The misguided invasion of Iraq which this newspaper supported at the time , and other failed interventions in the Middle East have exposed the hubris and difficulty of military action in the pursuit of universal values. The global financial crisis laid bare the dangers of under-regulated finance. Liberal economists paid too little attention to the people and places harmed by trade and automation. The liberal world order failed to confront the epic challenge of climate change or to adapt its institutions to the growing importance of emerging economies.
Liberal thinkers paid too little heed to those things people value beyond self-determination and economic betterment, such as their religious and ethnic identities. These failures mean that liberalism needs another reinvention. Those in favour of open markets and societies need to see off the threat posed by those who value neither.
They also need to do a lot more to honour their promise of progress for all. That means being willing to apply their principles afresh to the existing and emerging problems of the ever-changing, ever-conflicted world. It is a tall order. And it is made taller by the fact that this has, indeed, been a period of liberal ascendancy. Liberals like Wilson saw themselves, by and large, in opposition to entrenched elites. Today that is hard for liberals to do with a straight face.
They have been the shapers of the globalised world. If it is a smallish number of the rich, and a large number of the very poor, who have done best out of that ascendancy, rather than liberals per se , liberals have still done pretty well; it is not too wide of the mark to caricature their views on migration as more influenced by the ease of employing a cleaner than by a fear of losing out. The wars, financial crisis, techified economy, migrant flows and chronic insecurity that have unsettled so many all happened on their watch, and in part because of policies they promoted.
This undermines their credibility as agents of change. Worse, it can also, shamefully, undermine their willingness to be such agents. Many liberals have, in truth, become conservative, fearful of advocating bold reform lest it upset a system from which they do better than most. They must overcome that fear—or, if they cannot, they must be attacked by true liberals who have managed to do so. So too must be his modern heir.
But his zeal was of the times. The case for getting rid of British tariffs on imported grain was not a dry argument about economic efficiency. It was a mass movement, one in which well-to-do liberal thinkers and progressive businessmen fought alongside the poor against the landowners who, by supporting tariffs on imports, kept up the price of grain. Give, give, they cry—and take! When liberals set up the Anti-Corn Law League to organise protests, petitions and public lectures they did so in the spirit of the Anti-Slavery League, and in the same noble name: freedom.
The barriers the league sought to remove did not merely keep people from their cake—bad though such barriers were, and strongly though they were resented. They were barriers that held them back, and which set people against each other. Tearing them down would not just increase the wealth of all. The age of global trade ushered in by the free trade that followed the repeal created a remarkable amount of wealth. Given that it ended in the first world war, though, its record on reducing animosity was, at best, mixed.
The next great age of global trade, which began after the second world war and grew into fullness with the end of the cold war, did even better, bringing with it the greatest reduction in poverty ever. Unfortunately there is still significant cause for jealousy, animosity and heartburning among those who live in places that lost out—enough of it that, amplified by unscrupulous leaders with protectionist politics, it is putting the remarkable gains of past decades at risk. It was based on the insight that unilateral tariff reductions, such as the repeal of the Corn Laws, are unstable. The concentrated displeasure of producers exposed to foreign competition is more powerful than the diffuse gratitude of the mass of consumers, and so tariffs get reimposed.
If reductions are taken in concert with foreign powers, some producers gain new foreign markets, thus becoming supporters, and the international nature of the obligations makes backsliding harder. Tariffs are cut by negotiation and agreed rates applied to all trade partners; a dispute-settlement system authorises retaliation against miscreants. But tariffs on goods are in general no longer a big barrier to global commerce.
Freeing trade in services, such as those of lawyers, architects or airlines, would yield gains six times larger, maybe more. But the WTO, for which nothing is settled until everything is settled, has spent decades failing to reach big deals on services. Nor has it succeeded in stopping China, which joined in , from flouting the spirit, if not always the letter, of its rules by shaking down foreign investors for technologies it fancies and giving under-the-table assistance to its own industries.
The trade system would benefit hugely from a grand agreement forged between America, China and Europe that put multilateral trade on terms appropriate for the 21st-century economy, and for a world in which the biggest trader is not a free market. Terms attractive enough that the rest of the world could be brought into them would both require and allow substantial reform of the WTO.
Multilateral agreements in which groups of like-minded countries forge ahead should lead the way. Working towards such a goal should be at the forefront of trade policy. Alas, the more urgent necessity is to ensure the survival of the current system which, having been undermined by China, is now under determined attack by America, once its greatest support. Fighting to forestall losses is not as inspiring as fighting for new progress. But it is yet more vital; backsliding is a threat to the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people. Defending the existing trade system is thus a paramount goal.
And the gains it may yet offer, in services and elsewhere, are substantial. But no one could claim that free trade has the capacity to stir the spirit today in the way that the fight against the Corn Laws did, nor that it offers as much scope for progress in an already globalised world as in the mercantilist 19th century. Modern liberals must look for new reforms where dismantling barriers and increasing freedom will once again produce transformative gains for individuals and society.
They are spoilt for choice: there is much to do, from rewriting campaign-finance laws that give lobbyists disproportionate power in politics to removing the implicit subsidies still enjoyed in parts of the financial system. In both those cases, and many more, concentrations of power allow the rigged markets and rent-seeking that liberals abhor. But the cause of free trade was powerful in its simplicity, and in that respect two new targets stand out. One is the market in urban land; the other, the anti-competitive economics of the modern economy, and particularly of the digital-technology businesses that increasingly dominate it.
In both cases monopoly power distorts markets in ways that are economically significant, politically potent and ethically unjustifiable.
Start with land. Most 21st-century productivity growth and wealth creation will take place in highly productive cities. Property prices in leading cities have soared. This is a huge windfall gain for a relatively small number of property owners. It reduces the chances of prosperity for a much larger number who are prevented from moving to high-productivity cities offering better wages, and in doing so holds back the economy. The best solution to this is not new: it was well known, and pursued by liberals, in the 19th century. Tax landowners according to the underlying market value of the land that they own.
Such a tax would capture for society part of the windfall that accrues to a landowner when his local area thrives. Land taxes capable of replacing all existing property taxes which are raised on the value of what sits on the land, rather than just the land itself and then some would greatly sharpen the incentive to develop. Because the amount of land is fixed, a land tax, unlike most other taxes, does not distort supply. At the same time, ease planning restrictions. It is no good raising the incentive to develop if regulation then stands in the way.
But development rights have been so far collectivised in many cities as to come close to undermining the very notion of property. The curtailment of development rights enriches even owners of vacant plots; if the windfall gains from soaring property values are heavily taxed, NIMBYism will not be such a profitable strategy.
The problem is getting those owners to give up the windfall and submit to a land tax in the first place. The concentration of corporate power is a trickier problem. Returns to scale and strong network effects—the more users you have, the more you have to offer the next user—have encouraged concentration in various industries built around digital technology, and this encouragement has gone largely unchecked.
One or two giant firms dominate each segment: Google in search, Facebook in social on one side of the Great Firewall, Alibaba and Tencent on the other. This risks reinforcing, perhaps supercharging, a wider trend for industries to be dominated by a few companies. In , in a similar analysis for Britain, we found the same trend. It may help explain both higher profits and the squeeze on labour that has seen the wages of the less-skilled lowered. If there is an economic problem in need of radical new intellectual approaches, this is it.
The existing antitrust framework, created in the progressive era and refined in the s, cannot deal with the nature of market concentration in the 21st century. The pace of mergers has risen. Tech-platform firms enjoy network effects and are continually bundling more services together.
- The Republic of China.
- Democracy in Hong Kong | Council on Foreign Relations;
- A stalled march toward democracy;
- By George he had it.
- Luhmann on Law And Politics: Critical Appraisals And Applications (Onati International Series in Law and Society);
- Communist China | Boundless World History.
The spread of artificial intelligence will give even more power to firms with access to lots of data. Part of the answer is a tougher attitude to policing deals and to ensuring that new firms are not unfairly squashed. But when it comes to tech, something fresher and rooted in individual action and competitive markets would be best. One approach is to consider the data that users generate as a good they own or a service they provide for fees. As with land taxes, there will be intense resistance to newly vigorous antitrust and competition law, or changes in the power structures building up around data, however popular they may be.
But the immense political power of landowners saw off the threat, there and elsewhere. It did not pass. Still, more affordable housing, more choice, lower prices and better jobs remain causes that people can get behind. And the ability of popular movements to grow as never before with the help of both social and mass media is one of the striking aspects of the modern age. This makes keeping the digital sector open and competitive all the more vital. Barriers to wealth-creation there are bad enough. THE bill in front of the House was a wretched thing, as the opposition politician explained.
But he could see why the majority party might like it. In fact they are the words of Winston Churchill, in , speaking from the Liberal benches in opposition to the Aliens Bill that the Conservatives had brought before the House of Commons. The bill was the first attempt to legislate a limit to migration into Britain. Immigration was as politically potent in the early 20th century as it is in the early 21st.
Why Did China Lease Hong Kong to Britain?
Previous decades had seen a surge of people on the move across Europe. Millions had moved farther, heading across the Atlantic to America: hundreds of thousands of Chinese crossed the Pacific to the same destination. Xenophobic backlashes followed. Congress passed a law prohibiting Chinese migrants in By the time of the Immigration Act of it had, in effect, banned non-white immigration.
It also curtailed the rights of non-whites already there in the same ways as it did the rights of its black population, with laws against miscegenation and the like. The flow of migrants across Europe produced a similar reaction. In many European countries the foreign-born share of the population has surged. The reactions have not been as harsh as they were a century ago. Indeed, in America the appetite for more immigration has grown even as the immigrants have arrived.
But any liberals feeling complacent are clearly not paying attention. There are four reasons to expect the issue to get yet more divisive. First, migrant flows are likely to rise. People in the global south are still poor compared with those in the north; modern communications make them very aware of this; modern transport networks mean that, poor as they are, many can afford to try to live the life they see from afar. Over the coming decades the consequences of climate change are likely to force large numbers of people, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia, to move, and though most will probably not move all that far, some will try to go all the way.
Some will be welcome; ageing populations in developed countries will need more working-age people to look after them and pay tax. It is very unlikely that all will. Second, the world lacks good systems for managing migration. The UN Convention on Refugees set up a liberal and eventually near-universal regime for people fleeing oppression and other state malfeasance. It is ambitious and theoretically generous. There are no other mechanisms that give people general rights to seek their fortunes abroad.
Meanwhile low-skilled people without family members in rich countries with whom they might seek to be reunited have no way in. So some seek refugee status on dubious grounds. Third, the modern welfare state complicates the issues around migration in a way that it did not a century ago. Illegal immigrants are not entitled to such benefits. But refugees often qualify, as do the children of people who have arrived illegally. The absolute level of spending may be small; the perception of inequity, though, can be beyond all proportion to the cost. People resent paying taxes to fund benefits that they perceive as going to outsiders.
Fourth, liberal attitudes to immigration have changed. Liberalism came of age in a Europe of nation states steeped in barely questioned racism. Nineteenth-century liberals were quite capable of believing that nations had no duties towards people beyond their borders.
Much modern liberalism has a more universalist view, along the lines of that enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To some, this means that no controls on immigration are justified: that a person born in Mali has the same right to choose where to live as one born in Germany. Totally open borders are rarely if ever politically feasible. It removes barriers that keep people from the lives they want, it produces more diverse societies and it offers economic betterment to all.
People who move to places where they can be more productive realise almost instant gains; higher shares of immigrants are correlated with higher rates of entrepreneurship and dynamism. Economists estimate that, were the world able to accommodate the wishes of all those who wanted to migrate, global GDP would double. A positive attitude to immigration pits liberals against many of their fellow citizens—for all liberals, despite what anyone may say, are citizens of somewhere—more than any of their other beliefs do.
This leaves them leery of imposing cultural norms, let alone a sense of patriotism. It is hard, given such views, for left-liberals to articulate a position on immigration much more sophisticated than opposition to whatever restrictions on it currently seem most egregious.
The more opposition you show, the better your credentials. This is not a way to win. Liberals need to temper the most ambitious demands for immigration while finding ways to increase popular support for more moderate flows. They have to recognise that others place greater weight on ethnic and cultural homogeneity than they do, and that this source of conflict cannot be wished away. They must also find ways for the arrival of new migrants to offer tangible benefits to the people worried about their advent.
People often dislike immigration because it exacerbates a sense that they have lost control over their lives—a sense that has grown stronger as globalisation has failed to spread its prosperity as fully as it should have. Removing other barriers that get in the way of self-determination for people already living in their countries is thus both a good in itself and a way to lessen antipathy to migration. But restoring a sense of control also means migration has to be governed by clear laws that are enforced fairly but firmly. Wary though liberals rightly are of state snooping, technology can help with this in various ways.
If the system is administered in a just, efficient way and with proper procedures for appeal, liberals should feel happy to join them. One aspect of setting clear rules is reforming the international system for refugees. This would include a broader definition of refugee status while encouraging people who claim that status to stay closer to their former homes.
For this to work the refugees need to be integrated into local labour markets; investment needed to further that end should come from richer countries. At the same time, new avenues need to be found to give people who do not qualify as refugees some real hope of a legitimate route to wherever they want to go. Then there is the question of distributing the benefits. Today most of the financial gains from migration accrue to the migrants themselves.
How could some of those gains be shared with the hosts? The late Gary Becker, an economist from the University of Chicago, argued for auctioning migrant visas, with the proceeds going to the host state. As well as taking a little more from immigrants, there will be circumstances when the state should give them a little less.
Systems that offer migrants no path to citizenship, such as those of the Gulf states, are hard for liberals to stomach, and that is as it should be. But that does not mean all distinctions between migrants and established citizens should cease the moment they leave the airport. In America entitlement to retirement benefits kicks in only after ten years of contributions; in France, we hear, no one gets free baguettes until they can quote Racine.
This is all entirely reasonable, and not illiberal. All who have arrived legally, or have had no choice in the matter, should have access to education and health care. Other benefits may for a time be diluted or deferred.
Liberal idealists may object to some or all of this. But if history is a guide, the backlashes that often follow periods of fast migration hurt would-be migrants, the migrants who have already arrived and liberal ideals more generally. Liberals must not make the perfect into the enemy of the good. In the long run, pluralist societies will accept more pluralism. In the short run, liberals risk undermining the cause of free movement if they push beyond the bounds of pragmatism.
Trade unionists across the world fought for them in the 20th. Benito Mussolini built a fascist one. And James Wilson would have hated the idea. William Beveridge, the architect of the post-war British welfare state, was a liberal and Liberal politician. He was also a trustee of The Economist. Some liberals, as well as most conservatives, grudgingly accepted these reforms as the lesser of two evils.
By sharing the benefits of free enterprise more evenly welfare states could stave off the more radical, and damaging, redistributive promises of fascism and, for rather longer, socialism. But their creation was more than just a way to maintain the conditions in which liberalism could flourish. At their best and most liberal, welfare states cushion people from the rougher edges of capitalism while still putting a distinctive liberal stress on individual responsibility. They enhance freedom, enable free enterprise and bring about a broader embrace of progress.
Giving governments responsibility for the education of the young, pensions for the old, financial support for the indigent, disabled and jobless, and health care for at least some, and occasionally all, required massive reforms, the details and ambition of which varied in different places. Since their creation, though, welfare states have changed rather little. Some countries have added benefits. Others, especially in Europe, have trimmed them: less generous assistance for the unemployed, extra conditions for welfare.
This is not because everyone is satisfied with the status quo. Conservatives contend that it dulls the edge of capitalism and the urge for self-betterment. Those on the left see it as a flimsy and patchy safety-net that needs expanding. Indeed, those countervailing stances go a long way towards explaining why social protection has changed remarkably little since the s. The problem is that while welfare states have stood still, societies have not.
And interventions originally intended to help people help themselves have not always done so. Far more women take paid work now than in the middle of the 20th century. Far more households are headed by a single parent. Jobs are much less likely to last for life, to start at nine or to end at five. People are more likely to have more than one at a time.
Some of them like this, especially when one is a passion that the other subsidises. Others resent working at unpredictable hours for little money at the beck and call of more than one master. Most important, in terms of expense, health care is getting costlier and people are living much longer. The system has tried to cope, especially with the bits that most drain the public purse. But the coping has been neither sufficient increases in retirement age have not kept up with increases in life expectancy nor popular people, especially people likely to rely on state pensions, do not like having the retirement age raised.
As for helping people to adapt to changes in the world of work, much too little has been done. The greatly increased need for parental leave and for some forms of child care has been scarcely addressed. Workers desperate for new skills see public investment in education overwhelmingly directed at the not-yet-employed. Meanwhile the interaction of tax policy and welfare system often makes jobs unreasonably unattractive. The failure of welfare systems to cushion the huge changes brought about largely by liberal policies—on destigmatising single parenthood as much as on trade—is one of the reasons people are a lot less likely than they once were to trust liberals offering to fix things.
But things must be fixed. According to the OECD, the ratio of working-age to retired people across rich countries is set to fall from in to in Add on higher health-care costs and spending on the old will soar as the number of workers to sustain that spending plunges. If the failure to raise the retirement age significantly is expensive today, it will be ruinous tomorrow.
Why Did China Lease Hong Kong to Britain?
And if workers are not made more productive, even the less-than-ruinous expenses will be hard to pay. The erosive effects of robotisation and artificial intelligence on the world of work are debatable and frequently exaggerated. But though optimists think clever and more dexterous machines will make most of their human colleagues more productive, rather than redundant, they hardly see a return to the 20th-century world of copious lifelong jobs.
This means that a liberal rethink of the welfare state starts with education. This no longer makes much sense. Pre-school interventions, including many not specifically aimed at the classroom, do a lot more for the life chances of poor children than spending on universities does. And people can need training and further education a long time after their years of university and apprenticeship.
There is a case for a big change in priorities here. New approaches should lay less stress on existing institutions and more on helping people take down the barriers that stand in their way. Geographer and geopolitical scientist. Guerra nucleare.
Il giorno prima. Da Hiroshima a oggi: chi e come ci porta alla catastrofe , Zambon ; Diario di guerra. Escalation verso la catastrofe - , Asterios Editores Article licensed under Creative Commons. Support Voltaire Network. In order to continue our work, we need you to support our efforts. Help us by making a contribution. How to participate in Voltaire Network? The members of our team are all volunteers. Professional-level mother-tongue translators: you can help us by translating our articles. The "Opium Wars" represent the paradigm of British colonialism: London did not seek to dominate the Chinese population politically, but exclusively to exploit it economically.
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