Trump does not mean the end of liberalism

Julian Harris
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Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump Holds Campaign Rally At Regent University In Virginia Beach
Donald Trump will become the 45th US President in January next year (Source: Getty)

We are told the fifth stage of grief (following denial, anger, bargaining, and depression) is acceptance, and for some people in the US and beyond who this time last week found themselves aggrieved by the outcome of the presidential election, the journey to this final step has been swift.

“Trumpism could be a solution to the crisis of neoliberalism” bellowed the headline of a comment piece by left-leaning economist Robert Skidelsky on the Guardian website yesterday.

The previous evening, Prime Minister Theresa May seemed to attribute Donald Trump’s victory (and, indeed, the success of the Leave campaign here in Britain) to “the forces of liberalism and globalisation which have … left too many people behind”. May, in fairness, acknowledged the fact that these forces “have delivered unprecedented levels of wealth and opportunity”, but the emphasis of her speech was to demand globalisation be “managed” in a way that no doubt suits her interventionist instincts.

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Wherever one looks, politicians and commentators are queuing up to stick the knife into cosmopolitanism, markets, and the so-called metropolitan elite. Liberalism is on the back foot, we are told, and its path will be slowed – if not halted altogether – by this transatlantic popular uprising. It is little surprise to hear liberalism’s detractors take this line. Labour’s shadow chancellor hit out at “corporate elites” while throwing his weight behind a quick Brexit yesterday, while last week Jeremy Corbyn tediously and predictably blamed Trump’s victory on the supposedly “failed economic system” that he and his Marxist acolytes wish to destroy.

For those of us who take a more positive view of trade, property rights and the rule of law (in other words – the very foundations of prosperity), and who appreciate how the modern world’s liberal reforms have enabled hundreds of millions of people to escape poverty, recent political events are somewhat daunting.

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Many western voters feel they are not benefiting from the way in which the world is turning, and they must not be ignored or patronised. The challenge is to understand how the enormous benefits of liberalism and globalisation can be extended to these demographics in ways that are more evident and convincing (perhaps by bringing down the cost of housing in high-growth areas of the country, for example). The opponents of trade and internationalism, buoyed by recent political outcomes, are shouting from the rooftops. Now, more than ever, is not the time for acceptance, or acquiescence – it’s the time to shout back.

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