With economies collapsing worldwide (or seeming to), people are panicking. They are pointing to capitalism--the system of economic liberty that supports the system of political liberty--as the culprit. The New York Times recently reported, in connection with this week's G-20 gathering in London, "The American banking collapse, which precipitated the global meltdown, has led to a fundamental rethinking of the American way as a model for the rest of the world." Freedom means personal vulnerability, mutual destruction, and widespread misery, or so they say. When the cost of freedom outweighs the benefits, people willingly exchange their freedom for relative safety under the protection of a strongman of some sort, whether it is a warlord, a pimp, or the progressive state.
Seventeenth century philosopher Thomas Hobbes argued that human beings are by nature radically individual and free to order their actions however they choose. We are thus not naturally political, but naturally free and fundamentally selfish. Alas, in what he called a "state of nature" in which everyone is simply free, unrestrained by any government or civil society of any sort, life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." Freedom being an intolerable condition, people flee it for the security of life together under a political sovereign.
This same logic was the leftist gospel in the 1980s. The claim on the left was that the nuclear standoff between NATO and the Soviet Bloc, threatening as it did the destruction of "the planet," made one world government the only rational option. It is better to be red (communist) than dead. But the logic of achieving security through the threat of mutually assured destruction was founded on better premises, and thankfully prevailed in the minds of most free citizens. Nation states survived, as did political and economic liberty, and the world socialist movement seemed to slip irrecoverably into the history of foolish ideas.
Once again, however, we are being tempted to flee into the arms of Leviathan, and The Wall Street Journal has given the president of the Party of European Socialists and former Danish prime minister, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, space on their opinion page to make his case for "The Socialist Solution to the Crisis" (April 2, 2009), namely, global socialist government.
He begins his manifesto with this "blood of the oppressed drips from your fingers" declaration: "The job losses, repossessions, uncertainty, fear and misery faced by the people of Europe, the United States and Japan are a terrible stain on the consciences of those bankers and politicians whose doctrine of neo-liberal markets plunged us all into this crash." For the poor in the developing nations (which, interestingly, he still calls "the Third World"), this has meant "hunger, disease, and death." His socialist analysis calls forth a socialist solution. He sees this crisis as "a unique opportunity to develop a new approach," viz. "a Global New Deal."
His most troubling expression of glee comes when he describes the Global Progressive Forum (GPF) which will meet soon meet in Brussels.
This is the world conference of the Global Progressive Forum (GPF), which will bring together speakers from five continents to develop a new vision of a globalized world which benefits all. The GPF will take place in the European Parliament and will be opened by Bill Clinton. It will feature debates and discussions on the issues of global governance, trade, financial markets, decent work, migration and climate change, all aimed at coordinating global answers to what are global crises. It shows that the world's progressives are serious about making a solidaristic social model a reality for all.
Sadly, we have no Reagan at the helm to fight against this latest totalitarian thrust against the dignity of liberty. But the defense of liberty always depends on the education for liberty among free citizens. Thankfully, at least for now, we still have the freedom to discuss these ideas.