Is contemporary capitalism compatible with liberal democracy? The glib answer, though not wrong, is that it had better be. There are no known examples of fully socialized economies with a liberal democratic regime. The more considered answer is that it can be, but only with the public policies that make it so, argues William Galston, the Ezra K Zilkha Chair in Governance Studies and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
The relationship between liberal democracy and capitalism changes over time, as do the policies needed to make them mutually supportive. Not for the first time, changes in the structure of capitalism have lately moved faster than the policies required to domesticate them. Liberal democratic governments are scrambling to catch up, he writes for The Guardian.
Political reform is required along two tracks—changing institutional structures to make effective government more possible in divided societies; and taking on directly the social divisions that have polarized democratic politics and sparked the populist surge, adds Galston, a former National Endowment for Democracy board member:
- On the first track lie reforms to ensure neutral procedures for creating electoral districts; new measures to reduce the impact of money on political outcomes; and rules to increase incentives for elected officials to cooperate across partisan and ideological divides.
- On the second, reforms to restrict divisive media practices and rally civil organizations to build bridges among partisans in local communities. For example, laws governing social media platforms could be amended to hold them more responsible for messages promoting hatred, violence, and illegality, and foundations could invest aggressively in organizations promoting civil dialogues among citizens with divergent policy views and ideological commitments.
The menu of economic and political reforms is daunting. If the present offers little consolation, history is more encouraging, adds Galston, the author of Anti-Populism. Well-established liberal democracies have repeatedly demonstrated their capacity for reinvention. RTWT
Australia’s democracy is demonstrating its capacity for resilience and renewal, argues Dr Tom Gerald Daly of the University of Melbourne. Concerns that democracy is in decline has led to new experiments with citizen assemblies and juries, but we also need to look at revitalising what we already have – our parliaments, he contends. RTWT