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Liberalism is difficult.

How liberalism lost its lustre – Julian Baggini:

A more troubling explanation is that liberal democracy has simply not lived up to its own values and promise. Its claims to virtue are increasingly seen as hollow. There is a gap between what liberalism should be and what it actually is, and that gap has to be closed if it is to prevail.

Liberal democracy has three key features: it is plural, progressive and participatory. Plural, because it tolerates – even encourages – citizens to live according got their own, different values, so long as they do not compromise the rights of others to do the same. It is progressive because it is rooted in the enlightenment idea that we do not have access to eternal truths but are in an unending process of understanding ourselves and the world better through the application of reason and science. And it is participatory in the obvious sense that everyone has a say in how they are governed.

I don’t know… I tend to think the answer here falls into the general (and not terribly helpful) category of “Complicated things are complicated.”

Living together with a bunch of people and figuring out how to get along and not kill one another because we believe different things about how the world works and what is important is, I would argue, among those most challenging tasks we face. It’s really hard! And we’ll never get to the end of it, where we can say “Okay, we solved that problem.”

So yeah, I guess I feel like it is not that big a surprise that we are not doing great at it right now, or that our track record isn’t super-great either.

Liberal democracy isn’t some end-state that we either get to or don’t. It is a way of approaching the world and the problems it presents to us. We’re never going to perfect it, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying to keep our heads in that space.

On a side note, I would push back on Baggini’s statement farther down in that same post that Trump won in 2016 because he was rich. There are plenty of problems with how money impacts politics in the U.S., as well as with the wealthy having too much access to and influence over public policy. However, it wasn’t money that gave Trump an advantage but rather his ability and willingness to latch on to social/cultural resentments and the anti-liberal sentiments that flow from them.

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