The ins and outs of liberalism
Capitalism and its simplest expression – liberalism – are a hot topic once again. Intellectuals and blogging economists are taking on the subject as they look to the future and talk about overhauling liberalism’s model, structures and system.
In Le Point a French weekly news magazine, columnist Luc de Barochez recently described liberalism as the antidote to populism. Citing the “Manifesto for Liberalism” published by The Economist to mark its 175th birthday, the journalist does not mince his words, saying: “Liberalism must get back to the two basic principles on which its success was founded: liberty and the common interest.” He goes on to say: “The paradox is that liberalism is also the remedy for the anti-establishment fever consuming western democracies. Whether on the right or left, liberalism, with its faith in individual freedom, offers a compelling way to fight populist excesses and the urge for people to retreat within their communities.” The Economist argues that it is time for a liberal reinvention, stating: “The true spirit of liberalism is not self-preserving, but radical and disruptive.”
So will our economic model take this opportunity to look at itself, make changes, pay attention, listen and perhaps come up with some new rules? In the meantime, some intellectuals are working to move the philosophical debate forwards by suggesting new ways to look at the world. One such thinker is Yuval Noah Harari, author of the best-selling book Sapiens. His new book is entitled 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, published by Albin Michel. In it, he says: “As usual, history took an unexpected turn and after fascism and communism collapsed, now liberalism is in trouble. So where are we heading?” The question is a poignant one. Harari claims that knowledge has become our most valuable resource, saying that it would be pointless to send an army to conquer Silicon Valley because, as he observes: “There are no silicon mines in Silicon Valley.”
In these days of highs and lows, the debate over liberalism is explosive, fascinating and, make no mistake, fundamentally important. Les Echos, a French business daily, shared a story today about our evolving connected world. “Photo sharing? Instagram does it already. Stories? Same thing. Private messaging? That too. But Snapchat, which is having some woes right now, has unveiled a new visual product search functionality that could help to set it apart from its direct rival. The app, which is hugely popular among younger people, announced on Monday that it has signed a partnership with Amazon to provide the e-commerce titan with a visual product search engine. The feature had been the subject of rumours for some months after developers spotted it in the app’s source code.” It is being tested beginning this week in the United States but is expected to be rolled out gradually.
Liberalism goes through crises from time to time but has never ceased to create and invent. For better and for worse…