Call for ideologies

Francis Fukuyama has a new essay out arguing that the world needs a new ideology to reinvigorate and protect the middle classes of the world’s ailing liberal democracies:

…Politically, the new ideology would need to reassert the supremacy of democratic politics over economics … But the agenda it put forward to protect middle-class life could not simply rely on the existing mechanisms of the welfare state. The ideology would need to somehow redesign the public sector, freeing it from its dependence on existing stakeholders and using new, technology-empowered approaches to delivering services. It would have to argue forthrightly for more redistribution and present a realistic route to ending interest groups’ domination of politics.

Economically, the ideology could not begin with a denunciation of capitalism as such, as if old-fashioned socialism were still a viable alternative. … The new ideology would not see markets as an end in themselves; instead, it would value global trade and investment to the extent that they contributed to a flourishing middle class, not just to greater aggregate national wealth.

It is not possible to get to that point, however, without providing a serious and sustained critique of much of the edifice of modern neoclassical economics, beginning with fundamental assumptions such as the sovereignty of individual preferences and that aggregate income is an accurate measure of national well-being. This critique would have to note that people’s incomes do not necessarily represent their true contributions to society. It would have to go further, however, and recognize that even if labor markets were efficient, the natural distribution of talents is not necessarily fair and that individuals are not sovereign entities but beings heavily shaped by their surrounding societies.

I’m not sure that Fukuyama’s right in saying that the political left has more ideological failings than the political right – although that’s certainly a popular idea, among conservatives and self-castigating liberals alike. And the article as a whole contains a number of generalizations that make me uneasy. But in any case, his laundry list of requirements for a new political and economic worldview is demanding and impressive.

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