The 20th century was without any doubt, the most successful in human history. Under any metrics: economic growth, poverty levels, life expectation, education, etc. The economic and scientific growth was unprecedented. And in despite of two world wars, the world was more peaceful and equalitarian than any time in history.
The reason is simple. It is the century where liberalism triumphed. I am talking about the consensus regarding the relevance of the political freedom presented by Thomas Jefferson and economic freedom and capitalism, as presented by Adam Smith. Their thoughts inspired great philosophers and thinkers during the next hundred years.
To them, government exists simply to guarantee individual rights. Not to impose an agenda. Liberalism flourished. People like Ronald Reagan, Milton Friedman, Gary Becker, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek and Karl Poper completely dominated the debates and crushed collectivism. By the end of 1990s, after the Soviet Union was dismantled and the Berlin Wall fell; Europe learned it was best to trade goods and integrate as the best medicine against war.
The problem is collectivism has too many faces. They know how to present itself from the left with socialist ideas and a promised “social justice”. And from the right, they position the idea of nationalism and finding immigration as a common enemy. The both seek a future by looking into a glorious tribal past.
Collectivists knew how to infiltrate democratic institutions. Latin America is full of examples. But they are also here, in the United States. Today, members of the Democratic Party present themselves as liberals. And some in the Republican Party claim to defend the liberal principles. They both lie. They both seek to accumulate power. They both want a bigger state. One prioritizes minorities. The other, nationalism.
How did we get to this point? Liberalism fell into some kind of trap. A self-complacency trap. We thought the world was going to be smart enough to understand liberalism gives us the best results and numbers. We thought the scoreboard would speak for itself. We underestimated the skill of populists to organize the exploitation of feelings.
What’s next? We have to defend our individualism and liberalism ourselves. We no longer have Amartya Sen, Ayn Rand to defend our interests. We will have to do it ourselves.
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