Civics: Tensions of the Liberal Order

Applied Divinity Studies:

As Milton Friedman put it, the promise of liberal capitalism is to put “freedom before equality”, and still “get a high degree of both”. And yet, throughout Covid, we’ve had neither liberty nor prosperity. Instead, liberalism has resulted in twin failures:

• Authoritarian lockdowns and coercive quarantines dramatically outperformed voluntary social distancing. [2]

• Our leading institutions failed, first to take Covid seriously, then to promote the use of masks, then to enable distribution of the vaccine. In fact, they worked actively against these causes. [3]

Perhaps worst of all, the US did not even perform well with regards to individual liberties. Though we were able to avoid truly coercive quarantines, we did deploy numerous lockdowns, shutdowns and curfews. And yet, as our Covid cases continue to rise, it appears that we’ve gotten the worst of both worlds.

These points present a serious crisis for the US. More broadly, they threaten the continued dominance of liberalism as our default political ideology.

As in all crises, these weaknesses have not been a discovery, so much as as the revelation of open secrets. In 1992, Fukuyama’s The End of History claimed: