If Western-style liberalism were a boxer, the referee would have called a technical knock-out (TKO) by now in light of all of the hits and bruises it has taken since the 2008 economic recession alone. The economic recession within the U.S. in 2008 was not of course the first black eye Western liberalism has achieved for itself throughout its distinguished but short history. The history books are full of “shocks,” “tragedies,” depressions, recessions, and significant economic inequalities that flow from Western liberalism in the U.S. It was no wonder then that Karl Marx thought the U.S. would be among one of the first Western industrialized countries to begin a socialist revolution.
Western liberalism is still existent, of course, and seems very much here to stay, for the time being. But there is little doubt that if Western liberalism is to survive as an economic model against other challengers across the world (e.g. the “Chinese model”), something’s got to give. Millions of Americans remain mired in the ranks of the unemployed, the unemployable, or the “I give up” category. All of this while some of America’s CEO’s made record profits (again…) so far in 2011.
What also seems clear from the Occupy Wall Street protests is that Western liberalism, or its elites, are fearful of legal demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience. Isn’t the tree of liberty renewed through acts of expression, repression, and the reinforcement of beliefs, values, and institutions that underlie our liberties? That is, aren’t civil demonstrations a good thing for our republic, or have we as a society become so interested in turning a profit that any disturbance of business-as-usual is viewed with contempt and fear?
For those of us who see the world through the lens of reality, the answers to these questions are self-evident. Western liberalism is not so much the fusion of democratic principles and free market capitalism as it is the almost complete avenue of the latter. We as a society were blindsided by our fortunes after World War 2, a fortunate turn of the historical tide that was as much a responsibility as it was a blessing for millions of Americans.
Western liberalism, make no mistake, is still the world’s best system of political and economic fusion. No other model has even come close to the liberties, freedoms, and riches that Western liberalism has helped produce. But, as is so often the case in radical social events, the flooring underneath our feet may be cracking without our knowledge until, all of a sudden, the whole floor collapses and the social world is retransformed.
This is no bold prediction for the future, but it is an observation about our present. The U.S. is not bullet-proof or floating on an impenetrable cloud. We have to take the necessary steps to keep ourselves afloat, and we need to start by addressing corporate greed, political corruption/greed, environmental fallout, and a host of other high-priority issues before the reins are no longer ours to take.