An Opportunity for Globalist Centrist Liberalism

Source: National Review

The world may appear to be sharply divided among the far left and the far right on the social media, and even on the mainstream media these days. However, you could make the case that with the election of Emmanuel Macron as the French President, some hope has been revived in centrism and globalist liberalism. Because the polls in late April were nothing less than a scare with Marine Le Pen ending up neck-a-neck.

One of the features of the shifts to far left and far right camps in public discourse has been the cynicism toward centrism and pragmatism. Candidates such as Hillary Clinton have been condemned as “neo-liberal” by progressive and leftist activists, who could have prevented the Trump Presidency by turning out in greater numbers for her favor. The shift toward absolutism might sound romantic to some in a twisted way, but it has given us politicians such as Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen and perhaps even Trump on the right and Jeremy Corbyn and Tulsi Gabbard on the left. Of course, each honest in their own dangerous way. I am deliberately not mentioning Bernie Sanders in this list, whose proposals of single payer healthcare is anything but an extreme view for a centrist liberal, but he has a rather unhealthy obsession with the Wall Street.

While still both the left and right in the West are variants of liberalism, relatively speaking, but both have seemed to lose the essence of its ideals of late. The left continues to demonize the idea of private property while the right frequently compromises the liberties of people who either look different or are less fortunate. And another group simply refuses to pay for just about anything. Did I mention Ron Paul in the list?

Since when have these ideas become abominations to the people?

There is no wonder even today a majority of the population might agree on centrist ideas and fortunately that is still what a lot of voting pattern around the world follows. Though that voting pattern has been consistently shifting rightward, evident in Turkey, India, and Israel. Common sense, yes, you hear this expression very frequently in the campaigns of more conservative politicians in the West. But actually, you would rather associate this term with more centrist and pragmatic liberals beyond party lines.

The disillusionment and cynicism of the recent years have particularly been on the rise as a “people’s awakening” of sorts. This has been generally true for the attitude toward the United Nations but the precarious unity of the EU has particularly brought it into light. Blame it on the operational and bureaucratic flaws of these globalist bodies but there is no reason why the ideals behind them should be targeted without anyone putting up a reasonable defense for them.

On the other hand, there is really nothing about centrism or economic liberalism that necessitates apathy toward those who are less fortunate in the society. This ideological direction does not necessarily eliminate a social democracy. It is not as if most of the moderate British conservatives would be effectively killing the NHS, despite their fiscal conservatism. Certainly, not the Liberal Democrats. I guess centrist liberals would only be more respectful of private property and freedom for businesses than obsessing over bringing the budget into surplus too much.

Most moderate Republicans would not dare criticize late night host Jimmy Kimmel making a case for healthcare safety nets by bringing up his sick child. It is precisely the mindset that attacked him for it that a centrist liberal would discourage. Long story short, centrist liberals are more likely to side with a pragmatic, practical direction, keeping a balance between the bleeding heart and the facts of the world. Most of them would at least entertain the idea of a single payer healthcare approach while respecting private caregivers for humanitarian reasons, despite the controversy around its ideological correctness.

Another reason why globalist and centrist liberals are important is their interventionism, another point that gets under the skin of people on both extreme left and right. While there is no point getting behind a warmonger, an isolationist progressive or libertarian would be as caustic to world peace as a relentless hawk.

As much as we would like to hate President Bill Clinton and President George H. W. Bush, their timely humanitarian action in Bosnia and Kuwait goes unappreciated. It is amazing how the critics of American imperialism completely fail to recognize how the intervention has saved the freedom for the people of South Korea and West Germany. Furthermore, globalist liberals would be all for aid and accepting refugees and intervening to prevent a genocide, while an isolationist nationalist or an apathetic progressive could prove to be a humanitarian disaster. But enough of what they might mean for a government.

Despite the apparent lack of enthusiasm, the ideological polarity itself ironically presents an opportunity to the third way liberalism to bring people from left and right together. At least as a practical electoral alliance holding your nose. In a way, the rise of Donald Trump represents that possibility as opposed to someone like Sen. Ted Cruz who could become the President too. Although some could argue the same about Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton.

The person of Donald Trump has always appeared to be pragmatic and centrist, even liberal, in his approach to things but it is unfortunate that he relied on more far right policies and people to run his campaign. Perhaps that was the only way he could win this election. The policies he is enacting are not any more encouraging either. But who knows, that might change with time as he is beginning to figure out the realities of the political world and governance. And say, if Jared and Ivanka do not stay too far. Hanging on to a thread, are we not?

But don’t get too depressed. The world may still give sanity a chance.

It’s not too late.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Liberalism in Retreat

Source: VOA News

Source: VOA News

Liberal ideas seem to be in retreat around the world, but this effect is not perceived stronger anywhere more than in the United States.

What went wrong? The United States is supposed to be the leader and preacher of liberal ideas around the world. How could it expect to inspire change in the more regressive parts of the world with this sort of display?

Since the 1980s, people such as Donald Trump were celebrated by TV and American pop culture in general. They were supposed to be a product of American capitalist prosperity in the 1980s. How can such a figure become such an anti-liberal, populist force?

Of course, Trump sees it differently. He merely sees his steps of trade protectionism as necessary amends to terribly negotiated trade deals. He is merely helping local businesses survive. While that sounds all good in the context of the trade balance, which I am not sure you can force into the positive zone, but not when you are preventing corporations from conducting their business freely. Threatening businesses to not flee is probably the last thing they are going to convince them to stay for too long.

Trump’s idea of negotiating from a position of strength seems to be coercing trade partners and companies into caving into his administration’s demands. He threatens companies with tariffs for moving their construction plants to other countries. And he’s a Republican President.

Now it may sound fair to him and his supporters. But what does it tell the world about the new United States? What does it tell the world about the new Republican Party? Clearly not the bastion of freedom anymore.

The Republican Party leads the free world in terms of its support for economic liberalism. I wonder where the ideology of the party has vanished, as they watch Trump signing away one reckless executive order after another.

How can the United States pull out of TPP and NAFTA on Speaker Ryan’s watch? Something I don’t expect to happen but it is becoming a great possibility. And where is the fiscal conservatism in a trade tariff paying for a border fence wall? Oh wait, Trump is not a fiscal conservative.

Furthermore, Donald Trump’s executive order banning Muslim refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries including Iran and Syria is also a cause for great concern. If you were a liberal leader fighting regimes such as Iran and Syria, then you kill the cause by blocking refuge to freedom-loving individuals in those countries.

And what is with all the executive orders? Where are all the Republicans screaming about Obama’s imperial Presidency?

Let it be refugees, immigrants, jobs, or political and economic unions. The world seems to be going downhill and fast.

The exit of Britain from the European Union and right wing nationalist pro-exit movements all around the Europe are the signs of the rising unpopularity of liberal ideas around the world. The United Nations seem to be under fire in democracies like Israel which are increasingly falling into regressive hands.

But enough of the Republican version of liberalism. But due to the rise of conservative powers around the world, socially regressive policies are also dominating from Turkey to India. But the reason for the election of the rivals of center left parties is perceived to be economic. See the likes of Prime Minister Modi and you would keep on wondering why. But primarily because liberal leaders have failed to convince the voters why their ideas could lead to a prosperous world.

Liberals need to resist terrible ideas from both progressive leftists and right wing populists in order to move toward an actually open and free market economy on a global scale. However, they must first exhibit confidence in them. They must first believe these notions and put them into practice.

People who put the problem of the loss of manufacturing jobs, which may eventually become redundant, ahead of a more progressive, freer trade environment would not grow to be as competent. An idea which threatens a lot of people. Even more than losing access to the best quality of goods the market could offer them.

But good ideas should not need coercion. The vast advantages of globalized, free trade have been overlooked by too many when governments themselves contribute to the conditions leading to businesses fleeing. But what is far worse is that people do not believe that free trade is eventually going to be of benefit to them. While not every business in every market is able to compete with the global competition, free trade eventually favors the consumer.

But such liberal ideas such as reaching markets beyond borders and uniting politically are in retreat. Despite the world’s economic and scientific prosperity being a direct result of them.

But they won’t be for long.

Because it’s often liberalism that cleans up the mess made by nationalism, fascism, populism, and trade protectionism. It would again.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

The Liberal Apathy for the Middle East

Source: renegadetribune.com

During the height of the Iraq War, we were wondering where all the anti-war liberals had gone. We should have been careful what we wished for.

After the Iraq War, most people of both the liberal and libertarian preoccupation have concluded that war and US foreign policy interference are plain and simply an evil idea. They could never have been more wrong.

They continue to dodge the Islamic State issue, purely out of the concern that the right wing does not consider all Muslims evil. Well, the right wing calling all Muslims evil is far better than all Muslims dead. Pretty much everyone admits that Muslim people themselves are the greatest victims of the radical, fanatically monotheistic Islamic State.

They may or may not be losing ground, but they are still very much a presence. What is worse, they have proliferated global centers, particularly in Western Europe. One after another, we are hearing news of attacks from terrorists in France and Germany.

Call it a sudden coincidence that Western European Muslims are becoming mentally disturbed all of a sudden, or are carrying out carefully planned attacks openly declaring allegiance to the Islamic State. It’s trouble for the Western civilization either way. It is also a great threat to liberal idealism and to the cause of accommodating the troubled Syrian migrants and refugees.

What more is it going to take to change the stubborn liberal mind that continues to look the other way as the Islamic State continues with its rampage? They are not doing the global Muslim communities any favors by refraining from recognizing the threat out of concerns of offending their sensibilities.

All the arguments against a ground offensive against the Islamic State are absurd. The Obama administration can go ahead to facilitate regime change in Libya, but would rather leave the Islamic State alone. They very rightfully draw a red line on Assad’s chemical attacks on his citizens, even only in word, but ignore the atrocities committed by the Islamic State on the local population.

It’s amazing how the left, liberal, and isolationist parties in the West are comfortable with the thought of the Islamic State roaming free in the region. The apathy and irresponsibility of leaving the matter alone because it’s only the people of the Middle East who are bleeding are absolutely unacceptable, shameful, and immoral.

While so far both the Presidential candidates have addressed the issue of Islamic radical terrorism, the debates in the months ahead would further expose their position. Most Americans do not approve the way President Obama has handled the foreign policy in the Middle East, yet there is a sense that the overall sentiment in the country is anti-war.

Between the chants of “No more war” in the DNC to the cries of “No Islam” in the RNC, the American leadership needs to find the right balance to move against the Islamic State. Whoever is elected the next President would have to deal with the massive vacuum left in the Middle East that President Barack Obama is not even bothered to address.

Anyone underestimating, especially not recognizing, this threat is not fit to lead the most powerful nation in the world, in my opinion. What is even more important is that such a person is not fit to lead the world at this point in history.

And sadly, there is no other nation in the world to lead the fight against the threat of the Islamic State. You would expect the European Union to take the necessary action, but they appear to be in disarray themselves. The United Kingdom is still recovering from the shock that Tony Blair lied about the Iraq War.

Israel and Arab countries have not offered a hint. Pakistan and India are shying from contributing to the resolution of the problem as well. The others are not bothered because they have not heard anything from the United Nations Security Council.

Because apparently it’s never our problem.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

 

Where is the Ideological Defense of Privatization?

Source: channel24.pk

Source: channel24.pk

In Pakistan, the intellectual superiority of the center left is almost taken for granted. The legacy of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is considered a holy cow without which the idea of democracy could not have existed in the country and without which the middle class could not have possibly existed. Of course, in order to achieve these much necessary goals, it was necessary to nationalize some industries and to initiate others a la Soviet Union. Ah, what a wonderful place Soviet Pakistan would have been, oozing with social justice and equal opportunity misery.

Why blame the center left political workers for their passionate ideological beliefs from high school years? It is misguided criticism. These are merely political positions after all. Our civil and military bureaucratic philosopher-kings are great believers and pushers of these opioid myths themselves. The only difference is that unlike the well meaning socialist political workers who seriously want to change the world for the better, they want and extort welfare for their own ruling class. This has been the story of the Pakistani welfare state for six odd decades.

In the tradition of the allure of the distant social welfare state, which happens to be as elusive as the Jannat-ul-Firdaus itself, the people of Pakistan continue to be hooked on myths about the role of the government in their lives. It’s more like a theory of everything in terms of solutions. Somehow these stories always help enable the establishment and expansion of bureaucratic agencies, even at the cost of avoidable billions on the debit side of all sorts of financial statements. However, only a diabolical neo-liberal without a conscience could dare question these excesses and stand by wasteful luxury urban mass transit projects at the same time.

Many of us would have thought so, but members of PML-N are certainly not made of any such material. Supposed to be center right fiscal conservatives, because you have to label the other side with something, they are nothing of the kind. Pretty much like their opposition. They probably far outspend any other liberal or center left parties who have ever had the chance to present a fiscal budget. They also pretty much don’t care about the national debt. They are happy to add on external debt as much as possible, not that anything is wrong with that, probably because they can actually get hold of the money from international donors for a change.

What the heartless part of this very heartless political party does get right about governance, and let’s not even get into the economy, is their alleged commitment to Privatization. An evil word that brings out the Che Guevara in every sophomoric philosopher in Pakistan. Releasing schools of red herring, pun intended, about the slippery slope of crony capitalist takeover and rants about selling off the law enforcement. How dare you speak of selling our mother’s jewelry to crony capitalist burglars? Especially if they happen to be Arab or Jewish.

In a country with army generals and civil bureaucrats constantly aspiring and conspiring to become business tycoons, who can blame them for being so cynically skeptical? It’s simply common sense. This is why it is indeed important to appreciate their opposition to privatization to national liabilities such as the PIA and the Steel Mills. This is why I am such a fan of the bicameral legislature. For political parties such as the PPP, it is the last thread of relevance that they are hanging by.

Nevertheless, substantial ideological opposition to the intellectually bankrupt center left political parties is almost absent in Pakistan. The slightly-right-to-the-center-of-left PML-N has managed to win repeatedly in Punjab on the basis of perceived performance, but they would hardly stand up to them because most of them don’t even believe in privatization themselves. Primarily disciplined by the autocratic Sharif brothers, most of them would be jumping up and down the Constitution Avenue if the opposition party were proposing similar terms when set loose.

It would be such a relief that instead of defending their pathetic departmental record as a solution, (you have to pander to the voters) they would try explaining that the government simply does not have business running some corporations. Also, nationalizing industries is not how you prevent crony capitalist monopolies, it is how you ensure them. This bit of ideological purity could have been ignored if the corporations in question were not such living pictures of the failure of government administration. Even most apologists for nationalization agree on remedial action and the impossibility, if not the irresponsibility, of their sustenance.

This brings us to the question of our public unions who make a living out of blackmailing the hard earned money of the taxpayer. Institutions which are ensured and protected by the corrupt idea of nationalized corporations. There is a reason why the deadwood freaks out at the very mention of private sector because they know they would run out of financiers of their incompetence. They would also miss patron politicians like Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari reinstating employees laid off decades back, with benefits. Political hiring and political firing. Sounds like a plan for eternity.

Of course, the forever held hostage taxpayer is obviously not able to offer much resistance to the similar excesses by the military state capitalism complex, and is bound to hope for some change promised by the “right wing” majority federal government. Probably because they seem to be the only ones agreeing to do something about it. However, the good folks at the PIA and their regressive center left allies are at it again resisting the privatization of their corporation on life support, as is their democratic right.

This is where the PML-N government needs to ignore the much misguided popular opinion in Pakistan and stand up to the public unions. No harm in threatening to fire them, instead of firing at their chests, and actually acting on it unless they get their act together and return to work on reasonable terms. Otherwise, the taxpayer does not owe them any obligations to support their per-hour loss that runs in hundreds and thousands of US dollars. Otherwise, someone would prescribe disinfectants for this parasite-infested body sooner or later.

It is time to grow a spine, kill public unions, completely privatize PIA and stop taking every word from the center left as gospel.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Pitfalls of the Two Party System

Source: directionsmedia.net

Source: directionsmedia.net

The American media is never short of opinions expressing shock at the several fringe political movements appearing in the country from time to time.

Over the years, we have seen the emergence of progressive Green Party enthusiasts backing a Ralph Nader presidency in the wake of progressive discontent from the Clinton years, arguably costing the Democrats the 2000 election. We have witnessed the Occupy Wall Street movement standing up to the role of financial corporations in the recession of the 2000s, and ending with the disappointment of more corporate bailouts from the liberal Democrat leadership. And we have seen the rise of the much demonized libertarian-leaning Tea Party movement standing up against the rising taxation and regulatory policies of the progressive Democrats and President Obama. This group has been voicing its dissatisfaction and frustration over a Republican Congress failing to reflect their demands, despite a massive mid-term victory in 2014.

The latest “fringe” wave of the populist anti-immigration sentiment rising ironically with the Presidential campaign of billionaire businessman Donald Trump is yet again shocking the world. Something which absolutely must have no place in the discourse of American politics, which should remain absolutely confined to the Democratic and Republican party.

There is really nothing new about the anti-immigration sentiment. We have seen political parties in Europe winning on the anti-immigration, anti-Euro platform, and some could argue that the recent remarkable voting performance of the UKIP and the ultimate victory of the Conservative Party is one such instance in the very liberal United Kingdom.

Regardless of the morality of this political view, reasonable questions should be asked why it cannot find its due place in the American representative politics. Especially considering the fact that what is painted the anti-immigration stance of the Donald Trump campaign is actually not against immigration, but only for taking strict action against illegal immigration. This is not just a right wing phenomenon, as we have seen such sentiment in the campaign of progressive Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders, who considers open borders a “right wing proposal,” probably referring to the libertarian movement. But there really should be no mentions of any such proposed policy, with the only accepted versions being the official positions of the Democratic and Republican parties.

Any candidate that deviates from the establishment positions is an extremist and must not get the party nomination. Regardless of the fact how many among the general public support those positions. Marijuana legalization, on which the positions of the Libertarian and Green party are pretty clear, is one issue which has garnered overwhelming support from the American public lately. However, on the federal level, both establishment parties oppose the legalization, and are funding the controversial and unpopular war on drugs.

Even for the fans of obstructive government mechanism in the Presidential system of the United States like me, the two party system seems too exclusive for comfort. I am a strong proponent of separating the executive branch from the legislative, as opposed to the blurring lines in the Parliamentary system. However, you cannot help but marvel at the inadequacies of the two party system. Granted that America has a proud two-party political structure, that is apparently as simple as it is complex, but is it truly reflective of the ideological diversity of the country?

The two party system sounds like the sort of absolutist scenario that offers almost unlimited powers to the executive in the Parliamentary system. Either you are for an issue or against it, with no ifs and buts in between. Which does not even make any sense, because on most issues, both parties agree where it matters, and in the recent years, there really has not been any regulation with the exception of the Affordable Healthcare Act that significantly altered the state of affairs in a partisan manner.

Undoubtedly, both Democratic and Republican parties have room for a variety of ideas and positions on various issues. However, the candidates that eventually win nominations for the executive branch often have centrist and moderate views, and opinions which could be referred to be aligned with the establishment positions. This could also be said to be reflective of the moderate and centrist political approach of the people of the United States, but does this notion hold true on every issue?

Of course, there are more than two political parties in the United States, but what if they had the representation in the federal legislature as well? In any case, there really is no reason why a multiparty system should not work in a Presidential system in the United States. It might change the clear role of majority for one party and minority for another. I think it just does not work because the electoral system and media do not offer any margin for it, discouraging independent voters to even consider the option due to the lack of electability. But what if it becomes a possibility one day?

Maybe it would shock the US media less about certain fringe political positions, or unconventional Presidential candidates.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.