The Age of Distrust
ATHENS — I have a profound respect for the intelligence of the voter. Winston Churchill is often quoted as saying that the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter, but more important is what he actually said in the House of Commons on Oct. 31, 1944: “At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into the little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper — no amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly palliate the overwhelming importance of that point.”
Nobody, looking back at the first 16 years of this century, can suggest that the political, economic and financial elites who brought you the euro crisis, the war in Iraq, the Great Recession of 2008, growing inequality and (at least until last year in the United States) middle-class income stagnation have not made some very serious mistakes, of very enduring consequences, with very startling impunity. This has not been lost on the little woman with the little pencil in the little booth.
No wonder experts are increasingly viewed as being in the business of bamboozling for their own ends. Ordinary folk reckon the system is rigged, that elites are not in it for the people but, rather, the money. This is the Age of Distrust. No two presidential candidates have ever been as distrusted as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
难怪人们越来越觉得专家们是为自身目的在玩骗人的把戏。普通人觉得这个体系被人暗中操纵，精英分子参与其中不是为民众服务，而是为了敛财。这是一个没有信任的年代。从不曾有哪两位总统候选人像唐纳德·特朗普(Donald Trump)和希拉里·克林顿(Hillary Clinton)那样不被信任。
The grave mistakes that I have mentioned occurred in the midst of a technological whirlwind that moved factories offshore and migrants onshore, and offered huge opportunity for the initiated at the hubs of globalization’s churn while stripping many outlying places and outcast people of their raison d’être.
Technology is a wonderful thing if you are putting it to use, less so if it is putting an end to your usefulness.
Many people in our liberal democracies feel they are being tossed hither and thither by forces beyond their control — nowhere more so than in Greece where national elections in recent years — and there have been a lot of them — have revealed an almost complete disconnect between the vote itself and any tangible effect. What then is democracy, a mere game?
There has been another whirlwind, a cultural one. As Sylvie Kauffmann has suggested, when Poland’s foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, says the world must not move in a single direction — “toward a new mix of cultures and races, a world of cyclists and vegetarians” — he is expressing a nativist anti-liberal resurgence.
还有另一场旋风，文化的旋风。就像西尔维·考夫曼(Sylvie Kauffmann)曾经提到的，当波兰外交部长维托尔德·瓦什奇科夫斯基(Witold Waszczykowski)说世界一定不能只朝一个方向——朝着各种文化、种族的新混合体，朝一个骑自行车者和素食者的世界——前进时，显示出的是本土主义和反自由情绪的复苏。
All this unease has been compounded by the sense of insecurity instilled by jihadi terrorism and other violence. A bombing in New York and a stabbing attack at a Minnesota mall are still under investigation, but whatever their origin they will impact an already tense American election.
All this is the backdrop to Trump, to Marine Le Pen in France, to Brexit, to the nationalist governments dominating central Europe, to the rise in Germany of the rightist Alternative für Deutschland, to the vogue for authoritarian models — in short to the challenges facing liberal democracies. Marx noted that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. The British exit from the European Union was the exception — simultaneous tragedy and farce, a disaster abetted by lies, energized by a buffoon and consummated in mayhem.
正是在这样的背景下，特朗普、法国的马琳·勒庞(Marine Le Pen)登上舞台，英国脱欧，民族主义政府主导了中欧，德国右翼政党另类选择党(Alternative für Deutschland)崛起，专制模式风行——简言之，自由民主面临各种挑战。马克思曾经指出，历史会重演，第一次是悲剧，第二次则是闹剧。英国脱欧则是一个例外——它既是悲剧也是闹剧，是一场由谎言煽动的灾难，由一个小丑激发，在骚乱中达到顶峰。
This was the moment when it became irrefutable that some of the very foundations of the postwar world and the spread of liberal democracy — free trade, free markets, more open borders, fact-based debate, ever greater integration — had collapsed.
I am pessimistic in the short-term, optimistic in the long-term.
I am pessimistic because the problems cannot be righted in short order. Politicians are going to have to work very hard to earn back the trust of the people. A serious issue exists with what Stephen Walt of Harvard University has called the “ruling elites in many liberal societies and especially the United States, where money and special interests have created a corrupt political class that is out-of-touch with ordinary people, interested mostly in enriching themselves, and immune to accountability.” This has to end.
Democracy has to deliver — not just to the rich but the most vulnerable. This is a fundamental lesson of recent times.
When democracy creates wealth on a broad scale there is no tension between it and capitalism. But when that is not the case, the value of democracy becomes less clear to some. There are tremendous tensions between democratic national sovereignty, open global markets and mass migration.
The answer is not to build walls. Western societies need to build education and innovation and opportunity. A time of great uncertainty is upon the world.
Still, I believe in the resilience of liberal democracy, in the little man in the little booth. Greece knows that the democratic idea is stubborn.
Technology has prized the world open. Nobody — not Vladimir Putin, not Xi Jinping, not Trump — can shatter that interconnectedness. Nor can anybody quash forever the human desire to be free and to live under the only form of government consistent with that desire — representative government installed with the consent of the people.
Liberalism demands acceptance of our human differences and the ability to mediate them through democratic institutions. It demands acceptance of multiple, perhaps incompatible truths. In an age of polarization and vilification this may seem a lofty aspiration. But democracies have a habit of rising to the challenges they face.
Democracies need to be challenged, unlike dictatorships that fear broad challenge because it may cause them to buckle. Challenge in democracies is also rebirth.
Respect the intelligence of voters. Sooner or later they come to their senses. Churchill was kicked out of office in an election in 1945, just months after defeating Hitler. Talk about gratitude. He was re-elected in 1951.