Whichever label you use, liberalism or social democracy was the bipartisan outlook that underpinned American and European politics for 30 years after 1945. It achieved a balance between market and state. It oversaw a fruitful truce between business and labour that produced a golden period for capitalism with benefits all round. Then came stagflation, taxpayer revolts, fiscal crisis and a triumphant revival of free-market ideas. For the next 30 years, a new shrink-the-state “paradigm” ruled, with its own promise of open horizons and benefits all round. Now weakened and indebted governments are counted on for handouts from every side, banks and businesses included. Nobody is sure what to believe.
The future is not inevitably bleak for the Euro-American way. As the rest of the world grows richer, perhaps it too will see the benefits of a compact that, for those lucky enough to enjoy it, struck a unique balance between economic growth, social equity and personal freedom. Then again, perhaps not, he says. Mr Judt explores neither possibility in depth, ending instead with an eye cast back to the past century. How easily, he reminds readers, stable-looking societies can totter. His final case for social democracy is a “show-me-a-better-foxhole” plea. Nothing else looks more desirable. Without it, much that Western people value may be lost. “If social democracy has a future,” Mr Judt concludes, “it will be as a social democracy of fear.”
"A plea for liberalism: Lessons from the 20th century"
From The Economist: