Reinventing liberalism for the 21st Century | The Economist

14 Sep 2018 02:54 189
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This week we celebrate our 175th anniversary with a manifesto for renewing liberalism through a programme of radical reform. But what does this entail?

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On our cover this week we celebrate our 175 anniversary and we issue a manifesto for renewing liberalism. It's been a remarkably successful creed - if you look back over the last 175 years the progress towards human freedom and prosperity has been extraordinary, but as we mark our 175th anniversary we feel that the liberal creed is under some considerable attack. In America, extraordinarily, a third of people under 35 years old no longer think it's vital to live in a democracy. And as you look around the world the rising power, the economy that will be the biggest in the 21st century, is a one-party dictatorship and so we argue liberals once again need to become the agitators for reform. And in a 10 page essay we lay out some ideas for what that reform might look - like we look at what might be the 21st century version of free trade, the cause The Economist was founded to champion.

In the late 19th and early 20th century it was liberals who were behind much of the educational reforms that prepared people for life in the industrial economy - now at the beginning of the 21st century we need to think what kind of educational reform we need. Then we look at immigration, the benefits of the open society are extraordinarily evident but nonetheless people are concerned about the consequences of mass migration. We look at how to make immigration politically sustainable and how to fight back against those nativist nationalists who would close borders. And finally we look at geopolitics - for the last 75 years the liberal world order has been underpinned by America's hegemonic power. The systems and structures set up in the wake of World War two were the underpinnings of the longest period of peace that we've seen in many centuries. But that system now too is under some considerable threat. You have the rise of China but you also more importantly have an American president and American administration that seems less willing to play the role that it traditionally did. So we look at how the international system needs to be revamped to sustain liberal ideals and the liberal world order in the 21st century.

Liberalism is about fighting against entrenched interests. It's about fighting against rigged systems. It's about dispersing power, dispersing concentrated power, and it's important now that liberals regain that spirit. It's a pretty big to-do list - we certainly don't have all the answers but we hope to provoke debate by offering ideas and most importantly we hope to challenge people, challenge liberals that it is time to think boldly about how to sustain the system that has done so well for the last 200 years but needs once again to be reinvented for the 21st century.

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