January 12, 2017 3 Comments
Well, we all made it through 2016 for better or worse. It was quite a year, with many political things roiling the waters. A lot of them were merely personal, and of no account to the rest of us. Especially for us Americans, who have dealt with a president for 8 years who is a god in his own mind. Nobody gets to be president without an over-blown ego, the process makes sure of that, but most have a realization that they aren’t God. With Obama, I’m not so sure.
But it was a year of ideas, as well, especially one: National Sovereignty. What do I mean? Let’s let Ben Peterson start us off.
The year 2016 demonstrated the enduring relevance of political ideas. A political idea is distinct from and more fundamental than a stance on a policy or issue. It is a way of understanding political phenomena in light of a worldview. A political idea connects the dizzying array of available facts, forming a coherent vision of what is really happening in the world.
Nearly every political idea involves at minimum three components, corresponding to these questions:
- What is a good society—in other words, what should the world look like?
- Why doesn’t it look that way?
- What would set things right?
Many of the major events of last year revolved around the political idea of national sovereignty. Scholars, journalists, and analysts have attributed Trump’s victory, Brexit, and other nationalist advances to the forces of populism, demagoguery, and xenophobia.
As Mene Ukueberuka, reviewing The Shipwrecked Mind, Mark Lilla’s timely new book on reactionary political thought, argues in the New Criterion, there is also a tendency toward explanations that psychologize these movements and their supporters. Far from signifying mere “irrationality,” the global wave of populist nationalism is partly based on an explicit political idea: that national sovereignty matters.
Trump advisor Steve Bannon—“the man with the idea” as journalist Michael Wolff described him—has presented the national sovereignty idea most clearly, if sparingly. The best place to look for his expression of it is a Skype-in lecture he gave for a 2014 conference at the Vatican. In answering the second question above, Bannon in effect summarized his political views, saying:
I believe the world, and particularly the Judeo-Christian West, is in a crisis . . . and it is a crisis both of capitalism but really of the underpinnings of the Judeo-Christian West in our beliefs.
The “crisis of capitalism” stems from the twin corruptions of statist crony capitalism and excessive libertarianism, which have estranged elites from common people. The financial crisis of late 2007 to 2009—which financiers and securities traders caused, but for which none was really held accountable—is a key episode in the story of how corrupt, globalized capitalism favored elites and left middleclass workers behind. Underlying the corruption of capitalism is a “crisis of faith,” an “immense secularization of the West.”
This decline of faith has crippled the West, which cannot summon the will or foresight to prosecute the “global war” against “jihadist Islamic fascism.”
via National Sovereignty, Political Idea of the Year – Online Library of Law & Liberty. Go and read the whole thing, right now. I’ll wait for you. And then we’ll talk a bit
Back? Good. He makes some really good points, doesn’t he? He also says some things, especially quoting Bannion, that I disagree with. Well, no real surprise there, I wasn’t a particularly strong Trump supporter, and part of the reason is some of his economic beliefs, I think we’d be far better off if the government got out of our business, more or less completely. But it is still a major improvement.
Nor does it preclude international cooperation. A strong United States infers a strong United Kingdom, France, Germany Russia, whoever, and when our interests coincide, we can cooperate, when they don’t we can compete. Doesn’t mean we have to fight about every detail. The world is big enough for us to differ as well as agree.
I think the United States has turned the corner, going back to nationhood. The UK may have, but is much more hesitant, but will eventually, I think. The rest, well, we will learn much this year. But it may well be the year of the nations, rather than the Davos elite. We shall see.