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Life After Blue


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life-after-blueVia Meadia:

Watler Rusell Mead



In the last couple of years I’ve been writing about the death of the blue social model. By that I mean that the characteristic form of 20th century industrial democracy has come unglued, and that the advanced industrial democracies around the world must adjust to basic changes in the way the world works.


For those who missed those earlier essays or want to take another look at them, the American Interest put out a summary; you can read it here. Briefly, the idea is that after World War II America was organized around a group of heavily regulated monopoly and semi-monopoly companies. AT&T was the only telephone company; there were three big networks, three big car companies and so on. There was very little foreign competition, and these companies were able to offer stable, lifetime employment to most of their workers. The workforce was heavily unionized, and the earnings of the big companies were divided between shareholders, managers, workers and government in a predictable way. An intellectual and administrative class of planners, social scientists and managers ran the big institutions and administered the government.





Liberalism 5.0


The first thing to say about a post-blue social model is that it will be liberal. That is to say it will be a further exercise the development of the concept of “ordered liberty” that has been the guiding light of Anglo-American civilization since the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The synthesis of enlightened, forward looking governance resting on the acknowledged and inalienable liberties of the people at the heart of the liberal vision remains the best foundation humanity has yet found for running a society in a world of rapid change. The next stage in our history will see us living this vision more fully and working out the consequences more radically in changing conditions, but the core concepts will carry the stamp of the liberal tradition that so profoundly shapes American life. I’ve written about the four stages of liberalism we’ve seen since 1688: the Whig liberalism or liberalism 1.0 of the Glorious Revolution itself, the 2.0 republican liberalism of the American founders, the 3.0 liberalism (sometimes called Manchester liberalism) of the nineteenth century with its emphasis on universal suffrage and a laissez-faire state, and the 4.0 progressive liberalism of the twentieth century. What we need to think about now is liberalism 5.0, a recasting of this modern heritage for the information-based economy of the 21st century.




The 21st century, if we get things right, won’t see either the triumph of an all-powerful government or the return of the Articles of Confederation. The government will do more than it does now, and regulate activities that are unheard of today, but individuals will have more choices than they currently do and their rights and their property will be better protected.

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