How Economics Encourages an Anti-Politics and Became a Global Religion

1. The West’s way of life has one “last chance,” notes Edward Luce in his insightful new book The Retreat of Western Liberalism.

2. The logic of its two great allied engines—democracy and market economics—is cracking apart.

3. Though “we are taught to think our democracies are held together by values,” Luce declares, “…liberal democracy’s strongest glue is economic growth.” But will liberty-loving “values” weaken if growth falters?

4. Despite ongoing trickle-down soothsaying, “the West’s median income… has barely shifted” in 50 years of strong overall growth.   

5. The West’s “left-behinds” can see their material (+moral) interests ebbing (see Peter Turchin on macro-history of immiseration, not inequality, causing political instability, + “counter dominant coalitions“).

6. Meanwhile, many free-marketeers brandish Branko Milanović’s “Elephant Chart,” trumpeting that globalization has “lifted” billions out of poverty. Wonderfully true, but don’t kid yourself. For many capitalists that’s an incidental byproduct they’d happily jettison (their gospel-of-greed alchemy prioritizes only profits).

7. Luce notes much “unapologetic ignorance of history” among democracy-plus-markets evangelists.

8. Historically, “democracies” resisted the “will of the people.” Votes for all took decades-long fights (the idea of insta-democracy transitions would be laughable if they weren’t deadly).

9. And don’t forget India’s historic free-market “genocide.” Late Victorian Holocausts details 12 to 29 million starvation deaths due to the “imposition of free-market economics” by British rulers.

10. They exported grain and criminalized aid (claiming interference with market prices). Their Anti-Charitable Contributions Act created labor camps with fewer daily calories than Buchenwald. The Economist’s market-loving liberals called it unreasonable to expect the authorities “to keep [Indians]

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