton says

        Princess Underlove

        Right on sista! We gonna build us a Gulag! Yee Haw!

      • Heike says

        “Right-wing subhumans”

        I think you took the wrong lessons from the crimes of National Socialism.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @Princess Underlove

        Glad to see someone taking a stand against bigotry:

        Dictionary result for bigotry:

        bigotry; plural noun: bigotries

        intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.

      • Princess Underlove, I may agree or disagree with Doug Deeper’s opinion, but your plan of action is truly scary. Also, I find it interesting that in the same paragraph you want to boot Nazis off all platforms (and apparently kill them too) you call for extinguishing ideas you find toxic…. In your pursuit of ridding the world of all regressive ideas it appears you’ve become that which you claim to despise.

        • Princess Underlove says


          MY plan is scary? What’s actually scary is that an orange neo nazi is the head of the executive of the top military power in the world, and you know how that happened? Because we didn’t take a stand against bigotry, we were far too soft on toxic hate speech, and this was our wake-up call. If you let the subhumans multiply, they’ll stab you in the back suddenly and without warning. As scary as you think my plan might be, the alternative is far worse, we can’t afford to be soft towards bigotry anymore, we have to move society towards inclusivity and diversity even if we have to drag it kicking and screaming to that goal.

          • G.S. Cobau says

            PU, You claim that Trump gained power because “we were far too soft on toxic hate speech,” and yet, to the contrary, part of why Trump was elected was in reaction to radical lefties like you. You obviously got the president you deserve. Ironically, it is your speech that is extremely toxic. You claim to support “inclusivity and diversity,” and yet, what you say would stifle these very things because your ideas are extremely divisive and, frankly, sick. Not only do you need professional help, but you also should to learn to have some respect for people who may disagree with you. Calling people “subhuman” is not helping anyone.

          • Princess Underlove, yes your plan does indeed scare me more than the alternative. I don’t see how the alternative is worse. As far as I can tell Trump talks a big talk and has delivered about what any other President has, just slightly to the right on most issues. You appear to be advocating physical violence to combat speech… I’m not sure if you’re producing a parody of the worst thing Trump supporters claim the other side wants or you’re actually serious.

          • Ungovernable says

            Sorry girl, you just don’t get it. Trump is a symptom and not a cause. The U.S. has been an authoritarian state since 2003 or earlier.

            It’s like I’m in college again, with a bunch of overly idealistic Jews and their enablers trying to call me a “reactionary” when I warned them that identity politics and the rest of it was a straight path to totalitarianism. It comes right out of the NSDAP playbook: make the personal political so that every aspect of life is political.

            What’s more, the subhumans you think you’re taking down are all around you: normal white males who are fed up with having bullshit propaganda about their “privilege” shoved down their throats.

            Let’s not forget the “privilege” of having your penis mutilated at birth, precluding you from ever having natural sex. That alone is more than enough for me to tolerate another 20 holocausts, another 200 years of slavery, a few more world wars, several more colonizations of Africa and South America, and whatever else the propaganda seeks to personally blame me for.

            I’m completely blind to anyone’s suffering and will remain so until we honestly address newborn male circumcision. Maybe it makes me “ungovernable” as the author so eloquently pontificates, but here’s the really terrible part: I don’t care. It simply doesn’t matter to me because I know that I’m right.

            Nothing will make “it” happen here faster than denying the growing awareness that circumcision is harmful, while at the same time feeding white men a bunch of lies about their “privilege.” It’s not a threat, it’s a warning.

          • Matthew Canard says

            @Princess Underlove

            If you’ve ever wondered why and how communists managed to kill 100 million people, cause total mayhem and destruction around the world and, as a result, were being dropped to their deaths from helicopters, please look in the mirror.

          • emanations & penumbras says

            Who made YOU the arbiter of what may be thought and said?

          • Princess Underlove, those such as yourself will not be able to bring a better world into existence. It is not just what you say but how you say it that reveals who you are. Like so many, you are desperately operating only on the surface, because to sink any lower you’d encounter the degree of your own hatred. And to a certain extent, every hatred is rooted in self-hatred.

          • James Beckmeyer says

            Yes! I will never tolerate intolerance!!

      • Pinkot says

        @Princess Underlove
        Epic troll. Truly legendary.

        • Ray Andrews says


          You don’t suppose that she’s a caricature? Even by the standards of the brainless twiterii she’s a specimen. Mind, the day comes when one cannot caricature the woke in about the same way that one cannot caricature Trump.

          • jakesbrain says

            Poe’s Law: It is impossible to create a parody of extremism that cannot be mistaken for the real thing.

          • George says

            I actually think that “Princess Underlove” is for real. At least her views are consistent with many on the far left. On the other hand, “Ungovernable” appears to be a weak attempt at caricature.

          • George says

            I don’t think that “Poe’s” law is really true. There are tell you can look for.

        • Born Again Again says

          At least twice now it has been pointed out that PU was in Troll mode. If you are not sure what that means, do yourself a favor and Google it. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a hand played more perfectly.

      • Yes Princess,
        NAZIs (national Socialists ) do exist and thrive in academia, under the new brand of intersectionality, which anyone with an IQ above 60, recognizes as totalitarian fascists, and reacts accordingly.

      • Who cares, Claire? says

        It sounds like a much easier and certainly less violent solution would be simply eradicate the systems of mass communications created by progressives. Of course this would hamstring equally the networking ability of both progressives and right-wing subhumans which maybe wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

      • Defenstrator says

        “Right wing sub humans.” See it’s that kind of talk that shows you to be no different than the thing you say you are against. I don’t like Nazi’s. But that doesn’t mean I I have to think SJWs are any better. Nazi’s and Communists are authoritarian, and would happily van all dissenting viewpoints. You would also ban dissenting viewpoints. As a person who understands the importance of free speech you are all the same in that regard to me. You are with the authoritarians, and I am with the liberals. You know, the actual ones that believe in liberty.

      • Anthony Newkirk says

        You had me at Y’all😉. One sided and poorly reasoned…go fish

      • JimBob5 says

        This is parody, right? Or are you really trying to argue that we have to have to destroy progress in order to save it?

      • David Pittelli says

        Indeed. Right-wing subhumans are the worst, because they dehumanize everyone who disagrees with them.

      • Daniel Deyl says

        Now, I’m sure this is a good example of a peculiar sort of online humour, and as online jokes go, this one really is good. I’m also afraid some people may take it prima facie; but I guess that’s the price of free speech.

      • Bill says

        Oh noes! It was the evil, deplorable, Republican reptoids all along!

        I see you have a one-track mind there PU.

      • peanut gallery says

        Um, I think it’s a combination of you and the other guys ideas. Without the awful parts that make you both look like bad people. Protip: calling people sub-human seem like something a -ist would do. YMMV.

    • bumble bee says

      @Doug, Totally agree! It’s almost like the author is asking why the Kool-Aid has not worked. It’s because people think for themselves.

    • Lydia says

      “So if the author finds voters to be less controllable, I say, thank God, it is about time.”

      Lol! So true. Our constitution is based on “self-governing”. In my view that is individualism with responsibility. Yet, Our taxpayer-supported institutions are working full-time to cultivate dependent immature adults.

      • david of Kirkland says

        @Lydia – Controlling voters, of course, is the primary objective, often by making the process so unpleasant and useful/beneficial that we give up and let only a minority of folks do all the voting to put in leaders who then only worry about their team and donors. Authoritarianism runs deep in the human psyche, starting with parents through religion, schools, employers and of course the various levels of government that surround us.

    • Emerald City says

      “An ideology that has degraded God (or anything beyond “Mark Zuckerberg intelligence” and AI), the nuclear family, traditional marriage, the desire for children…”

      This is an interesting point, one that I see a lot in more right-leaning spaces, and one with which most left-leaning people, at least the ones I know, disagree. Not least of all because many of us ARE religious. What you see as “degrading” those things is, for those of us on the left, only an attempt to shift their position from social obligations to equally valid options among many. The left doesn’t want people to stop having children, the left wants people to have control over when, if, and how it happens. The left doesn’t want traditional marriage outlawed, we want everyone to be able to marry who wants to, and we want anyone to be free to leave a marriage that doesn’t work. As for nuclear families? They’re fantastic when that’s what everyone involved wants, but not everyone wants that.

      It’s possible that, to you, that is ‘degrading’ the institutions you mention, but I would invite you to think on that and ask yourself why two men or two women loving each other, committing that love to the life-long bond of marriage, and raising children together somehow diminishes a man and woman doing the same thing. Or how two people getting married and deciding not to have kids somehow damages society. From my standpoint, I simply cannot see how it does, and it makes having conversations about social values with more conservative people difficult because we’re approaching it from a different standpoint. There is a tendency on the right to try and legislate Christian morality, and that’s what can often cause those of us on the left to take a not-so-favorable view on Christianity and the social norms it supports. If you, personally, don’t ever want an abortion, don’t ever want to get gay married, and want to have many children in a nuclear family, I wish you and your family nothing but happiness. But some people want to use the law to make that choice for everyone else, or at the very least wish they could levy some kind of social penalty based on what choices people make, and I really don’t feel any remorse for disparaging that mindset.

      I would be interested to know what, specifically, you would do to get to a state of “recognition of the human condition and human needs, and a return to, dare I say, common sense.” Because nowhere do you seem to acknowledge or appreciate that the relative homogeneity and social cohesion of yesteryear was often the result of social sanction and sometimes violence directed at those who refused to conform. Where do we meet that has room for individuals to be free, but protects the things you hold dear? I don’t know, but I certainly hope we as a society can find out, and soon.

      • MMS says

        @E. City

        Your larger point has merit and is likely in keeping with what many Q. readers think.

        However, I for one take exception with your and the Lefts view of marriage (no matter hwat genders are involved) :

        “anyone to be free to leave a marriage that doesn’t work…”

        It use to be anyone must be free to leave a marriage that is abusive, adulterous, involved drugs, gambling,etc. Now its that And “doesn’t work” to which I say if you are not seriously committed for the long term through thick and thin (not abuse, but honest adversity or transient loss of feeling/ interest) Don’t Get Married. Live together, join a commune, engage in free love, whatever, but don’t get married unless you actually live by it (for “realls”)…

      • Doug Deeper says

        Thank you Emerald City for your very thoughtful reply. I do NOT think gay marriage degrades traditional marriage. I think the ID politics taught now starting in nursery school encourages gender dystopia, and causes already anxiety ridden teens great confusion. This may be part of the cause of youth depression.

        Regarding your point: “the relative homogeneity and social cohesion of yesteryear was often the result of social sanction and sometimes violence directed at those who refused to conform.” I agree with you, but show me a society, especially as heterogeneous as the US even in the 1950s, that does not sanction socially. I grew up in the 1950s and the racism and anti-Semitism was despicable. However I lived to see the US eradicate both to a very significant degree. Only today’s leftist fundamentalists refuse to acknowledge this reality. I am a Jew who lived through this diminution in anti-Semitism and am very proud of what the US has achieved.

        The social sanctions of the 50s and 60s were horrible, but nothing compared to the social sanctions imposed on people today by the likes of SJWs such as Princess Underlove above.

        What I would propose to get to a state of recognition of the human condition and human needs is probably best expressed by Jordan Peterson, and may very well be taught some day as he develops his Humanities U based on The Great Books.

        Where I see your point of view lacking is in the denial that we have a human nature, that we must learn from history, especially the more recent history of the tragedy of Marxism, and acknowledgement of the timeless human resistance to reducing social sanctions to a manageable degree. I have traveled much of the world, and lived through 71 years, and I have never seen nor read of a society that did not employ significant social sanctions.

        Yes the 1950s was an era of horrible social sanctions, but we not only threw the baby out with the bathwater, the sanctions today appear much closer to totalitarianism.

        There is not an aware person in the US today, who is a centrist or right of center or a classical liberal such as I, who doesn’t know the risk of voicing our opinions is high. People who share much of Princess Underlove’s very frightening views now run the largest and wealthiest corporations in the world, have total control of Silicon Valley, academia, Hollywood, the media, and are very close to controlling the Democrat party. This is a real and present danger, that if one shares the left’s point of view, one may not be aware of. But if you walk onto a college campus as I often do, you quickly learn you cannot voice your opinions directly without risk.

        • Doug Deeper says

          I erred, when I said the “ID politics taught now starting in nursery school … .”
          I meant the gender fluidity taught now.

        • Doug Deeper says

          I erred in line 2 of my comment above. I meant “gender fluidity” rather than “ID politics.”

      • Daniel Deyl says

        Emerald City, thanks for a thoughtful and measured opinion. I believe you summed up the problem just right. “The relative homogeneity and social cohesion of yesteryear was often the result of social sanction and sometimes violence directed at those who refused to conform.” You wrote that as a reason to reform the homogeneity and cohesion. But social sanction against those who refuse to conform is the guiding principle of any community. (The most up-to-date example being provided by the radical Left.) Any community has rules that need to be observed and, if necessary, enforced.

        The crux of the matter is, therefore, elsewhere: it depends on how you see humanity. The Left seems to believe that the sum of unrestricted individual decisions will, at the end of the day, be beneficial to mankind. The Right seems to think that, to the contrary, humans are fallible to a degree that the sum of their individual decisions is, when all is said and done, unfavourable to our common future.

        (This is when family decisions are concerned; when it comes to business, somehow the positions are reversed – leaving me with a strong suspicion that both Left and Right are practicing varying sorts of bogus shamanism, rather than follow principles rooted in any sort of consistent worldview.)

        It seems obvious that any future verdict on the relative correctness of the two conflicting estimates of the human nature hinges upon how “good” the individual decisions are. Unfortunately, the radical Left seems reluctant to let its adherents inform their individual decisions by anything else but its own dictum, severely limiting the scope of otherwise available human wisdom in the process. How that promotes better decision-making is beyond me; but it surely reminds me of the practice used by other bigots: “The Bible/the Capital/Mein Kampf is the only book you need to read.”

        However – it should follow that, other things being equal, if you went by the Left dictum (e.g. allowing, without any sanction, individuals to decide when, how, and if they procreate because all of the decisions are equally “good”), you would end up with dramatically ageing, shrinking, economically unviable societies with a plethora of previously unseen side effects.

        If you go by the Right dictum, you will have relatively stable, more predictable societies with its hidden victims (both on the side of those who have conformed against their will, and those who haven’t – and suffered the aforementioned sanctions).

        But other things are not equal, namely the effects of mass-communication technology. Consequently, no results of any particular policy are ever as clear-cut as I’ve just suggested, of course.

    • Poor Denn says

      I believe that the elected elites (of both sides), aided by the majority of academics and celebrities, have forced change on countries to the detriment of the inhabitants of those countries. Those ignored by governments have finally had enough and are starting to make their voices heard. The only question is whether they will be listened to.

    • augustine says

      After reading a few sentences in this piece I realized that the author was probably not going to place any blame for the cited problems on modern liberalism’s dominance of the culture and institutions. Nor was he likely to offer up this rebellious transformation as a cause of nascent populism, nationalism, etc.

      For Doug Deeper to have elaborated largely what I felt, in the very first comment, was most satisfying.

  2. Steven says

    Your propaganda about the decline of religion being associated with less morals is rubbish. The Nordic countries prove you completely wrong. The rise of greedy, religious zealots is where the problem lies.

    • Adjunct-Filth says

      Nordic countries collapsing under immigration-wave of greedy religious zealots,

    • Jeff York says

      How do the Nordic countries prove him wrong? The frequent comparisons of America to the Nordic countries is ridiculous. Each of the Nordic countries has a small, homogenous population of a few million people. (Somewhat less true than it was, say, thirty years ago). By comparison, America is a nation that spans a continent, has global responsibilities and is becoming less and less homogenous with each passing year.

      As an aside, if America hadn’t been doing the heavy lifting of the defense of Europe for the past seventy-four years, to include keeping the sea-lanes open, plus other contributions, then all those parasitic cradle-to-grave-nanny-states, partially built on the backs of U.S. taxpayers, either wouldn’t exist or would be no where near as elaborate as they are. Or they would’ve happened but under Soviet auspices. (Why the Bernie Sanders types can’t grasp this is beyond me).

      Those other contributions include America’s leading role in establishing the World Bank, the WTO, the IMF, the world-wide air traffic control system; GPS, weather and communications satellites; the internet; a disproportionate amount of the world’s R&D. (For the Pacific Rim countries the Pacific Tsunami Warning System). ~99.63% of information that travels intercontinentally does so through ~428 undersea communications cables totaling ~1,100,000 kilometers. I haven’t been able to find a definitive figure as to how much of that America laid or paid for but it’s a safe bet that the amount was–what’s the word?–disproportionate.

      Said in all seriousness, may God forever bless and keep the United States of America. For all its warts-and-blemishes it remains the last best hope of mankind. Amen.

      • Chris says

        Thanks JY, you said it way better than I could have, but that’s pretty much how I see things too.

        And Princess Underlove, I fear the misery and anger that you feel stems from comparing the world to some unattainable utopian fantasy, and you might feel better about the state of the world by accepting that human progress is a slow and jagged process.

        It will never be what you want it to be, but things are better now in this world for more people than ever before.

      • Stephanie says

        Wholeheartedly agree, Jeff. If it weren’t for Americans protecting us with their blood and treasure, the rest of the Western world could not enjoy the lifestyles we have.

        It’s not just American military protection. The socialised health care systems in the rest of the West depend on American medical innovation. Americans subsidize the R&D that the rest of the world then uses socialist bludgeoning to purchase at a fraction of the appropriate cost. Medical innovation would come to a grinding halt if the US jumped on the socialist bandwagon.

        We all depend on the US, in more ways than we probably realise. That makes the anti-Americanism ubiquitous in Europe, Canada, and Oz criminally ungrateful. So I say a big thank you to the Americans here.

    • E. Olson says

      Steven – do you mean the Christian greedy, religious zealots that volunteer in disproportionate numbers to serve in the armed forces, and give disproportionate amounts of their time and money to support charities?


      Or do you mean the Muslim greedy, religious zealots who rape, shoot, and bomb the host “Christian” nations who welcome them with generous welfare benefits, and political and religious freedoms they have never experienced in their home countries?


      • Ray Andrews says

        @E. Olson

        I see you’re using the older, xenophobic definition of rape. The hadiths are clear that infidel females are to be considered booty and may be used in any way that the Believer sees fit.

        • E. Olson says

          Your are right Ray, I surely must temper my insensitivity to the legitimate and equally worthy practices of non-Western cultures so that I can get fully on-board with the Diversity is our Strength mantra.

    • Steven, maybe you’re right about the decline of religion not leading to less morals, but I think it is clear that morality without religion does look different and is evolving rapidly. Morality based on religion evolves very slowly, but untethered from religion morality appears to be taking the shape of whatever each individual political/social group wants it to be. Finally,i f religion is indeed declining, I’m not sure how a rise in greedy religious zealots could be, at the same time, a growing problem.

      • david of Kirkland says

        Religion is just centrally planned morality, claiming wisdom it doesn’t have, using evidence that doesn’t exist, and often suggesting nasty violence against those who displease it.

        • david of Kirkland, ok but that sounds awfully similar to what’s replacing traditional religion doesn’t it?

        • Off hand and considering only the West, I think only the Roman Catholic Church can be accurately labeled as centrally planned. The other high church, and many low church, denominations tend to be governed by synods and so are more republican than consolidated and centralized.

          I may assure you that vast majority of the low church Judeo-Christian denominations and congregations are not centrally planned religions. Generally, our evidence is historical, beginning with the Old Testament, augmented by our collective experience and understanding.

          • Stephanie says

            Yes, EK, my understanding was that Protestantism stemmed from a rebellion against the central authority of the Catholic Church. With the advent (ha!) of the printing press, it was possible to distribute translated versions of the Bible such that the individual can interpret scripture on their own. The Enlightenment was a natural extension of this line of thinking.

            You run into moral problems when you think the Englightenment was the beginning of thought. A tree cannot survive without its roots.

            The truth in religion isn’t like scientific truth, you will not find evidence for it the way you can find evidence of the Earth’s gravitational constant. Religious truth captures the essence of reality and our place in it as understood by our ancestors as they came into sentience. It was distilled through oral tradition for untold millennia. We neglect it at our peril. Without this basis there is no morality. We could make up our own religion to replace this framework, but it is highly likely to be inferior to the product of generations of Dreamtime.

  3. Maria Luz says

    @Steven – not to mention systemic abuse of children by the Catholic Church priests for years, with the church simply moving the offending priests to other parishes and paying people off to keep quiet. How can you trust an organisation that was supposed to be a moral beacon when they aea responsible for so many lives broken? It wasn’t just a few “bad apples”, either, the problem was widespread. No wonder, though – the whole set up is against nature, with “celibate” men preaching “family values”.
    But it is, in many ways, a tragedy, that the church handled this scandal so badly. People need meaning in their lives, they crave community spirit and an environment of shared value. The problem is, when you remove trust from this equation, it all breaks down. And I have no trust in an organisation that failed children, families and society so badly. Raised as a Catholic, I will not be sending my children to church anytime soon – not because I believe that every priest is guilty but because I have no confidence in the Church safeguarding my children.

    • Steve says

      “How can you trust an organisation that was supposed to be a moral beacon when they aea responsible for so many lives broken?”

      Evil men will infiltrate any and all organizations devoted to good causes. Pedophilia is as rampant among secular youth sports “leaders”, teachers, Boy Scouts, etc. etc.

      Not defending the Vatican (it is now fully corrupted), but the evil-doers are manifestly not following the teachings of the founder of the Church, any more than Larry Nassar was following sound medical practice. One might as well blame the practice of medicine for sexual abuse as blame Christianity itself.

    • E. Olson says

      Maria – the Catholic Church scandal is almost entirely driven by a desire to cover up the fact that almost all the molesting and cover ups have been the done of gay priests that increasingly dominate the Catholic priesthood and hierarchy. It might even be considered an example of entitlement as priestly vows of celibacy have apparently been defined by homosexual priests as limited to no sex with women (big sacrifice for them).

      • @E. Olson

        Pedophilia is nothing new in or out of the Catholic Church. The first English secular law punishing both sodomy and bestiality was “The Buggery Act of 1533.” It was aimed facilitating the dissolution of the monasteries. Prior to 1534, sodomy and bestiality amongst the clergy and laity was in the exclusive jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts. Even then, the sexual use and abuse of minors and animals was rarely, if ever, a concern of the episcopal sees in Rome, Canterbury and York.

        However, pedophilia does seem to have been a concern amongst the public at large since these laws had staying power that lasted until the very late 20th C.

        But maybe that is also breaking down. I now see monographs by highly educated people arguing that children are quite capable of consent at very young ages, ~5-10 years old. This is cropping up in the context of the capacity to consent to transitioning from one sex to another. Clearly, like all democracies, our beloved liberal democracy is exhibiting the predicted tendency to degenerate into anarchy. Happily the remedy for democratic anarchy, a police state, is already in place. The police state will replace liberal democracy.

        • @EK
          The post-modernists, Foucault and friends, were pushing for the acceptance of paedophilia in the 1970s. Foucault knowingly infected as many men with aides as he could.
          There is nothing offered to the young but depravity.

    • david of Kirkland says

      There wasn’t system abuse, just system covering up of abuse. There is no Catholic tradition, doctrine or dogma that supports abuse; but covering up their crimes, that was systemic and on purpose with a long tradition, like corruption in politics. Power always corrupts.

    • X. Citoyen says

      The Lavender Mafia has covered up some terrible crimes, and one only hopes they’ll all pay in this life and the next.

      Still, it smells bad when it’s intimated that Catholicism is somehow to blame. Lest we forget that the secular saint Michael Jackson pranced about in plain public view—on entertainment TV—with the children he was molesting, and no one said or did much of anything about it. On the contrary, the ultra-secular media was more than happy to indulge in the delusion that a grown man would be hanging around with other people’s children. Jimmy Savile also molested girls in plain sight of the ultra-progressive and ultra-secular BBC for years. And who can forget the “grooming gangs” in Britain who were allowed—and probably still are allowed—to gang-rape children because racism is worse than gang-raping children.

      Do have the same low confidence in the media, schools, and other state agencies that have “failed children, families, and society so badly”? I suppose not, but I could be wrong.

    • Peter from Oz says

      Far more children have been sexually abused by American public school teachers than by the Catholic Church

      • That’s certainly not the sense of us here in the US. Institutional sexual abuse of children seems to be one of the less acceptable characteristics of the RCC. A characteristic the RCC seems to share with the Rotherham police.

  4. dirk says

    I’m happy to still have lived through a youth where ” economic” meant: -save on most to have that one special ,useful item-. How different is it all now. Apart of that L’ oreal ad, another one on our TV: a child asked which taste she likes most for dessert, strawberry, peach, blackberry or plum. Answer: I want them all! And that’s what she gets, because, she deserves it all!

  5. Jose says

    The solution is easy then Dissolve the people and elect another.

    After the uprising of the 17th June
    The Secretary of the Writers Union
    Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
    Stating that the people
    Had forfeited the confidence of the government
    And could win it back only
    By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
    In that case for the government
    To dissolve the people
    And elect another? (Bertolt Brecht, The Solution)

    • tarstarkas says

      That is the point of open borders. To bring in an electorate to replace the one that failed the state and elected Orange Man Bad.

      I like how the author talks about Trump subverting the system of government, when it was his own DOJ (Rosenstein, McCabe, et al) who not only discussed ways and means of removing him from office but helped pump bogus innuendoes and accusations into the news media to use as independently derived proof of high crimes and misdemeanors. If Democracy does die in Darkness in the USA, it’s the supposedly above-it-all news media who has been round-canning actual stories in favor of feel-good virtue-signalling narratives who will be responsible. No report of a crime = no crime.

  6. It’s not meritocratic hubris that is making voters problematic, it’s weaponized envy. It’s not about people not wanting to give of what they have that’s causing problems, its people wanting to take what’s not theirs.

    • Lydia says

      “It’s not about people not wanting to give of what they have that’s causing problems, its people wanting to take what’s not theirs”

      Exactly! Altruism, is in my opinion, taking care of your own family and seeking a better life for them- legally. That makes communities better.

      The problem is the old rules don’t work anymore. I can’t tell my kids work hard, study more, be a decent citizen and you will be rewarded in some way. Why? because all around them, everyday in their face, are bad or incompetent people being rewarded. So much of advancement is rewarded based on checking a box as some oppressed group. George Simons wrote about this 25 years ago. He said that eventually those who are burdened with carrying the burdens are either going to be part of the entitlement class or revolt.

      This article was nothing but shaming directed toward decent people who try to follow the rules .

        • Lydia says

          I learned a long time ago that when someone uses the word “bitter” they don’t have an argument. Guess who I heard it from the most? I have been a victim advocate for those molested and abused in their churches. “Bitter” was every pastor’s favorite word for the abused and their advocates. So congratulations! You get my very special “Puritan-sin- sniffing ad-hominem” award!

    • Defenstrator says

      Agreed. Meritocracy has the benefit of putting capable people in positions of power. Most people have no issue with that. The politics of envy and divisive intersectional politics that divide people into groups and harp on how the other group has it better are much more to blame.

  7. Steve says

    Quillette is morphing into Slate.com at an alarming rate.

    Are conservatives simply not welcome here at all any longer?

    I’ve known for years that Jonathan Kay is essentially a leftist, but not sure about the other Quillette people…

    • c. white says

      Quillette never claimed to be a pure conservative site, to my knowledge. It has always claimed to be a site for the free exchange of ideas. To have an exchange of ideas, there has to be different ideas by definition.

    • Heike says

      Grow a thick skin, it’s positive to be exposed to the ugly ideas of the Left, so that we can see who they really are. Blaming the little people for the crimes of ruining the elite utopia. Punching down. They’re going to do the hard tasks that need doing. Speak truth to the powerless!

    • david of Kirkland says

      Conservative? Hope not…I thought it stood for liberty and equal protection under the law.

    • MMS says

      Q. is moderate / hterodox in intent… Which is just the way I for one like it… Come one, come all but don;t expect your political leanings to hold sway

      • Stephanie says

        Not being conservative in intent is very different from being an unwelcome place for conservatives. When every article remotely related to politics feels the need to throw shade at Trump, one has to wonder if this space is all that different to outlets like Slate.

        • Bill says

          I didn’t see this throwing shade and actually the opposite. In the beginning when the author speaks about bad politicians being the cause, ex. Trump, he points out that those on the Left blaming Trump for all the world’s ills ignore that we’ve had bad leaders before.

          I think the problem is that when anyone from left of center writes an article anymore they feel obligated to throw a dig at Trump and deplorables in there. If you read the progressive sites, it’s as required as capitalization and punctuation. Not surprised it became part of the stock template for all writing from that side ala how everything is obic or a dog whistle. FOTM

  8. El Uro says

    Be careful – das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten

    • dirk says

      Hey Uro, we have exactly the same saying in the NL., I wonder whether the French, Italians and Spanish know it too (the English yes) , but where is it all deriving from? From the bible? I wonder.

      • dirk says

        Did some research on that, in French also that baby and bathwater, but in spanish: tirar el grano con la paja (the grain with the chaff, funny). Still no idea where that baby/bathwater is from. I remember the question of a friend, where he heard that saying, for the first time?? – has that ever happened then-?? general and loud laughter, he didn’t like it!

        • Maude says

          I looked up the phrase some time ago. It references a time when people bathed infrequently. When it was bath time for the month or season, family members would go in order from father, mother, then oldest child to youngest child. By the time the baby was bathed, the water was so dirty that one could mistakenly toss the baby out with the bath water.

  9. Jeff York says

    Mr. Stitt, great article that has given me much food for thought. Among the many threats and challenges to (classical) liberal democracy is the erosion of the four “founding virtues” identified by Charles Murray:

    Resilience and the “Founding Virtues”

    by Resilient Institute

    Charles Murray in Coming Apart writes about the importance of what he calls the “founding virtues.” His basic argument is that American society has been developed on a foundation of

    •Industriousness. This virtue is based on the fundamental American assumption that gumption and hard work will lead to success, defined as a better life for self and family. As Murray notes, this has the corollary of failure as an embarrassment.

    •Honesty. We pride ourselves on what we call “the rule of law.” While Sandy Hook reminds us of the outliers, most Americans are basically law-abiding.

    •Marriage. Not so much a virtue as an institution, marriage serves as the basis for society in the sense that it implies a permanence of social relations and faithfulness.

    •Religion. Like marriage, religion is an institution that inculcates and reinforces good behavior.

    If, as Murray argues, these four were the bases for American society, and if resilience has historically been a hallmark of American society, I’m forced to ask: are we becoming more or less resilient?

    It must be admitted that we seem to be becoming less virtuous – seeing those virtues on which our American experiment was based diminished. The expansion of government and of our social safety net has reduced the importance of industriousness for many. While our middle class has prospered over the last few decades, much of that prosperity is due to an increasing amount of federal assistance, according to Congressional Research Service findings. There is a wealth of data that shows that marriage is less important to our society than almost ever before. More and more, marriage is a luxury of the educated, and less a status aimed at by all. Likewise, religion – though still one of our nation’s primary social pillars – is on the wane. It is only in the “honesty” category that we seem to have maintained our virtue (although, I’m not so sure you’d agree with that if you just looked at Congress!).

    It is not possible to make a definitive case for reduced resilience, but several signs are not good (I intend to pursue these in more depth a blog called “America – the Not-So-Resilient”). If you believe, with me, that connectedness is a must for resilience (see, for example, Rick Weil’s work), then Murray has marshaled a multitude of facts indicating that a large portion of our population is becoming increasingly disconnected from the rest of society. Even among the more affluent, we are seeing a huge portion of our workforce forced to accept part-time jobs, or ones beneath their education level. Two generations ago, only about 5% of babies were born to unwed mothers; now it is 41%. These children are 9X more likely to be poor and poorly educated, and thus doomed to a life almost without opportunity. How can they be expected to cope with crises or change?

    Can we become more resilient even if less “virtuous?” The optimist in me says “yes,” but guardedly. Ideally, we can find ways to reinvigorate the founding virtues in a way that is consistent with modern society. If we can grow new institutions (or see a rebirth of old ones) that will strengthen our social bonds, it will be a huge step. If our fiscal woes push us toward seeking individual opportunity and away from indiscriminate handouts, it will be another step. Most of all, if we embrace the virtue of resilience as the basis for renewed growth and vigor, then we will of necessity be more resilient – and quite possibly more virtuous.


  10. Paul says

    I tend to agree with all of the presented. But I have one question: How is “neoliberalism” defined? In my experience that’s just an empty propaganda term.

    • Heike says

      “The essence of globalization is: labor is commoditized as mobile capital is free to roam the globe for the lowest cost labor. In contrast, labor is far less mobile, and unable to shift as fluidly and frictionlessly as capital to exploit scarcities and opportunities.

      Neoliberalism–the opening of markets and borders–enables capital to effortlessly crush labor. The social democrats, in embracing open borders, have institutionalized an open immigration that shreds the scarcity value of domestic labor in favor of lower cost immigrant labor that serves capital’s desire for lower costs.”

      Click here to read more.

      • Paul says

        @Heike: Yeah, but isn’t that the Liberalism, the classic version? The “neo” part in the term seems to be not more than an interpretation of the driving forces of a liberal world order and less a separator to Liberalism in its original form.

      • david of Kirkland says

        Because you’d prefer to pay more to protect unskilled, low value labor?

        • Stephanie says

          David, true 30 years ago but sophisticated equipment built by skilled workers is being built abroad now, too. Companies can also poach high-skilled workers from terrible countries to saturate the domestic labour market and suppress wages.

          • Bill says

            And in some cases, the suppression of wages is a direct result of government regulation ala the H1B with IT workers where the central government set the “prevailing wage” to a level that allowed Silicon valley to create communes where 20 people have to pool to share a house/apartment — but it’s companies like Walmart that are blamed for abusing workers with low pay.

    • Kencathedrus says

      @ Paul: I see neoliberalism as the dismantling of public institutions so as to replace these with commercial enterprises. The leaders of these institutions are usually ‘appointed’ and their exorbitant salaries paid for by public tax money.While they make sure these institutions (public health, education etc.) are destined fail in their current form, they implement changes that transform them into profit-making machines that ultimately benefit the ruling classes and their friends. In the meantime public service workers are made to work harder for longer hours but for less pay and security. Workers are held accountable for any failures, while the leaders reap the rewards of success.

      Money is being drained from the public coffers to enrich those at the top. The managerial class is used to keep the workers in line and that is why we see an increase in administrational bloat in the public services. In the meantime the indigenous workers have to compete with a foreign and sometimes hostile influx of migrants that will gladly accept less desirable pay and working conditions. Basically are public and cultural institutions are being sold off which is contributing to decreased standards of living. This is why people are so riled at the moment.

      This is as best as I can describe neoliberalism as in how it affects ordinary people. There’s more to it than this, but I don’t have time to go into it all now.

      • Peter from Oz says

        That’s all unfounded supposition with no real basis in fact.
        The public coffers have never been so full. It is the size of government that is the problem. Tax rates and regulation should be slashed by at least 50%, then we would see the country thrive.

        • Kencathedrus says

          @Peter from Oz: ‘That’s all unfounded supposition with no real basis in fact’.

          I wouldn’t say that. As much as I disagree with The Guardian on most stuff, these quotes explain what I’m trying to say.

          ‘Another paradox of neoliberalism is that universal competition relies upon universal quantification and comparison. The result is that workers, job-seekers and public services of every kind are subject to a pettifogging, stifling regime of assessment and monitoring, designed to identify the winners and punish the losers.’

          ‘… the franchise model which ensures that workers do not know for whom they toil; the companies registered through a network of offshore secrecy regimes so complex that even the police cannot discover the beneficial owners; the tax arrangements that bamboozle governments; the financial products no one understands.’


          It’s not just the Guardian either. I worked in a sector that was purportedly all about social justice and empowering others, while treating its employees like idiot children and padding the bank accounts of those at the top. This period in my life marked my shift from the political left to the political right, even though in some ways I am still quite left-wing. (I don’t like left/right terms at all, but can’t think of any better ones).

  11. Wentworth Horton says

    The CBC called, they want their article back.

  12. Tame says

    @Doug Well written. Please do “dare say it” it is finally happening around parts of the world. I believe the only thing you may need to add is a trigger-warning for some of these more disgruntled ones in the comment section.

  13. “[T]here must be other explanations for the current downward trajectory of liberal democracy. . . . It [is, for example], harder to govern [people] in a liberal democracy . . ”

    Perhaps people do not want to be “governed”, but left to their own devices, especially since those doing the governing do not have society’s best interests at heart, but are following their own personal, professional, political & ideological agendas.

    So-called “liberal democracy’ is not nearly as liberal or democratic as we are led to believe by those claiming to be authorities in understanding socio-political reality, in politics and especially academia. The vast majority of indigenous Europeans and white Americans did not want mass non-white immigration & DIVERSITY imposed on them, but that is what their elites did, by dismissing all objections to it as RACIST.

    Liberal democracy has replaced medieval church ideology, as an instrument of socio-political intimidation and control, with the secular ideology of post-racial multiculturalism and DIVERSITY, which now serves the same power-political role of divide & rule, whereby society is divided into a morally superior, supposedly non-tribal, unprejudiced, “colour-blind” and xenophilic elite, on the one hand, and the morally inferior, naturally (evolved human nature being what it is) tribal, prejudiced, not colour-blind, but nativist and xenophobically-inclined masses, on the other, who must submit to the authority of and domination by their “moral superiors”.

    A moral animal like ourselves can be manipulated and controlled by a regime of moral rewards & intimidation as well as by one of material/physical rewards & intimidation. The modern “nation state” uses both.

    Original sin (disobedience of divine, i.e. priestly/state authority) has been replaced by “racial prejudice” (the natural human inclination – like original sin – to identity with members of one’s own tribe, race or ethnic group, which was made responsible (wrongly) for the Holocaust and equated with the evils of Nazi racism), and which only submission to priestly/academic/state ideology and authority can save us from eternal damnation for, not as heathens and heretics, as in the past, but as bigots, xenophobes, nativists or racists.

    What’s urgently needed is a modern Reformation, from liberal democracy (the modern counterpart of the medieval church) to grassroots-democratic democracy, which puts the state and the elites which dominate it in their proper place, serving society at large, its well-being and long-term survival, instead of its self-exploitation to the personal advantage of its elites and favoured (esp. wealthy and academic) clients at the expense & ultimate self-destruction of society at large.

    It is an interesting exercise to compare the state with the Matrix: https://twitter.com/rogerahicks/status/1035814311325782016

    • Harland says

      They will fight before they ever give up power over us. You think they’re just going to give you your country back?

    • david of Kirkland says

      Sadly, if people didn’t want to be governed, we would be in the global political climate we’re in. No, they want to govern you, tell you want is acceptable, tell you what is desirable, tell you want you should want, tell you how to live and who to love, tell you what to pay another, how to schedule their work, whether you can hire/fire, etc. No, it’s not an outbreak of liberty that’s taking place, but a new liberalism that has no regard for liberty or equal protection, but must use central planning to coerce their views on your life.

  14. E. Olson says

    “While the rights revolution has brought major benefits, one troubling byproduct has been the fostering of an entitlement mentality. This is partly attributable to the absence of any corresponding duties and obligations attached to the new-found rights.”

    There seems to be a very direct link between the rise of the entitlement mentality and the rise of the welfare state. The US Declaration of Independence famously states that our Creator has endowed us all with unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Thus the founding fathers didn’t say anything about the state giving citizens anything EXCEPT the right to have their God given rights so that they could pursue Happiness however they define it. The welfare state destroys this concept, because now the state is providing the right to food, housing, education (including college), medical care, pensions, phones, etc., but since the state has no ability to generate the income to pay for these rights it must use legal authority to confiscate wealth and property.

    The early welfare state was more like government run insurance, in that working citizens paid the government taxes as a prepayment for future benefits provided by Medicare and Social Security. Thus citizenship and welfare were linked by taxes paid by citizens to receive benefits provided by government welfare programs, but this link has gradually eroded by politicians wishing to buy votes by offering citizens “free stuff”. As a result, governments are increasingly confiscating wealth from productive citizens to provide free stuff (aka “new-found rights”) to others who have not paid for them, and this wealth transfer necessarily infringes on the right to Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness among those whose wealth is confiscated. This eventually leads to the collapse of Democracy, because “needy” citizens who receive the free stuff will increasingly vote for candidates who promise to confiscate ever more wealth from productive citizens, and these people will eventually corrupt politicians with bribes to avoid confiscation, revolt, leave, or stop contributing/working. Entitlement mentality happens when the linkage between talent/effort and rewards (aka “new found rights”) is broken.

    • K. Dershem says

      This is an interesting analysis. It sounds very Nietzschean/Randian. I agree that the expansion of the welfare state has undermined civil society, but I’m not convinced that charity alone would be sufficient to meet the needs of disadvantaged citizens (even if taxes were dramatically reduced). Also, I think that the government has a proper role to play in expanding opportunities, e.g. by making education available to everyone regardless of their ability to pay.

      • E. Olson says

        K – the key words in your thoughtful comment are “meet the needs of disadvantaged citizens”. Until very recently “needs” would be defined by enough food to avoid starving, perhaps a few scraps of used clothing, but now the disadvantaged citizens are more obese on average than the taxpayers who support them, they frequently wear designer clothes (see the demographics of Air Jordans or whatever the equivalent is today), and in urban areas such as NYC or SF they live in public housing with market values well above the US median home value. So where exactly do we draw the line on “need” – do fat citizens “need” food stamps, and do 90 IQ citizens “need” free college?

        The other key word is “citizen”, because as soon as someone sneaks across the border and declares themselves a refugee or pops a kid they become eligible for all kinds of “free stuff”. Why are people who have never contributed taxes, never defended the country, never pledged allegiance to the eligible for the same welfare (or better) as citizens? This is a question the open border types never address, but it is certainly a major contributor to the rise of populism.

      • tarstarkas says

        E. Olsen: An early example of this was the end stage of the Western Roman empire, where the government of the Tetrarchy became so large and so needy it had to disarm the people in order to protect the tax collectors, which at the same time was unable to protect their citizens from barbarian hordes. It got so bad that citizens ended up selling themselves and their property to local magnates who had the wherewithal to protect them from the tax collectors. West Rome fell because nobody other than the parasitic bureaucracy was willing to support it.

      • Stephanie says

        K, I wondered about the question you raise about charity being sufficient to help the truly needy as well.

        The welfare state swells the ranks of the “needy” by incentivizing it. Without it, if poverty were truly horrid, how many more people would find the wherewithal to work their way out of it? Replacing welfare with retraining programs for decently-paid, in-demand professions would be immensely more cost-effective.

        Charity also doesn’t just come from faceless international corporations: help within faith groups and families should be the primary vector of aid. This incentivises social connection and community-building, and renders people accountable to their benefactors. It likely wouldn’t be sufficient to replace perpetual welfare, but we wouldn’t want that anyway. In tight-knit communities people are already eager to help each other weather a storm, and freeing up their capacity to do that would likely be sufficient for most legitimate needs. Maybe things like chronic illness or disability would require additional support.

  15. Rob-baa says

    A simple observation perhaps – Could it not also be that the decline of liberal democracy is partly fuelled by the fact that more people than ever before are more aware of how dishonest government and politicians are? We are therefore likely to be more demanding as we are more alert to the fact that so much that passes for governing is in fact illusory, a smoke screen. And i say this as someone who worked IN government at a policy level for a decade.

    I second the point made above that “Perhaps people do not want to be “governed”, but left to their own devices, especially since those doing the governing do not have society’s best interests at heart, but are following their own personal, professional, political & ideological agendas.”

    • Morgan Foster says


      We are harder to govern because, with good reason, we don’t trust our governments.

      And with the end of trust comes the end of the West.

      • Lydia says

        Morgan, Spot on.

        “The most basic question is not, ‘what is best’. it is, ‘who shall decide what is best’.

        Thomas Sowell.

    • Harland says

      True. We have more proof than ever before just how hideously awful our ruling class is. Outright criminal in some cases, and morally evil in many others. We all saw the Wikileaks. Journalists colluding with the Hillary Clinton campaign to slant their coverage, even sending articles for approval before printing. We saw the neutral debate moderator send the debate questions to Hillary before the debate, so she could prepare and the opposition had to think on their feet. We saw James Clapper get up in front of Congress under oath and swear that the intelligence community was not spying on Americans. Wikileaks revealed that they were doing precisely that and were well aware of this treason the entire time. We know Comey compromised classified information. We know Strzok, for a fact, has lied before Congress at least three times.

      The FBI knowingly permitted intelligence operatives from foreign nations, with objectives which clearly were not in the interests of United States, to allow information to come into our system, to be used as fact, which has to this day disrupted our political process and continues to interfere with some people’s confidence in democracy.

      Lisa Page’s texts indicate that the FBI was trying to cut a deal with State Department regarding Hillary Clinton’s classified emails found on the Weiner laptop so they said basically if you FBI downgrade the classification to unclassify we’ll give you more space in our embassies overseas. That’s payola.

  16. derek says

    I like these articles because they state clearly the thinking of those who purport to be our betters.

    How dare people not go along with the stupid and self serving policies of a bunch of overeducated twits!

    Your ‘liberal democracies’ are nothing of the kind. They in practice resemble the apparat. Try to get some justice through the courts. Try to do something with your property. Try to run a business and get more out of it than the government. Try to expose corruption within the police or bureaucracy. Try to get timely health care from a government run system. Try to have your children come out of a government run school with some basic life skills like reading and writing.

    You take almost half the economic output of most western democracies like you deserve it all. How dare these ingrates complain and demand some basic competence.

    • You’re making a lot of sense, Derek. It’s hard to say those things without coming across as resentful though.

      I like to rely on personal experience to address those issues.

      I own a small business, there’s too much governmental red tape. I have to pass that cost on to my clients and sometimes it’s just too expensive for people and they either opt out of the work altogether or choose a non licensed contractor to do the work at a lower price. So I am punished for following the rules.

      My belief system isn’t valued by my local schools, in fact it is despised. How does that foster positive educational outcomes? I don’t need my beliefs taught to other children for them to learn. I’d like a neutral educational playing field , but it doesn’t exist where I live and I’m forced to pay extra to put my kids in private school instead of being able to take my children’s public education dollars and put them towards schooling lessons I feel are more valuable than what is being taught. (FYI I’m not even remotely religious)

  17. C. White says

    “Thirty years ago, politicians took the pulse of the nation through meetings with voters and tracking “old media.” Now they stumble about in a shifting online world to distil what the voters want. In a virtual firestorm of demands and warnings, outrage and indignation, their priority is often survival rather than communication.”

    Maybe instead of fumbling around trying to find a position politicians think voters approve of, regardless of whether politicians believe in that position or not, politicians should state their position clearly and make a principled defense of it. I would say voters are more tired of politicians continually stating positions they think will get them elected, then immediately acting differently, than that voters feel entitled. Mind you, voters are entitled to principled politicians to choose from. I think this is why Ms. Wilson-Raybould enjoys such high opinion from Canada’s voters, because she proved to be a principled politician. As opposed to L’Enfant Trudeau and the rest of his party.

    Another factor that the author missed is education level. Voters have higher education levels than 3-4 decades ago, equal to or superior to the politicians and pundits who used to be able to spin information. Mr. Stitt mentions the negative impact of the net and social media, but, unless I missed it in the article, neglects the positive impact of disseminating ideas and knowledge to a much greater level than existed 3-4 decades ago. This, again, increases the education level of the electorate.

    In line with my last paragraph, thank you to the author for his perspective.

    • Surely, you jest; in the first half of the 20th C., the high school curriculum was much more rigorous than it is now.

  18. Heike says

    ” The Brexit chaos, the Trump presidency, the collapse of support for centrist parties across Europe, and the pervasive rise of populism and nationalism, all point to the growing fragility of liberal democracy.”

    The most hair-pulling, frustrating part of this entire thing is watching these global elites scratch their heads and wonder why any of this is happening. As if the rest of us just went insane and started voting for Satan.

    The policies pursued by these elites have had harmful effects on our lives. They have kept ALL of the gains of the last 40 years for themselves, not even allowing us scraps. They are either genuinely unaware of this in which case they are criminally unsuited to rule; or they are willfully ignorant in which case they are outright evil.

    Our people used to be able to walk out of high school down the street to the nearest employer and live good lives. This isn’t the case anymore not due to some inescapable evolutionary change, but the deliberate policies crafted over a generation. And when we realize this and begin voting for change, the reaction is to shout bigoted classist slurs and wonder openly how such people deserve to live in the societies they control. One is reminded of the classic poem about elite response to a different commoners’ disagreement with them:

    After the uprising of the 17th June
    The Secretary of the Writers Union
    Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
    Stating that the people
    Had forfeited the confidence of the government
    And could win it back only
    By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
    In that case for the government
    To dissolve the people
    And elect another?

    — Bertolt Brecht

    • TJR says

      That’s pretty much it I suspect.

      Life for ordinary people improved dramatically in the (in retrospect) golden age 1945-1979, before the rentier class launched their fightback.

    • James Lee says


      You nailed it. And yet we see our politicians continue to call for mass migration into Western nations. I believe even little Ireland released a planning document calling for mass migration from the third world which is, of course, “inevitable.”

      At the same time, we have business and tech elites estimate that up to 50% of our current jobs will be eliminated by automation and AI in the next 10 years.


      What are these millions of immigrants going to do? What are our many of our current citizens going to do? What happens to nations with large numbers of young unemployed men? Who is going to fund all the welfare and state subsidized health care? What is the current fiscal health of many Western governments, much less the state structural health with the addition of millions more nontaxpaying citizens to support?

      How in the world can Western elites (and their billionaire backers) continue to support these policies? Why?

      • Lydia says

        “How in the world can Western elites (and their billionaire backers) continue to support these policies? Why?”

        Because they benefit from them and are protected. They have walls and paid security forces. They are not public servants– they are Oligharchs. Both Republican and Democrat. If you listen very closely, many of their arguments for illegal immigration and H1b are similar to the pro slaver arguments. Cheaper labor.

        I would prefer to see more Americans be their own business where they contract out their stills & time to companies. Put real market forces to work. The minute unions and government tied benefits and pensions to a job, they institutionalized mediocrity.

      • @ James Lee
        Demographics control democracy, hence the promotion of mass immigration by a majority of first world governments. (in my country both major parties agree with unsustainablely high immigration) ensuring our demographic and cultural replacement within decades.

        Those who want this replacement, panic when any voting glitch slows them down. They want to accomplish their goal before the voters are fully aware

        Speech laws and deplatforming are also vital. In my country we have been told “you are still allowed to say what you want in you’re own kitchen, for now. ”

        I envy the US citizen’s freedom of speech, and I’m saddened that many are willing to defer to political correctness.

        Voltaire said “to know who rules over you simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize. “

        • James Lee says


          I totally agree that in the short term, our ruling elites benefit from mass immigration which depresses wages. But the long term societal costs will be drastic. Of course, our modern elites are *global*, and can fly in their private jets to their various houses around the world, and as you say they have little personal investment in their actual fellow man and neighbor.

          I’m not necessarily anti-Union, though. Historically, unions were a powerful check on the unfettered greed of the Oligarchs of the past era. Of course unions were subverted, corrupted, and mostly destroyed (at least in the U.S.). That damage was partly self inflicted and partly the result of a decades long, multi-million dollar campaign on behalf of Capital to destroy them.


          I don’t think that the globalist plan is straight “replacement” of native citizens. The plan appears to be mass immigration to create the destabilization of society and nation-state in order to erode national borders and those pesky “provincial” laws in order to usher in a de facto transnational, globalized governance. It’s a classic Divide and Conquer strategy.

          The early phases of this strategy were NAFTA, GATT, and the WTO, which eviscerated the Western middle classes and massively enriched global oligarchs. Hillary Clinton’s incompetent destruction of Libya and the subsequent waves of migration through that failed state gave Merkel the opening she needed to open the floodgates to Europe. Of course, this was all couched in the language of “compassion”. Anyone who opposed was a nazi/racist/bigot. The actual citizens of Europe were not asked. And we call this “democracy”. When citizens oppose what our betters dictate, our “free press” calls it “populism”, “far-right extremism”, and “xenophobia”.

          The Davos Kings and Queens are very similar to the incompetent neocons from the Bush era (Rumsfeld, the re-animated Max Boot, Frum, Wolfowitz, Bolton). They have a plan, but it lacks any common sense or actual contact with shared reality– perhaps because Davos royalty have very little contact with regular people, other than their servants.

          • James Lee says

            Billionaire George Soros on Victor Orban: “His plan treats the protection of national borders as the objective and the refugees as an obstacle. Our plan treats the protection of refugees as the objective and national borders as the obstacle.”

            Keep in mind that the billionaire “right-wing” Koch brothers are also major backers of mass immigration.

            It’s not a left vs right issue…

          • Lydia says

            James Lee,

            My late father, who negotiated with Unions, would have agreed with you about their early necessity. The leaders eventually became the Oligharchs. During national strikes, as a kid, we had to go live in a hotel. It wasn’t the locals we had to fear as they were our neighbors but the professional agitators from St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit that kept the rank and file in line. I got flash backs when I saw the paid agitators show up after Trump was elected. I know the type. And their destruction and brain gaming.

            But a public employees union? Bureaucrats need a union? “Public Servants” need a union?

          • @ James Lee

            I agree with your theory of “destabilization “, and your political analysis might be quiet accurate.

            But it doesn’t explain the rest of the western world.

            In my country, the 2016 census revealed that only half of the population had a grandparent born in our country.

            We have been replaced. And don’t talk about it, there’s laws about that. We are still a democratic nation, every few years we vote between two parties, each sprouting increase immigration and diversity. Our school children are fed lies.

            “This is the way the world ends not with a bang but a whimper, “T S Elliot.

        • tarstarkas says

          “to know who rules over you simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize. “

          Voltaire didn’t say it, but it’s still very true.

    • Jackson Howard says

      This is likely to root of the ungovernables. Duringthe last 20 years all the product of growth has been captured by the upper 20% strata. This would be bad enough, but then you factor in things like (for the US) :

      – unemployement numbers leaving out large swath of the actually unemployed. Super depressed wages in perma-temp work and other such shenanigans.
      – inflation statistics massaged to the point where they are actually misleading, with reported values much lower than the value seem by the actual people.
      – capital gain tax rate lower than the median tax rate on regular income, and many tax loopholes effectively implementing a regressive tax rate for the top strata.
      – massive asset bubble from massive QE policies. This profits the top 20% quintile mostly.
      – Immigration and delocalisation deliberatly used to depress median wages.

      And there you have it : bottom quintiles getting immiserated in a structural way, while all the growth gains went to the top quintile. The middle quintiles see no gains. Since the statistics are massively massaged, the losses for the bottom quintile is all but invisible from the top. We are back the gilded 1920’s. We’ll see if we’ll get an ugly repeat of the 30’s and 40’s.

      When one add in the new wave of automation, the outcome does not look pretty at all.

      • James Lee says


        I’m with you. I get some solace from studying history, which shows that hubristic humanity just keeps careening from one catastrophe to the next. This new phase is nothing new. I’m kind of amazed at how cleanly Orwell predicted so many elements of the current Speech policing, where up is down and left is right, but I probably shouldn’t be.


        You said it well. I’m a big fan of the evolutionary anthropologist/mathematician Peter Turchin’s work, and I think his prediction (made in 2010) of major political instability by 2020 was obviously dead on correct.

        He also pointed out that the blue blood elites of the Gilded Age recognized that they were on the precipice of massive bloodshed and social revolution, and they actually implemented reforms (including immigration restriction) which resulted in a significant narrowing of inequality. Many of the business elite agreed amongst themselves not to cut wages during the great depression, and they basically took the hit themselves.

        Today, they are also so shielded from any direct negative consequences of their policies they they can’t perceive the harms and costs.

  19. Ray Andrews says

    “the idea that there is no objective truth or morality. Everyone’s views and feelings are equally valid.”

    Sorry but that was 50 years ago. The religion of Correctness holds that only the views and feelings of the woke are valid and if you disagree with them you are, as @Princess Underlove so kindly pointed out, a subhuman.

    • @ TJR

      The data will be available centuries after the event. Not in our lifetime .

      How long did it take to explain the fall of Rome?

  20. Peter Schaeffer says

    “As creatures of the market, modern voters are consumers first not citizens. They require something in return if a politician wants their vote. Accordingly, election campaigning is frequently marred by thinly disguised vote buying. The consequences of this for fiscal control are evident in budget deficits across the democratic world. Sadly, voters today would stare with either incredulity or confusion if any politician reprised John F. Kennedy’s “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.””

    I agree with this. Years ago, I had some contact with the Ross Perot for President campaign. At the same time I had some contact with the Republicans and the Democrats.

    I had little use for Ross Perot. However, his supporters made a very favorable impression on me. Without exception, they wanted what “was good for the country”. None sought any personal reward from political participation.

    By contrast, the Democrats and Republicans I met, were all too “what’s in it for me” oriented.

  21. This entire article was summarized 250 years ago by John Adams quite succinctly: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

    Patrick Deenen thinks that Adams had already sown the seeds of religious and moral destruction via the work of Locke. That may be debatable. What is not is that we are living through what happens when our Constitution tries to “govern a no longer moral or religious people .”

    The writing is on the wall for your society when your society no longer remembers what “the writing on the wall” refers to.

    • John Adams’ chief contribution to the Constitution was Art. III,* which created the judiciary as a co-equal branch of government and gave federal judges life tenure based on “good behavior” who could be removed only by impeachment following the same mechanism needed to remove all constitutional officers.

      Ironically, it was US federal judiciary that began destroying all of the subsidiary institutions, state and local governments, the churches and autonomous the family that have been proven to be necessary to maintain Adams’ constitutional democratic republic. Adams was an awful fool but he did think he was much superior any of his contemporaries. I like to think of him as our first Yuppie.**

      *Art. III of the US Constitution closely tracks the language Adams drafted for the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780. He seems to have picked up the idea of life tenure for judges from the English Act of Settlement of 1701. The idea of the judiciary as a co-equal branch of government rather than merely an instrument of government may well be Adams’ own. Both notions were rather new when they were incorporated into the US constitution. Life tenure for judges, stare decisis and the “supremacy clause” in Art VI, Cl. 2 have been the foundation of liberal democracy in the US since 1925. The US is really governed by the nine Sanhedrin on the Supreme Court.

      ** Yuppie: US slang from the 1970s meaning a young upwardly mobile urban professional; a striver.

      • Erratum: “and autonomous families” not “and autonomous the family.”

  22. Farris says

    “The erosion of traditional social norms has been hastened by elements of postmodernism and relativism—the idea that there is no objective truth or morality.”

    “Successful democratic politics requires informed citizens and something at least approaching an agreed set of facts on which a meaningful contestation of views can be based.”

    The above quotes drill down to the essence of the problem. Today if facts or truths conflict with policy, facts and truths are discarded and policy is not altered.
    In the United States there was a time when both Republicans and Democrats were capitalists and could agree on economic principles, namely tax cuts spurring economic growth. This changed when income redistribution became a priority.
    The fall of the eastern block countries was not considered a defeat of collectivism but rather a mismanagement of it. This remains true today even as socialist countries continue to falter.
    The legalization of abortion maintained that a human life was not being sacrificed. Now the argument extends to terminating infants moments after birth. One may believe in the absolute right to an abortion but to do so under the guise a life is not being taken, is absurd. If abortion is a necessary evil or a quality of life issue then say so but don’t hide behind the untruth of no life is being extinguished.

    When common facts and truths are not agreed upon opponents view proponents as nothing more than con men.

    Another culprit of current day tribalism is income tax rate stratification. Disparate rates creates and us v. them mentality with high tax rate payers v. lower tax rate payers v. no tax payers. A single rate would produce tax payers who pay differing amounts but with a common cause.

    “The implications for politics and governance are dire.”

    This forecast may prove accurate but Mr. Fukuyama’s alleged prediction seemed plausible at the time.

    • Kristina says

      “The above quotes drill down to the essence of the problem. Today if facts or truths conflict with policy, facts and truths are discarded and policy is not altered.”

      I think we really need an easy, one-word term for this: when the results of the experiment do not prove the hypothesis, you insist you have just not done the experiment well enough, instead of discarding the hypothesis. What would this be called? Other than “insanity” (doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result).

      I see this a lot, with a lot of damaging effects. Carpet bombing Afghanistan for five years did not “win” the war, and instead of admitting that bombing didn’t work, the military just insisted we had not done enough bombing. Encouraging girls to pursue more math and science has not worked, and instead of admitting the encouragement did’t work, proponents insist we have just not encouraged enough.

      • Farris says


        “Delusional” comes to mind or perhaps “sophism”.

      • Ray Andrews says


        I call it snake oil. If you buy some, and your tumor has not shrunk, but has gotten bigger, the reason is that you have not taken enough snake oil, and you need to buy much more.

      • tarstarkas says

        If facts don’t support the narrative, change the facts. Winston Smith was an expert at it.

    • david of Kirkland says

      Yes, I understand the thought around progressive tax rates, but they do just create more friction while rarely creating more tax revenues. But honest tax rates would mean the political class would lose most of its power. I mean, if they were honest, they wouldn’t over-spend by $1000 billion in just a year.
      Liberty is losing to authority.

      • Farris says

        @David of Kirkland

        So you’re saying progressive tax rates are the modern day version of “divide and conquer”?

  23. So, we’re all doomed!? I bet Mr. Stitt is a barrel of fun at parties. Not.

    President Kennedy’s comment on duty is indeed wise, but we might also remember that he introduced the first and largest of the tax cuts introduced by presidents elected every twenty or so years, in 1960, 1980, 2000, and 2016. And most tax revenue does NOT go to the less fortunate.

    • Farris says

      “The final and best means of strengthening demand among consumers and business is to reduce the burden on private income and the deterrents to private initiative which are imposed by our present tax system — and this administration pledged itself last summer to an across-the-board, top-to-bottom cut in personal and corporate income taxes to be enacted and become effective in 1963.”

  24. Coolius Caesar says

    “The Brexit chaos, the Trump presidency, the collapse of support for centrist parties across Europe, and the pervasive rise of populism and nationalism, all point to the growing fragility of liberal democracy.”

    Ah yes, it’s just the pesky right wingers that have ruined liberal democracy. The modern psychopathic left with their identity politics, communism, and social justice nonsense haven’t done anything! I mean all the assaults on free speech-the cornerstone of liberal democracy-are definitely NOT coming from the Left…

    • Stephanie says

      Coolius, it’s strange how the author points to Trump and Brexit as the symptoms of the breakdown of liberal democracy, when he points to the cause as voter entitlement. If entitlement were the issue, wouldn’t we have gotten Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn? Their entire premise is that you are entitled to free things you didn’t earn. Trump and Brexit represent the opposite phenomenon.

      The author’s TDS makes this article disjointed and incoherent.

  25. Lee says

    Not a bad essay, but I think it misses the mark. If you want to understand what’s going on, the rise of right-wing populism, the polarization between “nationalists” and “globalists”, etc., I think you really need to read Eric Kaufmann’s book, “Whiteshift”.

    The most important reason for Trump’s victory and for Brexit, among other things, is concern over immigration. This isn’t just an opinion: “No one who has honestly analysed survey data on individuals – the gold standard for public opinion research – can deny that white majority concern over immigration is the main cause of the rise of the populist right in the West. This is primarily explained by concern over identity, not economic threat.”

    We live in an age of mass migration from the poorer parts of the world to the West, and at the same time, whites are in demographic decline. Many are concerned about that. Whether or not you think they should be, it is what it is.

    Meanwhile, “white liberals overwhelmingly consider white attempts to reduce immigration to be racist. Their view changes considerably when minorities adopt the same strategy or if whites seek European immigration to boost their numbers. Conservatives and minorities are also biased, but the degree of inconsistency is lower.”

    “Among ethno-communitarians, who made up a large share of consistent respondents, most said it was natural for people to want the best for their group, whether this meant increasing selective immigration to boost share or decreasing numbers to maintain group share. […] Needless to say, I share the views of this final group of respondents, who represent the views of the overwhelming majority of people in the West and beyond. I also think these sentiments are supported by the social-psychology literature. This isn’t to say policy should bow to group interests. Only that they be freely expressed and traded off against other aims when making policy.”

    People aren’t all wired the same way. Political differences are influenced to a significant extent by differences in temperament. “Many people desire roots, value tradition and wish to maintain continuity with ancestors who have occupied a historic territory.” If you don’t feel that way, and I’m one of the people to whom it doesn’t come naturally, that’s fine, but you have to understand that many do, and it doesn’t make them evil people…it just makes them like most people on the planet.

    “Cosmopolitanism and what I term ethno-traditional nationalism are both valid worldviews, but each suits a different psychological type. Imposing either on the entire population is a recipe for discontent because value orientations stem from heredity and early life experiences. Attempts to re-educate conservative and order-seeking people into cosmopolitanism will, as the psychologist Karen Stenner notes, only generate resistance.3 Differences need to be respected. Whiteshift is not just a prediction of how white identity will adapt to demographic change, but a positive vision which can draw the sting of right-wing populism and begin to bridge the ‘nationalist–globalist’ divide that is upending Western politics.”

    Left/liberals need to get it through their heads that whites aren’t special. We’re not magic. We’re not a conspiracy. We’re not the devil in history or the world’s savior. We’re just another racial/ethnic group(s). And many whites, like Koreans and African Americans and Turks, identify with their people, with it’s history and traditions, and care about their group’s demographic and cultural interests. Those concerns are as valid as any other, and in democracies, should openly discussed and weighed against/alongside other interests and concerns.

    “Having surveyed the dynamics of Whiteshift, I set out a vision for a new centre, which entails accepting the legitimate cultural interests of reconstructed, open ethnic majorities. This can pave the way towards a more relaxed, rational political conversation. The West cannot simultaneously accept large inflows and maintain culturally neutral immigration policies. Yet I am not arguing that it should adopt the exclusive East Asian model. A better solution is to balance liberal and minority preferences for more immigration with the restrictionism of ethnic-majority conservatives. The key is that the majority be an open rather than closed ethnic group. An open majority group’s conservative members will want slower immigration to help it maintain its share through voluntary assimilation – not exclusion and expulsion. Minorities should not be compelled to assimilate to a state-defined national identity, but, like white majorities, should be free to express their ethnically distinct versions of the common national identity – an arrangement I term multivocalism.

    “The liberal conceit that whites must be post-ethnic cosmopolitans has outlived its usefulness. Some warm to cosmopolitanism, others prefer to identify with their ethnic group. An unalloyed positive liberalism which insists on the value of diversity is unlikely to survive the populist moment. Even if conservative whites don’t win elections, they are in a position to obstruct change, damage social cohesion and, perhaps, pose a security threat. Elites who use national and supranational institutions to advance a cosmopolitan vision are eroding conservatives’ trust in liberal institutions. Conservative whites need to have a future and I believe most will accept an open form of white majority identity. Politicians should empathize with their anxieties so long as these are not – as is true of anti-Muslim politics – based on irrational fears of the other. In addition, we need to be more forthright about relaying good news about the pace of voluntary assimilation. Immigration will need to be slower than is economically optimal, but the result should be a more harmonious society. With these changes in place, the West can begin to refocus on priorities such as democratization, climate change, economic growth and inequality.”

    Or, whatever, just keep calling them racists and Nazis and see how far that gets you.

    • Jim Gorman says

      I think it is far simpler than that, If you look at the percent of immigrants that collect local/state/federal government assistance versus the percent of US citizens, you will see why. For many years, to immigrate, you had to show the ability to support yourself or have a sponsor who would do so. No more. Here in the heartland it is an everyday occurance to ask yourself, why are illegals getting rent assistance when poor and homeless citizens can’t? Why are illegals getting free school lunches when kids of parents who each hold down two part time jobs can’t? Why are illegals getting instate tuition when citizens can not?

      The current crop of liberals are promoting unequal treatment of people and basing it upon being some kind of a victim and in doing so are creating victims who are being used. It won’t go on forever and the end won’t be pretty.

      • Polly styrene says

        Today, here in Canada our very left leaning liberal democracy that affords housing and health/dental care and other supports for immigrants, disincentivizing the very qualities of hardwork, having to learn the language, etc. that made the first wave of immigrants so successful. Meanwhile, many of our elderly cannot find long term care housing and live in pain as we do not cover dental care beyond 65. Dental care is a benefit only workers with a benefit plan or people on social assistance get. This is not social justice, although there are plenty who would say it is.

    • This is spot on, and immigration is indeed the key.

      Since the 1970’s, the United States has imported millions upon millions of immigrants every single year, and that’s just the legal ones. Up to 30 million illegal aliens are also in the country. Together, this makes up the largest human migration in history, yet we haven’t paused immigration at all. After the great immigration wave through Ellis Island in the early 1900’s, we severely curtailed the number of people coming into the country so the new immigrants could integrate, and the country was stronger for it.

      Of course, our new wave of immigrants often are escaping countries that don’t work very well. Yet they vote to re-enact those policies that failed in their home country.

      Anyone who’s paying attention will also note that areas full of immigration will turn from a red, or purple area, into a blue area. California, of course, being the prime example. The state used to be republican or at least a rough mixture of R & D. Immigration flipped the state, and now it is solid blue. Judging by the hysteria leftists had over supposed russian interference in the 2016 election, it really should *not* be a shock to anyone that the right doesn’t want foreigners imported to vote for democrats. It’s not even a hush hush secret; the left is open about their desire to flip Texas blue, permanently ending any chance conservatives would have of ever winning the presidency again.

    • Stephanie says

      Lee, I’m not sure the perspective you quoted hits the mark, either. The characterisation of resistance to Islamification as irrational neglects a prime motivator of rightist sentiment – a far more pressing concern for conservatives than maintaining some superficial whiteness to society.

      More British Muslims joined ISIS than the UK military. About a third of young Western Muslims think suicide bombing is acceptable. This and the hugely disproportionate participation in violent crime and welfare all point to an incompatible ideology, and it is wholly rational to point out the obvious: these people would be better off in the countries they came from, that share their values. So would we.

      Right-wing populists are far more motivated by the desire to maintain their culture than to maintain their racial majority, it’s just that the two are related, because high immigration leads to ghettoization and failure to integrate. There is a huge demand on the right for ethnic minorities who live the national narrative and assimilate in the most important ways: language and cultural values such as industriousness, self-reliance, humility, and gratitude. Such people not only provide hope that coexistence is possible, but they exhault Western values by deeming them persuasive enough to adopt, contrary to their upbringing. If every immigrant were like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, immigration would not be an issue on the right.

  26. Robert Franklin says

    “Leaders like Orban and Trump are subverting the institutions at the heart of liberal democracy” Could someone explain to me which “institutions at the heart of liberal democracy” Trump is “subverting?” I read the news every day and I don’t see him doing this. He’s personally irresponsible, even despicable in some ways, but I don’t see democracy in this country being much different now than it was two years ago. If I’m wrong, I wish someone would explain it to me. His main offense as far as I can see is that he proved that the two major parties no longer have a lock on deciding who gets to be president.

    • david of Kirkland says

      Using a national emergency to get around the fact he cannot win in congress, even when the GOP controlled both houses for two years.
      Calling the free press the enemy of the people and fake news.
      Appointing family members to high posts and then forcing through a security clearance that would never have been approved without nepotism.
      Siding with foreign powers over congress and his national security team.
      Suggesting that neo Nazis and white supremacists are good people.

      • Jim Gorman says

        Let’s see: John Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs. I seem to remember both Democrats and Republican presidents complaining about the media. How about Robert Kennedy being appointed a Cabinet post of Attorney General.? I don’t suppose Obama’s agreement with Iran and giving them 150 billion dollars without Congress approval was a problem was it? I don’t suppose anyone there protesting the removal of the statue was entitled to their own opinion were they, even if they weren’t neoNazis or white supremacists?

      • david of Kirkland, most of your examples don’t, in my opinion, subvert liberal democratic institutions.

        I feel like I have to preface my responses with some context due to the current political climate. I didn’t vote for Trump. I probably won’t vote for him next time. I think he’s petty, crass, un-presidential, and has a destructive twitter habit. I just think he’s destructive enough on his own without having to make stuff up and I wish we could stick to reality instead of twisting every word he utters.

        “Using a national emergency to get around the fact he cannot win in congress, even when the GOP controlled both houses for two years.” – I think this comes closest, but Congress can remedy it by taking its power back. After all, they did give this power to the president.

        “Calling the free press the enemy of the people and fake news.” – First off, I think he often has a valid point. But I just finished Hamilton and I gotta tell you that our founding fathers had their own issues with the press. I haven’t heard anything from Trump that rivals what Chernow relates in his book.

        “Appointing family members to high posts and then forcing through a security clearance that would never have been approved without nepotism.” – Maybe. I don’t really see an issue with the president hiring whoever he wants, but I think we could have a discussion and you could change my mind on this one.

        “Siding with foreign powers over congress and his national security team.” – Isn’t this a prerogative of the president? If we just deferred to congress and the various executive teams why would we elect a final decision maker?

        “Suggesting that neo Nazis and white supremacists are good people.” – This is demonstrably false. He was asked to clarify and did so. This is one of those infuriating lies about Trump that just won’t go away.

      • Ungovernable says

        > Calling the free press the enemy of the people and fake news.
        Friend, the press sadly is an enemy of the people. There’s an active campaign to make the blue Twitter checkmark into a kind of yellow star, and I refuse to condemn it. How could I condemn it in good conscious?

        I resisted for years the impulse to simply believe the “white genocide” tweets weren’t cherry-picked, but then I did some digging and of course the vast bulk is all Hirschbergs and Aldermanns and Shapiros. These people perform genital blood sacrifice on infants, then turn around and try to blame me for things like slavery?

        Fuck that. I’ll tolerate any degree suppression up to and including genocide. It’s not my problem.

      • Defenstrator says

        To be fair the media brought the fake news label on themselves because the kept reporting fake news. The fact a known liar could stick that label on them and make it stick shows exactly how far the media have fallen.

  27. david of Kirkland says

    And I just thought it was because power corrupts. Authoritarianism is innate and starts in the family, coupled with religion, coupled with government. Liberty is very hard for human minds to grapple with because it means they have to live in the world that exists rather than a world they wish for.

    • Stephanie says

      Wasn’t Hillary Clinton involved in policymaking as First Lady, despite being elected by no one? Funny how suddenly people care about nepotism…

  28. Jason says

    I think when you see populist movements across multiple cultures, it’s a stretch to call culture on the rug for the problem of governing people. It’s a much simpler explanation to say that governments are far too centralized/authoritarian for people to tolerate. That ‘elites’ have been making policy without the consent of the governed for too long, and now that the world economy is starting to crater under oil’s decline, that resentment has been weaponized in their defense.

    You say people feel entitled, well maybe that’s because the wealth out there exceeds anything in history, yet life expectancy is declining. The game is clearly rigged, and it was okish as long as it wasn’t killing people, but we’re now past that point.

    I honestly feel like this is a C+ reddit post, not a Quillette piece.

  29. Ross Stitt describes the Rise of Ungovernables:

    “. . . they are relatively more self-entitled, self-opinionated, intolerant, and prickly than earlier voters.”

    What Mr. Stitt does well is describe the kind of human being who appears with the apparent triumph of liberal democracy and with what Dennis Fukuyama called “the end of history”.
    The author significantly begins his essay by bringing up Francis Fukuyama’s influential essay “the End of History” and seems to implicitly accept and defend Fukuyama’s conclusions about the predominance of liberal democracy. This is unfortunate because I believe a closer critique of Fukuyama reveals a great deal about our current situation and puts Mr. Stitt’s “ungovernables” in a broader historical context.

    In Fukuyama’s longer book version The End of History and the Last Man he evokes Nietzsche’s proclamation of “the Death of God” as emblematic of “the end of history”. Fukuyama presumes Nietzsche Death of God proclamation as a kind of historical fact – this, I believe is a significant though common misreading of Nietzsche.

    For Nietzsche the Death of God is not simply some historical fact but more of a psychological event symptomatic of abstracted modern human beings who no longer have an experience of themselves as participants in an unfolding universe.

    From this misinterpretation of the Death of God as historical fact, Fukuyama then presumes the predominance of liberal democracy and the emergence of the last man to be inevitable outcomes. Even a cursory reading of Nietzsche’s prophecy of the last man reveals a kind of human being who very much resembles the kind smug, rights obsessed, ungovernable citizens the author describes.
    But where Fukuyama resigns himself to accept the last man, Nietzsche has nothing but ridicule and scorn for the last man. Nietzsche ridicules the last man because he does not understand the ephemerality of his particular moment in history – in other words, the last man, the ungovernables and Fukuyama himself don’t understand that history has not ended.

    I think a more accurate understanding of Nietzsche’s Death of God is that the apparent Death of the Christian God has been erroneously misinterpreted as the Death of the Logos. The death of the Logos means that reality has no meaning – nature is so much raw material from which we can construct whatever reality we want. With the clarity of historical hindsight we can see how postmodern relativism and the demands of equality of “rights” are the inevitable results of this presumption of no Logos.

    So the relevant questions are: Has the Logos ended? Was it an illusion all along? Or, does the Logos persist?

    The nature of liberal democracy in a dead Logos universe apparently ends in resentment, chaos and a world of “ungovernables. But if the Logos does indeed persist, this implies a completely different understanding of the nature of liberal democracy. It’s not a coincidence that someone like Jordan Peterson (certainly a liberal democrat) is viewed as an existential threat to this dead Logos world view because he precisely affirms the persistence of the Logos and the primacy of responsibilities over rights.

    Liberal democracy in a living Logos universe is radically different than liberal democracy in a dead Logos universe.

  30. david of Kirkland says

    We’re just spoiled. None of those who make these arguments has lived in abject poverty to “remember” what human life actually is, versus the really great stuff we have now because we allowed liberty, science and equal protection to gain a foothold that is now slowly being eroded by those who think all we have now is the natural world’s result.

    • Lydia says

      But a lot of people went backwards due to over regulation, mortgage crisis, bad trade deals, bailouts, business’ collapsing such as all the government invested green companies and others pursued by overzealous gov prosecutors, etc. They are seeing a country where upward mobility isn’t as available to certain people. And sadly, portions of the country are thrilled about that.

      I had an interesting morning. It was spent visiting a company in the specialty pharmaceutical supply chain to health care entities.. One of the points they made is that their business practically doubles when there is a crisis like 9/11, a bad recession, a natural disaster, etc. He said it’s lighter than it was two years ago.

  31. Persecition and the Art of Science says

    So what is the long game here? To build a new Rubio for 2024? Just state your intentions clearly and quit the poetics, Quillette.

  32. Mark Beal says

    “Thirty years ago, politicians took the pulse of the nation through meetings with voters and tracking “old media.” Now they stumble about in a shifting online world to distil what the voters want.”

    Maybe politicians should get out more, along with journalists. Maybe one of the main issues today is that politicians and journalists believe that the sum total of public opinion is to be found on TwitFace, whereas TwitFace seems to me a playground for vociferous extremists who constitute a relatively small proportion of the poulation, rather than people capable of rational thought and/or common sense. Politicians and journalists, meanwhile, pander to these extremists rather than appeal to the majority of the people.

    The crisis in liberal democracy might most easily be explained thus: Most ordinary voters in western nations can no longer find parties or politicians who represent their views to any adequate degree. Who is a person in the UK supposed to vote for if they believe in a robust welfare state while being small ‘c’ conservatives in social matters and sceptical of mass immigration? Who is a person supposed to vote for who believes in low taxes and a strong defence, but has no truck with talk of a “gender pay gap” or anything “transgender”?

    Perhaps there’s only a crisis because the old parties are no longer fit for purpose and need to reform themselves (faint hope) or simply kill themselves (before they just fade away) and make way for new parties that are better equipped to represent voters.

    “The Brexit chaos, the Trump presidency, the collapse of support for centrist parties across Europe, and the pervasive rise of populism and nationalism, all point to the growing fragility of liberal democracy.”

    Seriously, this trope was old and stale the day after Trump was elected. If writers here want to be taken seriously it would help if they at least balanced it out with mention of the bat-droppingly crazy people on the identitarian left. (If we’re living in a therapy culture, why aren’t these people getting any?) The mainstream media has been portraying the eight MP’s who have quit the Labour Party in Britain as motivated by their opposition to Brexit, but this makes no sense. The bulk of the Parliamentary Labour Party opposes Brexit. It’s quite clear that what these MP’s really object to is the extremism within the party. Indeed, Joan Ryan came right out with it, saying that the leadership was mostly interested in “purging their perceived ideological enemies within and obsessing over issues of little interest to British people”.

    So while we’re on the subject, Brexit. Yes, immigration played a part in the result of the referendum. This does not mean that large sections of the electorate are to be found goose-stepping their way through provincial towns. To call people “racist” and “nazis” or even “nationalists” because they have legitimate concerns about immigration levels is just shooting yourself in the foot. These words barely even mean anything anymore, at least not the way they’re used in public discourse.

    So since we’re talking about a crisis in (liberal) democracy, what do you call it when an unelected body more or less imposes laws on member states? If you’re worried about Orban in Hungary, maybe you need to consider him the symptom and start addressing the underlying problem. If you’re worried about Brexit, maybe you need to consider that people who believe in democracy and want to live in a democratic country are not some “ungovernable” mass, but people voting to regain national sovereignty (because, yes, a democracy is only workable within clearly defined national borders).

    Interestingly, much of the rhetoric of Remainers seems to be an expression of vulnerability, as if Britain is somehow doomed without the “benign” paternalism of the European Union. Maybe this has something to do with the much talked about young Remainers/old Leavers pattern of voting. Perhaps older voters, whose parents or grandparents would have fought in World War II, still understand the virtue of a stiff upper lip and rolling your sleeves up, even if Prince William appears not to. Perhaps younger voters, schooled to regard themselves as feeble victims, are scared stiff of real independence.

    Or maybe there is no crisis in liberal democracies. Maybe the real crisis would be if people just stopped voting, instead of voting for change. And if only Trump, Brexit, Alternative für Deutschland et al are offering change, what or who does the author expect people to vote for? I may not have a choice I can wholeheartedly endorse in the voting booth, but I sure as hell know what I’m not prepared to stomach.

  33. Owntown Dart Scene says

    “Voters have become more difficult to govern”? Could this possibly have something to do with the general trend of trying to govern them right out of existing as coherent bodies-politic?

    Well, at least when Quillette publishes these kinds of lower middle elitist musings, we usually get some quality writing along with them. In the comments section. That’s better than most sites.

  34. Rands use of the word selfish is often confusing. A better phrase would be rational self interest.

    Being more demanding, vitriolic, entitled, intolerant etc. etc. is not rational and very rarely furthers ones self interest. More likely voters react this way in response to the ballooning size of government itself. When everyone is forced into each others pockets, bedrooms and social connections what, exactly, should we expect?

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      Government is not “ballooning.” We’ve seen a nearly fifty-year run of conservative political and economic theory, and it looks like it’s delivering us up to a socialist counter-response in the coming years.

      Your cause and effect is ridiculously uninformed.

      • Stephanie says

        It was conservative theory that lead to the radically-expanded welfare state?

  35. Fickle Pickle says

    Perhaps it would be informative to re-consider the prophetic poem The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats combined with the Hindu proposition that we are now in the very darkest phase of the Kali Yuga, and the fact that there is very little light to be found anywhere in this now darkened and darkening world.
    There are many references to The Second Coming. I find this one to be quite informative:

  36. Pingback: Liberal democracy and the ungovernable voters « Quotulatiousness

  37. FavoriteHistoricalCharacter says

    Or another way to put it, the voters have become less docile and led by elites.
    Skepticism about democracy is a direct results of globalization, which puts so many key decisions beyond the purview of he nation state. If there’s no real control, there’s no real democracy. Its like having faith in democracy in India in 1905, if Britain were to schedule provincial elections.

  38. Jim says

    “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” – Alexis de Tocqueville

    The erosion of “liberal” democracy has accelerated in recent times, but partially, at least, has its roots in the structural deficiencies of the system itself, as de Tocqueville implies. In “Democracy, the God that Failed”, Hoppe argues that a publicly owned government has the inherent flaw of shorter time preference due to the political need to provide immediate results for the next election cycle. Politicians can kick the can down the road, rather than deal with looming crises in a more distant future. It is much more palatable to provide goodies to a voting bloc, especially if it they can be wrapped in a pseudo-moralistic RobinHood-esque narrative.

    Of course, politicians don’t share all the blame – the public can be relied upon to seek the easier, softer way, especially given technological advances that have increased leisure time in the West.

    Maybe people are becoming “ungovernable” because some are sensing the cracks in the current world system, and foresee an unsustainable future.

  39. Pingback: Emperors undressed – The Other Club

  40. ianl says

    > “The Brexit chaos, the Trump presidency, the collapse of support for centrist parties across Europe, and the pervasive rise of populism and nationalism, all point to the growing fragility of liberal democracy”

    I did not need to read this rhetoric any further. The quoted sentence is sneer code for “the deplorables”

    As is quite usual for self-promotions like this essay, the term “liberal democracy” remains completely undefined, just a vague feel-good lefty phrase.

    It is no surprise that the author has a PhD in “political science” from Sydney U. Appropriating the noun science to describe this dilettantism is vandalism.

    • Craig WIllms says


      Precisely! It wasn’t even two paragraphs before the blame was laid on Trump. What is this crisis brought on by Trump? Is it just that he is a bit unconventional in his manner (true). From where I sit – and I was not a supporter whatsoever, at first – it’s nothing but success, short of his ‘Wall”.

      The crisis is that with his obvious successes he is destroying the notion that the only way forward is radical progressivism. Hallelujah!!! Unchecked progressivism destroys, and it needs to be constantly tamped down.

  41. Saw file says

    So…it’s basically impossible to herd adult 5yr-olds?

  42. Andrea Ng says

    Ross Stitt’s analysis is astute- its not ALL about the failure of the political class. He is not comprehensive – but is not purporting to be. Comments by others also provide good insights about the relative increasing powerlessness of the nation state, the desire to not be governed, better education, the impact of migration, and greater scrutiny are also insightful. A follow up article on what can be done would be ideal. Referendums to empower the plebs ? A mechanism to make people more accountable for an entitlement culture ? And while he talks about Furedi , actually what we have is a materialistic, not paternalistic state.

  43. Thanks Lorenzo – I ordered “The Revolt of the Public” bu Martin Gurri.

    I found the article’s analysis good in many ways. I found it a more comprehensive account of the current malaise (plural?) and the role social media plays in it than I recall anywhere – and I have read quite a few at Quillette. I read only some of the comments.

    I object to the article’s “The Brexit chaos, the Trump presidency, the collapse of support for centrist parties across Europe, and the pervasive rise of populism and nationalism, all point to the growing fragility of liberal democracy.” because I interpreted it as the author assuming, and expecting everyone to accept as a fact, that it deplorable that the Leave vote was the majority and that large numbers of people reject mass immigration and/or external control of their country, both involving peoples of different racial and/or cultural backgrounds than those they prefer to live with or be governed by.

    Lee, quoting Erick Kaufmann’s “Whiteshift” tackled some of my concerns, but even here: “Politicians should empathize with their anxieties so long as these are not – as is true of anti-Muslim politics – based on irrational fears of the other.” I perceive a know-it-all tut-tutting the inferiors for having personal preferences deemed to be “irrational”.

    Mark Beal also critiqued the first-quoted sentence. “Interestingly, much of the rhetoric of Remainers seems to be an expression of vulnerability, as if Britain is somehow doomed without the ‘benign’ paternalism of the European Union.”

    Here are my thoughts, whilst earnestly attempting not to write the longest comment:

    1 – Democracy is a better system than any alternatives – there being no wise, capable, worldly, genuinely benign dictators who are reliable for decades.

    2 – (Mark Beal) “. . . democracy is only workable within clearly defined national borders.”

    3 – Immigration of large numbers of people with different racial and/or
    cultural (including religion) and/or political (many religions have political impact) backgrounds will irrevocably change the nature of a country and its governments.

    4 – A successful country:

    a – Is productive (and therefore hard-working, efficient, innovative and flexible) internally and in in its trade with other countries. So it must have a good education system and probably a way of attracting suitably skilled and educated immigrants.

    b – Has stable governments elected by people who have some common ground regarding frameworks of viewing the world and the rights and responsibilities of citizens and governments.

    c – Protects people who can’t help being who they are from the discrimination they face in many parts of the world. (This does not include religious beliefs and other cultural choices.) The most obvious examples are people whose self-identity doesn’t completely match the most common pattern for their physical sex, or whose romantic and sexual attraction doesn’t fit the most common pattern. (This doesn’t mean pandering to all the demands of the most outspoken members of these groups, such as with the current transgender social contagion.) Other examples are the mentally and physically disabled. I think a successful country protects girls and women from tendencies to discriminate against them (common in many countries which prefer boy to girl babies). Likewise protecting boys and men from those who malign and exploit them.

    d -Tolerates and protects minorities (assuming they were born in the country or arrived legally), without necessarily wanting to greatly increase the numbers of such people in the country.

    e – With high productivity, good standard of living, trustworthy judiciary and law enforcement, efficient and affordable health care, and general absence of needlessly oppressive regulation, this country is a much better place to live than other countries which lack these achievements.

    5 – Therefore, large numbers of people wish to move to this country – including many who do not support the values which underlie these achievements and/or who are for whatever reason unlikely to contribute productively or cohesively.

    6 – So in order to retain the country in a successful form, it needs to
    pick and choose who immigrates. This may include inducing some people to move to the country and preventing others from doing so. The more successful the country, the more unsuitable people want to move to it and so the more difficult the task. In other words, I believe the country should prioritise its own cohesiveness and the desires of its own citizens over expectations that it try to solve problems in other countries by allowing mass inappropriate immigration.

    Its not nice to have fences, gates and locks on doors and windows, but most people (SJWs too, AFAIK) have them, since it is less expensive and nicer than having to deal with intruders inside your house, or rely on the police to remove them.

    While there may be a certain degree of anti-Western Civilisation vandalism in supporting immigration of disparate people into your own country, I think the tendency of some to label opposition to large-scale Muslim immigration as “Islamophobia” is guilt economy virtue signalling by visibly supporting people identified as “victims”. It is also a way of proponents of such immigration avoiding being seen as un-nice while depicting everyone who supports not-nice measures, such as border walls, as being a Nazi. This strikes me as an avoidance of responsibility.

    Building walls and turning back the boats of commercial people smugglers is not nice, but I think it is nicer than allowing the would be immigrants into the country and then having to round them up and send most of them out again.

    I don’t want to live with any more religious fundamentalists than we already have – Christian, Muslim or whatever. They are opposed to the separation of church and state and tend to be intolerant of people who don’t match their ideas of males and females. Nor do I want immigrants to bring their sectarian disputes and anti-Western jihad into my country.

    This seems perfectly rational to me – yet I see this position being labelled “irrational”, “Islamophobic” etc. I regard such attempts at suppressing opinion and its expression as anti-democratic and at odds with all that is good about Western civilisation. So I would not want planeloads of SJWs arriving either.

    I don’t favour a society just of my race and culture. If a majority in a country did, I can understand some people thinking this is undesirable. But in what system would the immigration preferences of such a country be thwarted? To do so would be at odds with democracy – and no-one has a better system than democracy.

    Expelling or oppressing a minority which legally arrived or grew up in your country is one thing, and I would criticise a democracy which does so. I might criticise a democracy which acts to protect its idea of a successful population mix (or lack of mix) and social standards by choosing either no immigrants or immigrants of only one race/culture. However, I can’t see a democracy-supportive way of preventing such a country from having its way, or of portraying their actions as anti-democratic or being based on unreasonable hate or fear.

  44. mary Lucks says

    Please, please stop crediting (and I chose that word carefully) Trump for the rise in skepticism towards establishment solutions. Blame Obama, a product of an unearned elite education, a profligate spender who neglected the military and those who labor for his country while exploding the debt. Blame the Davos crowd who are utterly certain they know what’s best for their lessers. Blame the unintentionally comical media crowd whose hackneyed and uninformed commentary has jaundiced the populace. Blame Hollywood who has lost its desire for both art and entertainment in its clumsy attempt to indoctrinate.

    • Craig WIllms says


      Best comment yet. Particularly the major media outlets who have taken to re-posting Twitter vomit and calling it journalism.

  45. TheSnark says

    The author ID’ed many problem with the current political situation, but omitted a big one. Liberal democracies have arguably not had a real leader since Reagan and Thatcher. Whether you liked them or not, they set the agenda based on their view of the world, and brought the majority of their voters along. Since then we have had a series of hacks enslaved by the latest opinion polls or, more recently, by whatever is trending on Twitter (or in Trump’s case, whatever Fox and Friends tell him).

    In the past we have been fortunate that great leaders arose in moments of real crisis. Without Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Churchill, the Western world would be a very different place. The question is if such a leader could emerge in the current climate of entitled voters and mass media? Maybe we just haven’t be lucky, or maybe these days real leaders will inevitably be pulled down by a howling social media mob for some perceived imperfection.

  46. Polly styrene says

    I agree with much of this article, but I also think we have reached a tipping point because we pay so much tax that is ill-spent by those who govern.

    And the benefits that accrue to politicians and gov’t workers (6 years of service as a politician gets you a beautiful lifetime pension with benefits here in Canada, meanwhile people are working 2 jobs with no benefits at all, as no employer wants to pay the taxes/benefits for a full time person. And these 2 jobs are counted as job growth in the economic statistics, even though both of them may add up to much less than 30 hours per week.

    How money is distributed by government is unfair.

    To make one group pay for benefits they are not afforded / cannot afford for themselves is a recipe for massive discontent. Politicians do well for themselves by the policies they implement. So do special interest groups. You can get a sex change operation for an 11 year old paid for by the public purse, but a man has to pay $200 for a PSA test. How does this benefit society at large?

    Years ago immigrants worked through the difficulties of being new and their children reaped the benefits. We admired the immigrants work ethic. This is the vision of immigration that people can support.

    Today, here in Canada our very left leaning liberal democracy that affords housing and health/dental care and other supports for immigrants, disincentivizing the very qualities of hardwork, having to learn the language, etc. that made the first wave of immigrants so successful. Meanwhile, many of our elderly cannot find long term care housing and live in pain as Dental care and some medicines are benefits only workers with a benefit plan or people on social assistance get.

    This is not social justice, or anything close to social justice. This is politicians buying votes. And citizens are getting wise to it.

    • Craig WIllms says

      @Polly styrene
      “And the benefits that accrue to politicians and gov’t workers (6 years of service as a politician gets you a beautiful lifetime pension with benefits here in Canada, meanwhile people are working 2 jobs with no benefits at all,”

      In the U.S. they used to say get a government job, the pay may be lower but the ‘bennies’ are really good. For one the pay is not lower, not anymore. For two, public employees here get to retire at 55 with a pension for life, a pension they traditionally never paid into out of pocket. The rest of us have had retirement moved up to 67 before we can collect the money we paid in through Social Security. Pensions have gone extinct in the private sector, replaced by the gambling den called Wall Street.

      What makes a non-risky government job so special that they can retire 12 years before the rest of us?

  47. James Hamilton says

    An interesting point the author doesn’t cover is that modern politicians are also sourced from the same pool of self-entitled narcissists they are supposed to govern.

  48. Hans Sandberg says

    Thanks for a very good and thought provoking essay, which has a few strands that run parallel to Paul Collier’s “The Future of Capitalism: Facing the New Anxieties”. I have one objection, and I think it is fundamental, and that is that the author ignores the effects of the exploding inequality and economic insecurity that has take place over the past four decades. Globalization in a neo-liberal setting has split many societies in a tiny, but extremely wealthy and powerful elite on one hand and a frustrated and insecure middle class/working class on the other at the same time as large parts of the postwar welfare systems have been dismantled. The frustration and often irrational response from the affected/dislocated masses reminds us of Hannah Arendt’s description of the “movements” in “The Orgins of Totalitarianism,” movements of disenfranchised people with little or no political experience or representation. While it is true that voters are responding as disappointed consumers rather than citizens, I don’t think it is fair to blame the “losers” in the socioeconomic/political game they are facing. Michael Sandel’s critique of “meritocratic hubris” does indeed describe the reaction of the relatively wealthy and well educated voters, but not the suddenly laid off workers who switched from Obama or Sanders to Trump.

    I sense a lack of empathy here, which is a conservative reaction to our current crisis.

Comments are closed.