Summer Special Report: How to Reinvigorate Faltering Modern Democracies
Jesse Martin, Editor-in-Chief (Online)
21 September 2018
Part I - Introduction
To many in the West and in the traditional Anglosphere, democracy is often taken for granted. Of all states considered full democracies, as defined by the World Democracy Index, only two are outside of this region. Yet, these modern democracies are facing challenges that will undoubtedly alter the integrity of the institutions that have established them as full democracies. This special report sets out on a mission to define the most severe problems modern democracies face and present solutions that could prevent irreversible damage.
Modern democracies are usually understood as the sum of three elements. The first, and original element is liberal democracy. By definition, this denotes a state governed by a representative democratic system limited by both individual rights and freedoms as well as restrictions via rule of law on the exercise of political power. The second, and presumptively instituted, but not by law, is capitalism. While not theoretically required, it has been historically needed; capitalism has proved to be a productive and liberating economic system that functions well with liberal democracies. The third, and later instituted element is the welfare state. While an inclination of such a system was instituted in the 1880s, it was not until after World War Two that it was fully and widely utilized. The welfare state can be understood as a regulation on the capitalist economic system, providing important services cheaply and consistently to most, if not all citizens.
Elements of liberal democracy were first seen in Great Britain as early as the Magna Carta, but were experienced fully in the United States with the Bill of Rights and the birth of their democracy at the end of the 18th Century. The United States was founded on the ideals of democratic governance, republicanism, and individualism. Representative democracy is the system of democratically electing representatives from geographic districts to represent those citizens in government. Republicanism sought to keep private interests out of government and to have representatives elected whom were solely interested in the common good. Finally, individualism sought to protect the rights of the individual by enshrining rights and freedoms into a nearly unmalleable rule of law. All modern democracies follow some form of these ideals.
Capitalism is an economic system first conceived by Adam Smith in the middle of the 18th century. At its core it suggests that economics and markets should be left to individuals to decide what to spend their capital on without governmental or coercive interference. He believed that this free market or laissez-faire economy would be the most prosperous for all because each would act in their own self-interest. This was pursued most purely by the United States, resulting in the most revolutionary economic changes in history, which began with the industrial revolution.
The welfare state was designed to protect the health and well-being of its citizens, particularly those of whom were in the worst-off positions. First tried in the 1880s with the creation of social insurance in Germany, it exploded after the second World War with the creation of welfare, free elementary and secondary education as well as healthcare. Almost all modern democracies utilize these principles, with the United States being an exception by not having universal healthcare. In the post-war era, states have expanded the idea of the welfare state to provide subsidized housing, pharmacare, pensions, child benefits, and other similar programs.
These three pillars have built the majority of institutions and programs citizens of these democracies experience today, but after 250 years of existence and 70 years of extensive expansion, modern democracies are faced with a plethora of issues that threaten their very foundations.
This special report has identified seven major issues facing modern democracies today and offers solutions to each of these to ensure that the values that have shaped the world for the better continue to exist. Over the course of this multi-part report, The Observer will provide solutions to the cost of welfare, changes in the job market, the rise of populism, immigration, social mobility, climate change, and liberalism itself. These seven issues are wearing away at the institutions and strength of modern democracies, but it is far from too late to ensure the progress made will not be reversed in any substantial form.The Observer will publish successive articles for this report throughout the summer.
Part II - Fixing the Welfare State
The welfare state was created to protect society’s vulnerable citizens. As reported in part one of this report, it first started with social insurance and in the post-War Era, has expanded to protect all aspects of well-being. This report will make the argument that the welfare state need not focus on creating protection and a cushion for citizens to fall on in times of need, but rather a series of programs that work to lift citizens out of hard times and into the middle class.
This report is not arguing that the welfare state is obsolete, rather it has a complex set of problems that must be fixed. While the Nordic states have proven to be the best at adjusting, they are not perfect, and so this report seeks to choose the best programs regardless of stereotype. In this modern era, the welfare state can be divided into three categories: healthcare, education, and social programs. All three need adjusting if society is to prosper as economies, population distributions, and lifestyles change.
First, healthcare has become increasingly complex and expensive. There is no arguing that universal coverage has proved to be the most effective, but it is still costly and can strain governments. This report suggests pursuing both decentralization and a public-private combination. By opening healthcare to the private sector, there becomes shorter wait times, faster service, and lower public funding. Those who can afford it, will avoid longer wait times by using private healthcare, thus lowering the wait times for those who continue using the public system. To prevent highly inequitable pay and charges in the private sector though, the industry must be highly regulated.
Healthcare also becomes more efficient by decentralizing the system. The central government continues to control general healthcare policy, but not the specifics in localities. By giving more autonomy to municipal governments, local healthcare becomes more specialized, caters to local needs, there is less duplication of services, and less inequality between rural and urban areas.
Education has succumbed to a similar issue, cost. There is no doubt that education is needed for citizens to find employment and subsidized post-secondary education is ever more important to the prosperity of society. Again, centralized control of schools increases costs for governments. Instead, they ought to set the policy for the minimum curriculum schools must teach, but approve alternative schools so long they meet this standard. By utilizing a voucher system that provides families with enough to pay for decentralized schools that meet the standard will ease government spending. Families that can afford better education can use these vouchers to subsidize more expensive private schools.
Social programming needs the most reform of these three though. Reforms in healthcare and education will see moderate gains in savings while improving their services as they are single entities. Welfare states currently have a multiplicity of social programs for their least-advantaged citizens. For example, Canada has social assistance, a child tax benefit, old age pensions, old age guaranteed income, old age spouse allowance, worker’s compensation and employment insurance. These programs focus on some form of credit, but there are many other services provided as well. Despite these programs, Canada has also studied the effects of a guaranteed income.
This report argues that by reducing both the credits and services to a guaranteed income, with the exception of pensions, social programming will be more efficient and effective. This is not a universal basic income that is applied to everyone, rather applied to the least-advantaged as a strategy to push them into the middle class. Those who are unemployed would gain the most income and as they increase their income, the guaranteed income would gradually decrease until they reach the middle class, where it would stop.
This prevents providing government-funded incomes to citizens already making adequate incomes, but also avoids the poverty trap. The poverty trap is when one makes a strategic decision to not work in order to utilize welfare. Additionally, allowing citizens a tax-free income allows them the freedom to choose what is important to them, making the income more effective.
The biggest issue for such a program is how to pay for it. While this report does not get into specifics of how much a government may spend and thus would need to collect in taxes, it provides some answers. First, by consolidating several programs into one, government costs are reduced. Second, the taxes needed to fund the other programs would now be utilized for the guaranteed income. Third, the current system of redistribution through income tax is unsustainable and must be rethought.
Governments can get more creative by using natural resource-based taxes. Alaska, United States, utilizes one called the Permanent Fund Dividend. They collect a percentage of their oil revenues and give a dividend to their citizens. This could be extended to all types of natural resource extraction. Additionally, as states have begun to tax new products in pursuit of making life better for its citizens, including unhealthy food, carbon, and drugs. These revenues could be directed towards paying for the guaranteed income.
Lastly, while states must protect their citizens and lift them out of poverty, they must also pursue a free-market approach. Labour unions have become too strong and single-sourced government contracts have become too prevalent. Companies ought to be able to have more control over firing employees, so long as governments provide guaranteed income for those unemployed and assist in finding them new work. Further, companies should be able to compete for government contracts more openly, bringing the cost down and raising the responsibility of that company to do the job properly.
These adjustments to the welfare state seek to revitalize economies, societies, and prepare citizens for the future. For government, the time has passed to solely protect its citizens from poverty. Rather, it ought to pursue the encouragement of the least-advantaged to increase their status in society so that poverty is a subject of the past.
Part III - Automation and the Evolving Labour Market
A combination of automation and artificial intelligence could doom modern economies, causing unemployment to skyrocket and exacerbating income inequality to unseen numbers – that is what a 2013 paper has made many think. The Oxford published paper argues that 47% of jobs could be automated within less than two decades. This has caused many to panic and to believe that automation will decimate employment.
Not only has unemployment maintained reasonable levels, but new employment has been created, often as a by-product of new technology. Still, a new, less radical, paper in development by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), whose members are rich and modern democracies, suggests that 14% of employment is highly vulnerable and 32% vulnerable. Importantly, the richer the state, the more likely their employment will be protected from automation.
While studies vary in credibility and argue differing levels of severity, the increasing consensus that automation will pose a threat to employment must be taken seriously. While the counterargument is that one can date back to the industrial revolution to find technological upheaval that replaced an unprecedented amount of jobs, there has never been a technology that can mimic and improve upon human labour to such a degree.
Thus, this part of The Observer’s special report will argue that, regardless of the degree to which employment is threatened, the transformation of the labour market will create enough disruption that states must prepare and adjust current systems. There are several policies that states have begun to and need to expand in order to properly prepare themselves for the impending labour market shift that will accelerate over the coming decades. These include alterations to the welfare state’s programs, embracing innovative economic policy, and promoting employment in industry free from immediate robotic takeover.
The welfare state needs two adjusts to prepare for automation. The first is a guaranteed income that was argued for in part II of this report. The necessity of a guaranteed income is realized as automation replaces human labour. There could be a significant percentage of the population without employment even in the most reasonable scenarios.
Many industries including transportation will undeniably be automated, creating a spike in unemployment by at least several percentage points. It is unclear how quickly and to what degree new job creation can replace this. Thus, a guaranteed income will provide livelihoods for these individuals as they seek new work. The second is education reform. The next generation of workers must be educated in the fields of relevance. These include basic digital and computational literacy. States like Canada have already begun teaching coding in primary and secondary schools. Beyond this, there must be vocational education and retraining programs widely available.
While education reform for youth is necessary for future, the average trucker does not have enough education to easily find another career path. Examples such as these pose more imminent threats to the labour market. By creating institutions that allow learning and retraining throughout the adult life, dramatic labour market changes will not affect employment rates as sharply. Such retraining must be in fields of technological relevance, whether it be in information technology, engineering or programming.
Beyond modifying the welfare state, governments need to change economic policy now to ensure that economies of the future still utilize human labour. Excessive red tape in business and prohibitive visas stymie entrepreneurship and the fruition of tech companies. If governments do not improve these policies, they are neglecting the economy of the future and will be faced with rapid unemployment rate rises. They also must focus on creating jobs that automation is less likely, or will take longer to automate. This means non-routine, creative, and social employment. Specifically, in healthcare, human care, and the service industry. Machine learning has proven exponentially worse in these sectors and will take many decades to replicate the complexities of both multitasking and human interaction.
These adjustments should prepare governments for impending technological changes affecting the labour market. Luckily, there are a few trends already underway that will help modern democracies. A shrinking working population has already added a preventative measure against unemployment, Japan is even facing a shortage of human labour due to its dismal birth rate in recent decades. Further, urbanization rates are increasing, easing the already existing difficulties in finding rural work.
Of course, these policies ought not prolong an enviable mass unemployment that will destroy current systems of democracy and capitalism. Rather, they are meant to propel the citizenry into a new age of technological advancement that will eliminate some of the most dangerous, boring, and impoverishing work. Artificial intelligence and automation are neutral forces; the policies and programs that governments enforce provide the key to whether these forces relegate the masses to impoverished and tedious lives or liberates them to a level of economic freedom yet to be experienced on a global scale.
As this special report contends, modern democracies face a complex path of newfangled threats and dilemmas, but they will emerge greater and freer than before if they choose the right path. This path, which will become a common theme, is towards the future and not the one winding back to the past.
Part IV - Liberal Democracy’s Greatest Ideological Challenge since Communism: Populism
Since 2016 populism has become a political utility, allowing many unlikely, and often reprehensible, actors to gain power. While some movements have been more successful than others, experts and the public alike do not challenge whether populism has dominated the west. The United States, Italy, and Brexit are among the most cited. Yet, populists in both Poland and Hungary have created significant issues as well. The pressing question is why populism is so dangerous and how can it be resolved before liberal democracy is eroded?
To answer these questions, liberal democracy needs to be justified. Liberal democracy has brought power to the masses. Through establishing basic rights and freedoms that are supposed to be essentially untouchable and protected through an independent judiciary, it protects citizens from the most unjust violations of human rights. With representative democracy, citizens can freely vote for what political ideology they want to govern them, while not being consumed by the details and complexity of legislating policy. Further, these basic tenets have been expanded to guarantee citizens assurances such as free healthcare and education, the reduction of poverty, improved economics, and pursuit of a freer world. These institutions have been built slowly, but surely, spearheaded by rational thought stemming from the Enlightenment. To be sure, this is an oversimplification of liberal democracy, but it demonstrates the vitality of its institutions.
Populism offers an opposing ideology. Both strongman rule and the use of divisive issues to evoke emotion, rather than rational thought, are primary tenets. It also ignores the basic rights of out-groups and manipulates truth and free press. Recent populism has become strongly authoritarian, especially in Eastern Europe. While authoritarianism is often connected to populism, in Eastern Europe it is likely to be so popular due to Russian President Putin’s success in utilizing it.
Populism finds its roots in political tribalism. This along with its authoritarian leanings pose the greatest danger to liberal democracy. Authoritarianism is the political opposite of liberal democracy, while political tribalism is used as a transitional tool. By dividing the public on issues held at a tribal level, that is, when one identifies an issue as belonging to them at a personal, almost innate level and perceive it as unchangeable. There will be more on this below. There have been two core explanations for populism’s rise. The first is economic decline. Interestingly, populism was not an immediate response to the Great Recession. Rather, it built slowly over each passing election cycle.
Economics can only be partially blamed though. Economies have rebounded and surpassed their pre-financial crisis numbers. It is particular parts of the economy that have shrank, creating the unrest. In the United States manufacturing and coal mining are classic examples of this. Many of these workers, male and relatively uneducated, play an important role in the rise of populism. This is a by-product of globalization. Overall, globalization has benefitted all countries involved, but in many modern democracies such as ones affected by populism, a small, but politically significant group has been affected economically.
Globalization and economics are only a portion of the problem, and likely less important than social and cultural changes. Globalization has been affecting job distribution since the 1960s, but recent social movements that have empowered minorities, reducing the relative power of historically dominant white males have been brought to the forefront of politics. Many scholars are beginning to argue this, along with a greater acceptance of immigrants, has spread fear among the largely uneducated class of white males. Certainly others have the same sentiments, but it can be seen through polling data that uneducated, white males have the highest voting rates for populists. These are the sorts of tribal issues that have created significant divides. If populism is a reaction by a population that feels the current system has both left them out of its economic rise and taken their social power away, how are they to be appeased? First, by recognizing that this group is largely uneducated, one can ascertain that better education is needed. Of course, it is wrong to leave any group out of the economic rise that modern technology and globalization has brought. There must be new policies to offset these economic changes. Part II and III of this report outlined some, including: education reform, subsidized post-secondary education, and retraining programs.
Secondly, protectors of liberal democracy must defend its institutions. The public must stand up against unlawful and immoral actions of populists, while conceding that democracies do include compromise. Minorities absolutely deserve the same treatment as white males at both the legal and cultural level. Yet, radical organizations and behaviour are not conducive to resolving the core issues. Rather, they support political polarization and unrest, which often encourage populism.
Populism has been a symptom of the democratic process for nearly its entire history. It is the sensationalism of modern media and polarization of effects of social media that have led to such fanatical views of modernity. Yet, the populist wave is not out of liberal democrats’ hands, but they do have a duty. It has been the champions of democracy and the public’s distaste for such an authoritarian and divisive rule that has defeated populist authoritarianism in the past and the same can be done now.
Part V - Dispelling the Fallacies of Immigration
A near universality of economists, representing the entire political spectrum recognize the benefits of immigration. This recognition is not out of political ideology, but empirical data that proves immigration has net-benefits for the economy. An open letter from 1470 economists was sent to the United States Congress, Senate, and President in an attempt to preserve the valuable system of immigration that has helped the United States prosper throughout its history.
The fallacies of immigration are not centred solely on the economy, nor are they isolated to the United States. Currently, both Europe and the United States have reached an impasse among their constituents about how to handle immigration. The primary concerns are rooted in the perceived economic hardship immigration brings to the local population as well as the changes to predominant social and cultural status. These two issues have driven the recent rise in populist sentiment against immigration and more specifically, migration. There is an important distinction here, one that usually is missed by the supporters of restricted immigration. Immigration is defined as the action of coming to live permanently in a different state, whereas migration is the movement from one area to another. It is migration that is the true source of frustration for most.
For Europe, the dissatisfaction is rooted in the chaos in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA). For the United States, the dissatisfaction lies in the gang-ridden countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. With political crises throughout the MENA region, particularly the civil war in Syria, millions of refugees have migrated to Europe, affecting Italy, Greece, and Germany the most. A concerning cyclical deportation policy in the U.S. has led to the creation of gangs in Central America, which has led more people to migrate to the U.S..
Of course, migration, from both of these regions must be controlled. Certainly, increasing globalization and cosmopolitanism has made borders more fluid, and this has generally been good, allowing travel, trade, ideas, and culture to be shared and exchanged. Yet, borders are still important. Too much disruptive behaviour will and has been shown to cause many to revolt against the establishment for its perceived inability to protect its sovereignty from foreigners. Common ground on how to control the flow of migration must be found; no rational actor believes that uncontrolled flow of migration is good. Concurrently, it ought to be a wealthy country’s duty to help others when their government or large national actors are threatening their ability to live.
The European Union has been in the process and must continue to find a solution to their migration issue. Austria’s chancellor believes paying MENA countries to prevent the movement of migrants to Europe will lower the numbers and prevent drownings across the Mediterranean. Italy’s new prime minister wants a policy where E.U. countries must share the burden of migrants equally. In the U.S., the government should act to prevent the cyclical behaviour of its current policies that drive up gang violence in Central America, increasing migrant numbers. By settling the current migrants into American life, they can be productive members of society. Migrants pose a deeper and more controversial issue than immigration, but regardless, both must be dealt with.
For immigration, addressing the guise of economic hardship is simple, data shows that immigration is beneficial. Since the United States and Europe have low fertility rates, labour must be imported. This includes both high and low-skilled labour. Immigration drives entrepreneurship, offsets the baby-boom generation, diversifies skillsets, encourages innovation, and improves productivity of local workers.
In the 1960s the U.S. government believed that seasonal permits for Mexicans working on farms was politically unsustainable. These permits were largely in California and a typical job was hand-picking tomatoes. In 1964, 97 percent of California tomatoes were picked by hand. After President Johnson ended the program, 90 percent of California tomatoes were picked by machine. That was over a two-year period. It did not open jobs to Americans like many imagined.
Addressing the cultural adjustment is more difficult and controversial. Creating an environment and policies that mix cultures is of particular importance. It is increased interactions that decrease animosity between groups and breaks down preconceived notions about other ethnicities. At national levels, governments should encourage immigrants to settle throughout the country instead of grouping together, which reduces inter-cultural interactions. Of course, this cannot be implemented perfectly; local governments need to facilitate programs that create opportunities for greater engagement and interactions between groups. Events the share cultural experiences or are agnostic to culture encourage all to participate and will further the cultural acceptance.
Besides increasing the level of interaction between locals and immigrants, bettering the education of locals will lower tensions and reduce ignorance. Setting aside ideology used by political parties that often preys on the differences between people, and educating based on facts, will assist in dispelling misinformation. Contrary to popular belief, immigrants commit fewer crimes and less terror attacks than locals. Creating an effective educational campaign based objectivity, while setting aside political propaganda will improve perceptions of immigrants.
Educating the public on the economic facts and encouraging interactions between different cultures takes time and can be difficult. Individuals and communities can help speed up this process. By discouraging the fear of ‘the other’, appealing to the empathetic, patriotic importance of openness, emphasizing unity over division, and focusing on common values and ideas, previously ardent anti-immigrationers can be persuaded.
Part VI - Enhancing Social Mobility
One of the most significant purposes of the welfare state is to increase social mobility. Unfortunately, social mobility has stagnated since the 1970s. Even worse, most have not focused on its significance and the dangers its stagnation poses to the health of democracy. Instead, it is income inequality that has been the focus of the political left. This is not without good reason, income inequality has an inverse effect on social mobility: as income inequality increases, social mobility decreases. This article will tackle income inequality as one of the many causes of social immobility.
Social mobility, the ability of one to climb the economic ladder, often measured in quintiles, allows children born into a poor family to end up better off than their parents. Economists have presented clear evidence for how long the stagnation has occurred and which areas have the worst effects. This article should provide politicians with indications of how to overcome the core issues that lead to social immobility.
This is not a politically untouchable issue either, both the left and right have agreed that it is a serious detriment to society with leaders such as former President Obama, Speaker Paul Ryan, and Senator Marco Rubio decrying it. Where the political division is found, as usual, is in which policies to implement. The United States has the worst stagnation among western democracies and is most politically divided as to how to solve the issue. Looking to Europe should allude to better solutions.
The poorest in Denmark are twice as likely to reach the top quintile than in the United States. While seeking differences among states would suggest that it is national policies that make the difference, but even within the United States, different regions are radically different. San Jose, California is similar to Denmark for social mobility, while Charlotte, North Carolina is just a third of that. Economists have found five factors that correlate with differences in social mobility: residential segregation, the quality of schooling; family structure; social capital; and income inequality. Solving these issue will likely improve the social mobility among the worst regions and could improve it in even the best regions.
The issue of residential segregation, both in terms of economic differences and residual racial effects has left families struggling to move out of poor neighbours. If governments invest in low income housing that is better mixed into medium and upper priced neighbourhoods, families will gain the advantages by being surrounded by the benefits of wealthier neighbourhoods.
Improving the quality of education can be done through many facets. First and foremost, by subsidizing or even making post-secondary free, this will enable students to further their quality of education that is usually inhibited by the vast cost of post-secondary institutions. Once this is established, there have been innovative programs that have improved the graduation, which is the aim of being educated at an university. Georgia State University has begun an initiative focusing on low-income individuals, which has raised the graduation rate from 32 percent to 54 percent.
Georgia State uses data analysis to identify potential academic problems for students, pre-emptively applying assistance to prevent the students from dropping out. This initiative has attracted experts from across the world. Assistance may include identifying academic and financial risks, then suggesting alterations to the students’ academic plans, tutoring, or financial assistance or literacy classes.
Family structure can disadvantage children at a young age. This often comes in the form of single parenting or having above average number of children. This can be offset by better child care and parental leave programs, preventing the disruption in the parent(s) careers. Additionally, better child benefits and single-parent tax breaks will ease the pressure that an atypical family structure brings. Encouraging social capital may also bring economic benefits later in life for children and their families as a whole. Social capital refers to participating in community-building and socializing within one’s community. Expanding one’s social group can bring benefits as members of the community can help support one another’s children.
Lastly, income inequality. Traditional wealth redistribution does reduce the degree of income inequality. The United States has the least redistribution, largely because it is embedded in the culture that one can get to the top by working hard, even though the evidence does not support this ‘American Dream’. Efforts to increase this will increase the social mobility, but politically it can be difficult. Others functions that can reduce income inequality are supporting medium to high paying jobs. As technology develops, low paying jobs will begin disappearing and it is unlikely the jobs of the future will replace that section of the economy. As has been reported on earlier in this Report, focusing on the economy of future will help balance the current polarization of wealth.
By targeting these five issues, governments should see improvements in the overall social mobility of their citizens. By focusing on the least advantaged regions most, the equality of opportunity should also rise. It is the pursuit of equal opportunity that helps the poorest out of poverty, making for a better life than their parents had had.
Part VII - Post-Truth Climate Change: Make Our Planet Great Again
French President Emmanuel Macron brilliantly mocked President Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” at a summit on climate change last winter, asking the world to “Make Our Planet Great Again”. This was a rebuke to the only world leader that has denied the existence of climate change and pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement. There can no longer be this sort of nonsense: the climate is warming because of human-made greenhouse gases. This Special Report has established numerous threats facing democracies, but no other poses such a widespread, enduring, and existential threat than climate change.
This article will submit a new hypothesis on how to convince skeptics and effectively slow global warming. This summer has epitomized the rapid warming with a global heat wave, including fires raging, people dying, and record temperatures across the world. Overwhelming evidence shows that a global temperature increase of two degrees from pre-industrial times will devastate societies worldwide. Yet, if governments continue to repeat this line, they will not succeed in their goals. A significant part of the population has not and likely will not engage in such a moral demand if it poses a threat to the normalcy of their current lives.
Rather, governments must create new political messaging strategies to engage these skeptics, convincing them that there are benefits to a greener economy and threats to their well-being beyond simply rising temperatures. This must be a post-truth campaign against climate change, not because politicians will be lying, but they must use politically motivating claims instead of scientific facts about the increase in temperature. This is only logical. Politicians do not dive into the complicated formulas of how the economy could be affected by a particular policy, instead they tell their citizens about the jobs it will create, the stability it will bring, and the ideological basis for such a policy change. Politicians must frame climate change the same way.
So what are the political, ideological, and economic motivations for believing in and fighting against climate change? Increasing temperatures are only directly dangerous in that they often increase the mortality rate among the elderly and infants. It is the indirect effects that are the most dangerous. An overwhelming number of studies show that national economies will be burdened by climate change, reducing productivity. Migration, displacement, and war will increase in areas most affected. This will destabilize not only the directly affected region, but wealthy nations will be burdened with more migrants and requests for aid. Investment in new technologies that produce more jobs and are greener than current technologies will be better for the environment and the economy.
As was reported on in the last sectionin this special report, income inequality will rise. In the United States for example, the poorest regions, largely in the south, will be subject to falling crop yields and labour productivity. While the wealthier regions, largely in the northeast, could see improved conditions due to longer summer seasons, and less costly winters. In some regions of the U.S., GDP could decline by 20%, in others rise by 10%. Overall though, GDP could decline as much as 5.6%. In poorer countries, GDP could decline as much as 40%. This economic argument can be a political motivator across the ideological spectrum.
Yet, most skeptics are usually on the political right, which coincides with the ideological resistance to migration. Rising temperatures will result in broad migration from middle latitude countries, to northern or southern ones. Likely, as has been witnessed in recent years, migrants from these areas have moved mostly to wealthier regions like Europe. This could also mean more migration through Central America to the United States.
Not only are people going to move out of these regions, but other countries will be drawn in. Inhospitable temperatures, reduced crop yields and drained aquifers will bring conflict. As evidenced by a drought in Syria that coincided with its civil war, exasperating the problem, and a near war between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Nile River’s water; climate change will induce war. Recent years have proved that western democracies are tired of fighting in wars and desire less migration, especially among those on the right. This would be an effective messaging campaign to win over skeptics and force right-wing political parties to change their policies, solidifying the fight against climate change.
Winning over skeptics is only half of the struggle; there must be significant change to world greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Climate Agreement has set out achievable goals that nations have pursued, but some pursuits have been ideologically motivated. Both in the sense of the prevention of non-greenhouse gas producing technology and green technologies that are not as green as commonly believed.
Electric cars have been strongly encouraged by nations across the world, but if these nations get their electricity from dirty energy sources like coal, the cars can be worse than petroleum vehicles. Both solar and wind energies have been in the spotlight, but are unreliable at particular times of day and need to be used on a mass scale to produce significant amounts of energy. This can be effective in some reasons, but not others.
Nations should reassess nuclear power as an option. New nuclear plants, are several times more efficient and safe. The typical American station is now online 90% of the time, compared to 50% in 1970s. While plants are expensive to build, they are cheap to run and provide increased profits. Of course, the largest fear is of a meltdown like Chernobyl. This is almost completely due to false perception. There were only 4000 deaths from Chernobyl, which is the less than the annual death rate of coal miners – in China alone. Further, there has not been an event as catastrophic since, and public opinion is warming to the idea of more nuclear power; governments should capitalize on this change.
Transportation and energy production are a significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, agriculture and livestock are much less discussed, but produce as much greenhouse gases as transportation. Encouraging the consumption of vegetarian/vegan diets or even eating chicken over beef or pork could dramatically reduce greenhouse emissions from livestock. Unfortunately, this is among the most difficult cultural shifts due to people’s reliance on meat. Thus, the new phenomenon of artificial meat production could dramatically reduce one’s carbon footprint as well. Besides livestock, new technologies that reduce the amount of water, labour, and petroleum-based vehicular usage in agriculture will drive down greenhouse gas emissions.
To properly address climate change as the threat it is, supporters must seek politically motivating reasons to convince skeptics and cannot be afraid to pursue non-mainstream solutions so long as they are effective at reducing greenhouse gases. While this report focuses on western democracies, climate change is truly global and it will take a global effort to solve the issue.
Part VIII - The Liberal Schism Must Be Repaired
In closure, liberalism has been chosen as the most crucial and ultimate threat to modern democracies. This threat is due to the inability for the citizens of liberal democracies to have decent, good-faith conversation and debate. This threat is a schism of liberalism itself. Many of the major issues distressing democracies today have become nearly unsolvable due to the fact that liberalism has split. To solve this, we must reflect upon the origins of liberalism, how we got here, and how we are to emerge better-off, and more cohesive than ever.
Liberalism was born out of the Enlightenment Era in the 17thand 18thCentury. Traditionally and historically, it has been defined as a “political doctrine that takes protecting and enhancing the freedom of the individual to be the central problem of politics”. Liberals typically believe that government is necessary to protect individuals from being harmed by others, but they also recognize that government itself can pose a threat to liberty.
In modern times, there is a consensus that it is ‘equality of opportunity’ that the government should provide. Since the 1960s, liberalism began to split; now citizens can be politically divided into the ideologies of classical liberalism and progressive liberalism. The aforementioned definition explains classical liberalism, whereas progressive liberalism advocates egalitarianism and social justice. It believes that equality of outcome is more important than equality of opportunity and often some liberties. Now, classical liberals are often identified by progressives as conservative or ‘right-wing’, while progressive liberals are identified by classical liberals as either ‘leftists’ or ‘social justice warriors’. The linguistic differences may seem superficial, but for an ideology that has created an environment for exponential improvements in healthcare, education, wealth, and quality of life, the differences are crucial.
This schism has led to a hollowing out of centrist political parties. Both in the tangible form as these parties are getting routed in elections and politically as centrists are seen as elites and disinterested in the wants of the populous. Thus, political polarization has become a widespread phenomenon. This sort of polarization has been witnessed in states where: populism has succeeded, ideology has become more important than good-faith politics, and political deadlock has prevented legislation from passing.
By now, many readers have likely questioned how this schism could possibly be more important than other topics in this report: the cost of welfare, changes in the job market, the rise of populism, immigration, social mobility or climate change. Yet, the division of humanity’s most successful political and economic ideology is both threatening and inhibiting positive change to be made on all of those fronts. Citizens of the world must recognize that for significant change to be made on any issue, there must be good-faith, united politicians seeking that change.
Compromise is a necessity to solve the division, but this compromise must be pragmatic and reasonable. To start, the future leaders of these nations must be unified and feel as though they can debate and converse to find common ground, good policy, and maintain positive relations. Colleges and universities are increasingly becoming institutions where the tolerance of ideas is no longer their aphorism. The schism can be observed between faculties, student organizations, and among the general student population. Censorship is called upon when the feeling and comfort of groups are felt to be infringed on. Violence erupts when controversial speakers come to campuses, leading to more of them being disinvited.
With the University of Chicago leading the way, free speech principles have been enshrined to protect individuals’ free speech. This does not negate the right to peaceful protest or ability to debate arguably deplorable speakers. Rather, these principles tacitly encourage this. It simply protects an individual right, makes people more comfortable to speak their mind, and prevents violence.
This has reverberated into the general society in the form of political correctness. Progressives perceive this ‘pc’ culture as societal progress, while others see it as phrases that are being culturally censored. Progressives should persuade those disbelievers, not shut down their ability to debate the subject. And certainly, some cannot be persuaded, but this is politics and that fact should not be corrected through censorship.
If good ideas are to win the day in an era of populism and regressive policy, free speech must be upheld. French President Emmanuel Macron has been evidence of this. He is the ultimate example of being a true centrist and liberal, he won over the French people, demonstrating that his values were more desirable than those of the far-right Marine de Pen.
Macron’s North American political look-a-like, Justin Trudeau, has done much to uphold the values of liberalism, but has also been the epitome of the liberal schism this article has discussed. Traditionally seen as a defender of liberalism, Trudeau recently provided the perfect example of shutting down debate and isolating the right. At a rally, he was asked about how his government would pay back the Canadian provinces for their cost in accepting asylum seekers from the United States. This is a legitimate concern of any citizen. Instead of explaining the government's plan on the situation, he told the woman that “this intolerance towards immigrants has no room in Canada” and “racism has no place here”.
This sort of response is exactly what has isolated many classical liberals and make them feel rejected by their own political group. If this trend continues, it risks allowing populism to grow further in Canada, which has escaped the phenomenon at the federal level.
To solve this schism there must be a return to classical liberal principles and values with the protection of individual rights and freedoms at the centre, particularly freedom of speech. These are the values that have helped build society today; one that has grown democracy, wealth, quality of life, and reduced conflict. Without an open debate this is jeopardized, citizens cannot freely speak to each other and find common ground. Instead, it allows fear-mongers, populists, and authoritarians to destroy democratic institutions and values that have benefited the global population.
Certainly, this is not to eliminate the progressive liberals’ achievements, for the most part, classical liberals agree with them. Progress cannot be stopped, only debated to ensure it is truly progress and best for society. Progress should be pursued without pause in policy, but not at the sacrifice of fundamental rights and freedoms. That is, a liberalism where fundamental rights and freedoms are protected, but policy formation is constantly in pursuit of progress is a liberalism unified, one that can defeat the worst of populists, economic recessions, challenges to the foundations of culture, and even global climate change. It has grown and solidified itself as humanities’ best ideology since the Enlightenment and can continue that trend if we as a local, national, and global community commit ourselves to it.
Through the fight for better welfare, solutions to employment, reducing populism’s attraction, promotion of immigrations benefits, increasing social mobility, defeating climate change, and protecting classical liberal ideals, democracy will continue prosper, grow, and emancipate the globe.