It would go a long, long way to bridging the red-blue divide to drop the "evil, fascist, worst people ever" rhetoric (from both sides) and instead recognize it as a form of diversity, and that different backgrounds shape different people's beliefs. Furthermore that someone can disagree with you and be flat-out wrong with out it being an entire moral failing or a sign they are pure evil.

Civility is lost in many circles right now.

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Oct 1, 2022·edited Oct 3, 2022

Interesting piece, but I'm an old-style "Pat Brown" liberal (an unrepentant Boomer), and I'm not buying the revisions.

Urbanism? Noah, you said it yourself: Americans keep moving to the ‘burbs and foreigners keep moving to America. The best mom-and-pop eateries are in strip malls. Ever been to Houston's (fully suburban) Chinatown? (See Joel Kotkin.) Put everyone in the driver's seat, and electrify the cars.

That "driver's seat" is also a metaphor for how we approach our lives.

Diversity? Self-expression? As a gay male, I've seen a movement focused on personal freedom morph into an obsession with fetishizing marginality -- while I've fought all my adult life to advance a recognition that there's nothing "queer" about same-sex attraction. One of the proudest moments of my life involved a boyfriend being invited to my family's Passover Seder. I’m attracted to guys; I’ve never hidden that fact, and I’m proud simply to be myself.

"LGBTQIA+"? Spare me the demands that we acknowledge the Emperor's "gendered" new clothes. (Drag was always about ridiculing and repudiating the very legitimacy of "gender identity" -- not "affirming" it.) I never signed up to "smash cisheteropatriarchy" in the name of some Brave New World.

Speaking of Brave New World... All the synthetic fluff of K-Pop will never hold a candle to Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall."

We're all exiles on Main Street. Every individual is a unique (and uniquely profound) intersection of identities -- but as we pick each other to pieces over "identity" and "privilege," the oligarchs keep laughing all the way to the bank. That's the real challenge at the heart of the liberal/democratic vision.

In the driver's seat, we can read a map. We don't need a map that reads us.

I recommend a long session with Isaiah Berlin -- with a side-glance at Guy Debord's "Society of the Spectacle." I think we already have enough of a vision to work with, without the (vaguely transhumanist) revisions -- without the incessantly promoted Civil War between the bigoted bullies and the woke scolds -- if only we can truly "live and let live," with faith rooted in ourselves.

Given all that, how do we make the economics work? That's Noah's department! ;-)

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As a Chinese person living in America for 11 years, I really think the power of American pop culture is vastly overrated. Its net benefit to American power is negative.

My observation is that, at least in China, the fondness of American pop culture is POSITIVELY correlated to toxic nationalism. Almost all my "pinky" friends love Marvel, whatever band in America whose name I fail to remember after living in America for 11 years, NBA, and even Christmas, more than I do. In my opinion America is just too free and too rich to have a real culture [Only countries east of the Berlin Wall have any real culture to speak of, the "culture" in the West is in general just a sex party in a college dorm. You can't produce anything meaningful without some form of oppression and constraint] , yet I love America much more than the average Marvel fan in China..

I can't really explain why it is the case. But one reason I can come up with is the absolute wokeness of the American cultural elite, which somehow resonates with the Chinese ideology of seeing itself as the savior the the Third World, the brown people of the world, that of course includes the 1.4 billion population of its own?

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I agree that diversity is going to have to be a part of the vision that liberal democracy sells to the world. I think almost every society that has been successful in history has, in some sense, been diverse. The Roman Empire was polyglot. The Han Chinese united a bunch of distinct kingdoms. Racial purity is a fiction; it's just what qualifies as a "race" that changes.

At the same time, racial essentialism has been embraced by elements of both the right and the left in the US in recent years. Just as many right-wingers seem to believe that non-white immigrants will pollute the US with their evil inferior culture, many left-wingers seem to believe that there is something about white people that is inherently evil or morally deficient. I'm optimistic that both of these notions can be defeated or fade way, because most Americans (hell, most people) do not believe either of them, but I think liberal democracy really needs to embrace a unifying vision that encompasses our differences but allows for a sense of a humane commons, a collective good. We've done it before, we can do it again. It just needs to be redefined for a new era.

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Liberalism is by definition focussed on "negative freedom", instead of "positive freedom", which means that liberalism has never really had any vision since its inception, unlike Nazism or Communism. The tenet of liberalism is basically .“中庸” [very poorly translated into "Doctrine into the Mean"] of Confucianism, which basically means that rejecting any form of extremism, and that's it. Admittedly liberalism sounds far less exciting than building an Aryan/Communist/Islamic paradise on earth, but it is more durable on the long run. Therefore the lack of concrete vision of liberalism is a strength, not a weakness.

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Diversity is a fine value, but diversity does not exist outside of a society in which it is a thread or value.

The current liberal view, has no stated view for society as a whole. How is it to be organized? Where is the family in it? How are the children to be raised? When in school do they learn x, y, or z?

Individuality as a whole,, for and by itself is doomed to destroy the society in which it exists in. There needs to be a recognition, that just as society owes the individual, the right to exist as they do, the individual has a duty to protect that society that gives them that freedom. One cannot be separated from the other, without a collapse on one side. Just as individual planets circle the sun, so do individuals within our society, circulate within that whole. It is a mutual admiration endeavor at its best, at its worst it is totally self destructive to both.

Your view of Conservativism, at least from a Burkean viewpoint, is a bit misguided. People, at least some of them, value tradition, ceremony, order, more than experimentation, and independence. Neither is superior, they are mutually re-enforcing at their best. Those who are thought of as illiberal, are often simply making the best of their situation.

People throughout history, have clung to things that work for them, when they no longer work, they are willing to toss them aside without an afterthought. The rise of Islam is but one example, the rush to the factory, to get rid of the labor involved in farming is another.

The poor and the working class need tradition, order, reliability much more than a college trained person. We ignore their needs at our peril.

There are 1.7 million working class voters for every million college graduates. As Adlai Stevenson said at a campaign stop in 1956, when a person spoke up saying: "You have every thinking person voting for you." Stevenson without missing a beat said: "That's no enough, I need a majority." The current liberal view to label these people deplorables, MAGA, neo-fascists, is only putting people off, and turning them to the likes of DeSantis. An old rule is you get more flies with honey than vinegar.

We do need a new vision of the future, one that offers stability with a platform for change as a constant. Allowing for freedom of expression, and the stasis of religion, as one example of what is needed to be tolerated on one side, so that diversity can be done so on the other. There is nothing wrong with mutual respect, and endowing each other with the dignity we would want for ourselves.

Just as the Constitution needed the Connecticut Compromise to be implemented, people have to learn or perhaps relearn how to compromise to get some, but not all, of what they want, so that progress from both sides can be made, and no one is left out.

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Libertarianism: Astrology for men. Also, see Feudalism.

US Liberalism doesn't know what it wants. It's like watching 50 kids in a candy store trying to agree on what to buy.

US Conservatism: Lol. I mean, ROFL.

Chinese Authoritarianism: A dead end and dwindling.

Islamism: Angry men in beards pissed of no one cares what they think. No one will ever care.

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Oct 1, 2022·edited Oct 1, 2022

I'm glad you added that last part, Noah.

I consider myself to be a pretty moderate conservative, but the proposed society you described basically seemed repulsive to me.

To such an extent that I would tolerate a lot of pain and sacrifice and, if I'm being honest, probably actual totalitarianism...to prevent it from becoming dominant.

The only way I can see that society and one that conservatives also admire and accept coexisting under the same system is to just have...mostly separate societies.

Which isn't really a great thing.

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I think the Chinese model as something that is exportable is overblown - even Chinese people who promote it often emphasize the unique historical and political factors that led to it in China. People like the economic outcomes - but nobody loves the censorial party-state.

More worrying to me is the signs of personality cult - though I think in the end Xi's attempts to make himself Mao's peer will fail.

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A nation that cares for the well being of its last mile delivery labor force is also a must.

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> Keen observers of the Muslim world, like Murtaza Hussain, argue that Islamism is becoming a spent force, and it seems hard to disagree.

Hussain's tweet is about Iran only. Who is saying the same about Sunni Islamism? And why does Noah limit Sunni Islamism to militants, rather than all the people who won't take up arms for it?

To me, Sunni Islamism as a broad vision seems only a little weaker than a decade ago. I doubt that it is 'becoming a spent force' in the medium term. I get the sense that, in most of the Muslim countries which appear most frequently in the news, majorities of people remain at least mildly more sympathetic political Islam than to all other systems combined.

Imagine that every Muslim-majority country's adults were given a yes-no referendum on a constitution based on political Islam.

-I would predict a yes vote in all but one or two Arab-majority countries. I would predict a yes vote in Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan.

-I would predict a yes vote in Iran. Iran has futile major protests every few years, so I don't over-update on the ongoing ones. Also, there must be some regime opponents who like political Islam in theory (such as among the Sunni minority).

-I would predict a no vote in Indonesia, Nigeria, Bosnia (obviously), Albania, Kosovo, Turkey, and most of the post-Soviet ones.

-Haven't read enough to predict Bangladesh, Malaysia, Brunei, or the remaining African countries.

Who predicts no votes where I predict yes votes?

In short, I don't think a revitalized vision of liberal democracy would have notably more appeal in the Islamic world than it did a decade ago, and I don't think this will change soon.

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Liberalism does not scale. Society requires cohesion, scale brings diversity, diversity erodes cohesion.

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You start this comment with the statement of a white washed 1950s of backyard barbeques as representative of what conservatives think. Maybe you should read Edmund Burke, GK Chesterton, Sir Rodger Scruton, etc.. Pick one in fact and go with it. You're working with a belittled characterization of what conservativism is and ignoring the negative characterizations implicit in your own neoliberal bias. Diversity of opinion is valuable, for example and yet even Glenn Greenwald and Bari Weiss can see where woke liberal and actual liberal has drawn definitive distinction. Don't take my word for it. You are, I think, a big enough name that you could probably sit down and talk to one them and you should. You should because your implicit bias is showing in this article.

Separately, I want you to know that I enjoy your articles and don't think you are missing these biases intentionally. I think you still have bought into a somewhat rosy modernist world view that tends to overlook the negative externalities and intentionally ignore data points that show negative outcomes such as depths of despair depression and suicide rates. Often when these data points are sighted I hear people bring up 1960s data points like, "oh look it's been this bad before... see it isn't new..." Effectively the argument is, "don't look at the negative consequences of current modernist policies because correlations isn't causation and oh look history was shitty also."

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A fascinating read. I'd just add it's the nature of liberalism, which, in effect, is built on inclusion and compromise, is the very thing that dilutes it in the face of hardline authoritarian ideas.

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Oct 2, 2022·edited Oct 2, 2022

Maybe add one thing to what liberal democracies can put into a concrete vision - a willingness to be transparent and public with data and willingness to adapt to results, evidence.

This often gets expressed as "follow the science", but its more than that. It's looking at real results, data, experience and adjusting. Expecting evidence will be collected and examined.

This is something authoritarians inevitably fail at and messy democracies do better at. And to the extent democracies fail, it is often because they get institutions as stuck as authoritarian regimes,, that are protected from democractic pressures for change.

U.S. is still held in high esteem for its data, economic etc.

To my eye, it is highly important that liberal democracies collect info via good methods and build public trust in it.

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