Sun setting on west?

William Hague thinks the sun may be setting on western wealth and freedom:

. . . In our own lifetimes, by contrast, we have become used to the idea that our western values are successful and that we are as one in making sure of that success.

Since 1945, US presidents have never given up their global leadership, morally or militarily, even though they have varied in effectiveness. Nato triumphed in the Cold War and grew alongside the European Union. The West has retained the greatest centres of innovation, finance, education and culture. Our languages and computer codes have dominated the discourse of the world.

The idea of freedom, we assume, will repel and ultimately overcome any alternative. The information revolution we have spawned will corrode dictatorships and undermine rigid ideologies. Our prosperity will always allow us the technological edge to defend ourselves.

Towards the end of the 20th century with  the Berlin Wall down and the iron curtain torn aside it looked like freedom would prevail, but that optimism was premature.

Yet look more closely, as the smoke clears after each fresh bout of disorder in our present century, and you will find the values and security of the West are in steady retreat. Russia has turned emphatically against liberal democracy, and reinvented brute power in the settling of European borders. Turkey first drifted, and now marches, towards authoritarian rule and the exploitation of the vulnerabilities of western Europe. 

In the Middle East, hopes of freedom have been crushed between arbitrary government and fundamentalist revolt, each feeding off each other in an accelerating cycle that leaves no space for tolerance or debate. And the demographic bulge of that region is about to push new millions of disaffected young men into the arms of religious fanaticism. 

In China, the creation of the world’s biggest middle class and rival biggest economy is not bringing anything that looks like western values. On the contrary, a necessary anti-corruption drive is being accompanied by tight political centralisation, an intensified crackdown on dissent and a much-strengthened emphasis on Marxist ideology. 

If these trends continue, future historians will identify the start of this new millennium as the period when free and open societies faltered and fell back, weakened further by internal divisions and the turning of our own inventions against us. . . 

Improved education, health, and wealth and much easier communication, ought to be making the world a freer and safer place but extremism and protectionism are countering progress.

In whichever direction you look, the autocrats, the dictators, the terrorists and the corrupt and cynical opportunists are fighting back. They are demonstrating daily that the lazy assumption of western triumph may be mistaken. Accordingly, it is time to relearn the lessons of history: that free societies do generally triumph in the end, but they need constant vigilance to protect them, and they often need a mixture of strong leadership, determined unity and a good measure of low cunning to help them along.

The time is coming for leaders and opinion-formers to promote the need for a more unified strategy of the West, before it is too late. 

But let’s not think that although the West is freer it is always right about everything.

An increase in protectionism was one of the causes of the Great Depression; isolationist policies fuel tensions and suspicion and there’s strong pressure for both in Western countries, including New Zealand,  whose politicians ought to have learned from history..

On top of that, increasing antagonism of Russia and China is reigniting the embers of the cold war. That’s a fire that won’t be extinguished by hot heads and we-know-best attitudes.

5 Responses to Sun setting on west?

  1. Will says:

    I’d add the vast expansion of ‘welfare’ to that list. And overly empowered unions, and a dumbed-down education system. Thanks Labour. And over-regulation like the RMA disaster. Cheers National. Then there is the Greens, always attacking their own country, bad-mouthing us over-seas, undermining our identity and self-belief.

    Massive growth of the state, uncompetitiveness, ignorance,fear and guilt. There is much of Western decline for you.

  2. Paul Scott says:

    I see a re-emerging Nationalism and a contempt for large united oligarchies such as the , EU, UN, NATO, and the USA Empire. As we pull ourselves free from these monsters, we become more wealthy in a broader sense.

  3. Andrei says:

    Russia has turned emphatically against liberal democracy

    What a load of horse shite!!!!

    The link goes to a of American political attack on Donald Trump from Hillary Clinton a woman known for being economical with the truth

    Russia is a damn sight more democratic than the USA where all the politicians are in the pockets of big money, the bankers and the arms manufacturers

    But not one person in a thousand could tell you what the constitutional arrangements of the Russian Federation are – as far as most are concerned Russia is just one man

    But that man is a constitutional lawyer who grew up on the mean streets of Leningrad in very modest circumstances and who can actually converse in four languages

    If the West is fading, and it is, it is because we put up with intellectual light weights like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair and David Cameron

    And most people are to vacant to see what empty suits these people are

  4. Andrei says:

    If there was ever a marker of how far the West has declined it has to be the candidates for the Oval Office and their campaigns which are entirely ad hominem – zero substance

    Meanwhile the world is rushing headlong into war – the lunatics are in charge of the asylum

    Nobody is talking about what is happening in Ukraine, Syria, Yemen and Libya

    How many of you know that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will be in St Petersburg tomorrow or grasp the significance of this?

    Everybody are the baddies except for the people who have left a trail of destroyed nations in their wake – leaving millions dead and millions more displaced

    I’m depressed

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