Monday, August 7, 2017

The Liberal Dialectic (3/3): The Nordic Model


So where is the liberal dialectic today?  The Nordic model is where the liberal dialectic will sit for the time being.  That is my opinion.  Herein I have for the first time since beginning option3 in 2012 begun to reveal how I see good governance in the modern Western context.  Some will argue that the Nordic states are socialistic.  I believe that is a deeply simplistic view.  Nordic states are mixed-economy states.  In other words, they practice centrist policy-making.

__________

Intrusions in the Economy


The Nordic countries are probably the best-governed in the world.
        The Economist, 2013

America is therefore the land of the future, where, in the ages that lie before us, the burden of the World's History shall reveal itself.

        Hegel
__________

Emily Tamkin titled a 2014 Slate article 'Will Everyone Shut Up Already About How the Nordic Countries Top Every Global Ranking?'  As such, I will not list all those lists.  It suffices to say they rank well in several meaningful indices; those lists are also easy to find.  


Perhaps the key idea I wish to convey in this entire blog series is in this paragraph.  Nordic states represent a set of nations where government has attempted - and in many ways succeeded - to balance individual autonomy and compassion for peoples' welfare.  Herein we see a balance of the values of liberal progressivism and liberal conservatism discussed in part 2.  In the context of the liberal dialectic, Nordic states represent modern Western governance as a function of historical necessity.  Neither socialism nor some laisse faire system enjoys such a favorable position in history.


If you read The Economist article linked above, you'll learn that the Nordics are a work in progress.  The Nordic model is also not a panacea either.  Nordics possess small homogenous populations, unlike many countries where most people live.  

But the Nordics do demonstrate that state intrusions and interventions into the economy 1) do not necessarily create economic and social chaos, 2) need not lead into strict socialism, and 3) can leverage compassion as a benefical social force without risking a healthy concern for moral hazard.  Yes, the slippery slope of government deserves enormous suspicion.  And, yes, one day the need for government as we know it may dissolve.  But that day is not today.

I forecast the US slowly improving upon this model over the next several decades - with one caveat: AI or an environmental crisis could supersede events in the liberal dialectic.  I address the latter next.
__________

The Liberal Dialectic and The Environment


But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.
        Rachel Carson

We know that extinction is a natural phenomenon but the rate of extinction is now between 100 and 1,000 times higher than the background rate.  It is an unprecedented loss.
        Dr. Anne Larigauderie, 2006

We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible.  Trump's action could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of 250 degrees, and raining sulphuric acid.  Climate change is one of the great dangers we face, and it's one we can prevent if we act now.  By denying the evidence for climate change, and pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Donald Trump will cause avoidable environmental damage to our beautiful planet, endangering the natural world, for us and our children.
        Stephen Hawking
__________

The end of the liberal dialectic may have nothing to do with ideology, policy, history, or historiography, however.  The environment may just do us in before it matters.

I generally avoid climate change as an issue.  I used to work professionally as a climate change and sustainability research advocate.  And if I was to bet money, I would say climate change is real.  But I sometimes get the sense that climate change, as an issue, has been coopted; I could say more but I will wait.  The truth you don't need climate change to motivate yourself to take environmentalism extremely seriously.

I have often considered biological diversity an issue that better demonstrates what is at stake; I addressed the subject a bit in a 2015 blog.  However, recently I have comes across an even better framework to understand global environmentalism.

In 2009, a group of academics led by Johan Rockström developed the concept of 'planetary boundaries'.  The boundaries include nine global and interacting phenomena that have global system limits.  The phenomena include the climate, biodiversity, the nitrogen cycle, the flow of phosphorus, ocean acidity, land use, freshwater system, ozone depletion, atmospheric aerosols, and chemical pollution.  To reiterate, the phenomena all interact.  And they all have interactions with humanity.  Due to human activity since the First Industrial Revolution, we are pushing the 'planetary boundaries' that constitute the global system to their limits. 


My point is simple; we are fucking up our planet.  And if we are to develop real solutions, government will play a role.  And further, we need to put our fear of state interventions into the economy aside in order to develop centrist policies that take action on several environmental issues such as those outlined as 'planetary boundaries'.  
If the liberal dialectic is a process of political-psychological growth, as argued in part 2, we need to grow up soon.
__________

Beyond The Liberal Dialectic


Communism... is the genuine resolution of the antagonism between man and nature and between man and man; it is the true resolution of the conflict between existence and essence, objectification and self-affirmation, freedom and necessity, individual and species. It is the riddle of history solved and knows itself as the solution.
         Marx

Have we in fact reached the end of history?  Are there, in other words, any fundamental "contradictions" in human life that cannot be resolved in the context of modern liberalism, that would be resolvable by an alternative political economic structure?
        Fukuyama, The End of History

There's an alternative.  There's always a third way, and it's not a combination of the other two ways.  It's a different way.
          David Carradine
__________

Both Marx and Fukuyama believed history was heading towards a long run equilibrium; even if events continue the end of history was inevitable in political economic terms.  I'm not the first to note this point.  Both believed that their own ideological block - communism and liberal democracy respectively - would win history.  They forgot that in the short-run history never ends; it simply keeps going - evolving, as we as individuals evolve psychologically and spiritually.  (Fukuyama may have conceded this point in some sense.  My point remains: liberal democracy is not an inevitable equilibrium outcome.)  We have almost no idea how we are going to evolve over time.  

The liberal dialectic is simply a period in history and a political-economic-historical process.  It will resolve itself.  The Nordic policy model is simply the best articulation of where that process lies.  Something will replace the Nordic model after the liberal dialect has resolved the tensions and contradictions held in the last approximate eight centuries.

If I was to forecast further, I'd say that as post-modernism moves forward, we will exit liberalism and the liberal dialect.*  We will see humanity learn to build kingship within the self.  In other words, as a dialectic process dictates, we do not totally reject monarchism because kingship will come to live in each and every one of us; and we learn to rule over ourselves with greater care.  That is to say, we reach a higher consciousness and do not need government as we know it.**
____________________

Once the liberal dialectic reaches an equilibrium, the dialectic will either 1) open a similarly-sized chapter of history to resolve another similarly-sized contradiction or 2) open a yet bigger chapter of history - reaching both further into the past and/or further into the future.  In this sense, the dialectic is hierarchical; history is, in the short run, unending.  The 'great' past and future help to demonstrate that, as historians, we do not always know the size of the period of history we are addressing.  If I were to conjecture openly, I'd say that all of time is perhaps a dialectic between higher and lower consciousness.

** I have begun to consider higher consciousness and policy idea in part 2 of The Future is Now blog series.