The world is in the process of reordering. The old world order, dominated by the west, is falling. In the passing decades, people in the west got used to seeing their own societies as superior to the rest of the world. The west was the developed world that had wealth, freedom and democracy. The rest of the world was just catching up with the west.
This thinking is still very strong, even though it should be apparent to everyone who is paying attention that this is no longer true. Western countries have become little more than banana republics. Our governments are corrupt to the bone. While the rule of law and individual liberty were always ideals that were never fully reached, in the past, a lot of western countries like the US or Britain at least had a somewhat liberal system in which people enjoyed some rights.
Today there isn’t even a pretext of a rule of law any more. The law has become openly political. Whether someone can get his rights in court increasingly depends on his political opinions. In the US, even former President Trump has been indicted on some weak, made up charges to stop him from running in the next election. Real banana republic stuff.
Similar things are happening all over the west. We cannot even trust in having free and fair elections any more. Here in Malta, people often seem to have the impression that Malta is a particularly corrupt place. Yes, Malta is corrupt, no question, but the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side. In reality, Malta is probably not nearly as corrupt as banana republics like the UK, Germany or France.
I continue pointing out that the idea that the grass is greener on the other side is a dangerous fallacy in politics. That is not to say that it is always false, but often it is. In particular when looking at the pitiful state of western institutions, one could be tempted to think that the countries on the other side of the west, like Russia or China, are better places. But that, in my view, would be a dangerous misconception.
The reality is that western liberalism is an absolute exception in human history. It does not seem to exist in any society outside the modern west. In fact, it has not even spread everywhere in the so called west. It is a very fragile and rare idea. I am convinced that the idea of individual liberty, meaning that each individual human being has the right to live his life as he wants, is a morally superior idea. It deserves to win in every society on this planet. In that sense I am a globalist, I want the whole globe to adopt this idea.
I therefore reject the relativist idea that every society needs to be respected for their own ideas. No they don’t. The reason why I don’t believe that is, because who is it that we would respect? It is not the victims of these societies. I am sure if we asked the gays in Iran facing execution, or the women there being forced to live a life they don’t want to live, whether they want the regime to be respected, they would reject that. So which side are we supporting, the Mullahs or the freedom fighters? I have yet to find a convincing argument to not support the freedom fighters. We need to call out societies that do not adopt individual liberty. The only question is what is the best way to do that?
Some liberal minded people support the strategy that the liberal west needs to dominate the planet militarily to keep the illiberal forces in check. This form of globalism wants a global police that can control everything. This is a catastrophically bad idea. There are a number of reasons for that.
First of all, the government is never liberal. All great liberal thinkers in history, starting with John Locke, have correctly identified the state as problematic. The state might be a necessary evil, that is to say it might not be practically possible to get rid of it, but it remains an evil. Therefore, making an illiberal institution like the state the promoter of liberalism is a strategy that is doomed to fail.
In the home country of liberalism, England, the classical liberals were first and foremost opponents of the British empire and advocates of free trade. The same can be said for the US, were the liberal founding fathers, inspired by English liberalism, rejected the empire and gained independence from it. The state is the enemy, and the only thing that has ever shown to be an effective force against that enemy is competition. With competition, the liberal states will do better and rise.
Liberalism cannot be spread with illiberal means. And military force is illiberal. Even if we accept the laughable idea that the people running the western militaries are primarily motivated by spreading liberalism, this can simply not be done with military power. It is not a surprise that the track record of that strategy is abysmal.
Very few positive examples exist. To be fair, the British empire did use its military to end slavery in many places. Without the British ending slavery, we would probably still have some countries today that not only de facto practise slavery, but very openly. This example, however, is the absolute exception. Most of the British military force was used to divide and conquer and not to advance liberalism.
Military force destroys societies at their core. Ethical codes that are necessary for a free and functioning society are being broken. This leads to long lasting hatred and mistrust of others. I am not going to see someone who brutalises me as a nice and wise person that I should listen to. Instead I will see him, and everything he stands for, as an enemy. Therefore, wars in the name of liberalism result in liberalism being seen as the enemy and not the solution.
War is the health of the state. This can be observed in every war. Let’s just take the current war in Ukraine. Ukraine is supposed to defend western freedom. But whatever freedom existed in Ukraine before the war is now gone. She is now a brutal and ruthless dictatorship with no freedom left.
On the other side, the people supporting the war without fighting it are also loosing. Billions of western taxpayer money has been used to finance this war. This severely damages what was still left of the western economies, and gives more and more power to the state.
On the Russian side, the war has decreased the ability to criticise the government, and men are being drafted to fight for the regime. Russia has been transformed into a war economy, although it never really had much of a free economy to start with.
The result of spreading liberalism with military force is that liberalism loses everywhere. One of the main reasons why the west has turned into these corrupt banana republics is because it started to police the world. The military industrial complex has undermined every aspect of our once relatively free societies.
Every psychologist knows that the old Greek philosophers were right. One cannot simply tell people what the mistake in their thinking is. Worse, one cannot tell people what the mistake in their thinking is and then punish them if they won’t listen. It simply does not work. The best way to convince someone is by letting them find the answers themselves.
If global liberalism is the goal, then the best way to achieve that goal is by leading by example. Before the US became this gigantic empire, she was actually very respected in the world. Lots of people thought it would be a good idea to be more like the US, which let to many societies starting to adopt forms of liberalism. Not any more.
Now, liberalism has become the enemy, as it is associated with the western military empire. And that although the west has become completely illiberal in the process of trying to police the world. This is a disaster. Contrary to what a lot of critics of the west seem to believe, the grass is not greener on the other side.
The new anti-western alliance that is emerging is not going to safe liberalism. Russia and China are deeply illiberal countries. I would normally agree in calling them out on their illiberalism. The problem is that the west is in no position to do so. Given how illiberal the west itself has become, any calling them out correctly looks totally hypocritical. Worse, given the western military history, it can be, and maybe should be, interpreted as an outright threat.
We therefore have a situation where liberalism seems to have died on all sides. What we in the west need to do is, cancel the empire and defeat our illiberal elites at home. Then, maybe, we can lead by example again.
But if we fail to rescue liberalism in the west, there won’t be a saviour coming from outside. Outside the west, there is no tradition of liberalism. If we fail in the west, we will likely just go into a very dark age. But it won’t be easy to restore liberalism in the west. As I said earlier, liberalism is very fragile. That is why it has rarely existed in history. We therefore might not succeed, which would be grim.