When the Soviet Union collapsed a decade ago, neoconservatives proclaimed "the end of history," by which they meant the emergence of an ecumenical world organized by liberal democracy.
Noting China's ambitions and the re-emergence of Islam, skeptics regard the neoconservative thesis as little more than an expression of hope. China and Islam aside, powerful developments within the West itself are leading away from liberal democracy.
These developments are both intellectual and political. For example, multiculturalism and the emergence of group rights based on victim status are eroding equality in law, freedom of conscience and free speech. As these are the historic achievements of liberal democracy, how can the future belong to a system that is undergoing meltdown at its core?
Both the U.S. and Europe now have crimes of opinion, a defining feature of Oceania in George Orwell's 1984. Americans and Europeans are subject to arrest and imprisonment for words judged offensive by the therapeutic state. This frightening departure from Western tradition is justified in the name of curtailing hate and advancing human rights.
While the Western identity is melting down intellectually, it is being dissolved politically. The historic identities of European nationalities are being replaced by an abstraction. Briton, Frenchman, German, Italian, Swede, Czech, Greek, Austrian, Dane, Spaniard, and Dutchman are to become "European" citizens of a new bureaucratic state created by edicts and without a history.
These are not promising developments for liberal democracy. Differences of opinion within homogeneous nation states have often challenged consensual government, with bitter divisions erupting in national strikes and political violence. Imagine these differences multiplied by aggregating many nationalities into one state.
The politics of the European Union will have to deal not only with the differences of opinion within the separate nationalities but also with the differences between the different nationalities that comprise the new superstate. Will not consent be more difficult to obtain, thus enhancing the scope for coercion? Will liberal democracy be the model, or will the model be bureaucratic coercion ruling through the same unaccountable edicts that are being used to create the European Union?
Large scale immigration of people from different cultures is turning the United States as well into a multi-nationalities state. The political emergence of disparate and hyphenated identities reduces the range of issues that can be resolved by persuasion and consent. Coercive regulations already exist to enforce victim-group rights and to regulate speech.
Other developments are eating away at the foundations of liberal democracy. Having lost its national identity to hyphenated populations, the U.S. can only respond to terrorism with constitutionally suspect legislation, which permits officials to set aside civil liberties, and by empowering a Department of Homeland Security to keep a dossier on every citizen. Only illegal immigrants will have privacy.
Multicultural populations do not possess the comity among citizens that flows from a national identity. Having discarded national identities, the U.S. and the European Union are multicultural empires. Empires have poor records of self-government and tend to rely on coercion. Liberal democracy is a creation of the nation state and is unlikely to persist in the emerging multi-cultural empires.
It was America's unique achievement to create a national identity out of European ethnicities. When immigration worked for America, all the incentives were for an immigrant to make himself into an American.
Today the incentives are for immigrants to retain the privileges of preferred minorityhood. A few states go so far as to grant special advantages, such as instate tuition, to illegal immigrants. This is not a policy that promotes comity. What is the meaning of citizenship when the rewards to the illegal immigrant trump the penalties of his illegal presence and give him financial advantages over citizens?
Western governments are undermining themselves by creating populations of disparate peoples with disparate rights. The resulting antagonisms are inconsistent with liberal democracy. The clash of civilizations is upon us from within our own borders. If China and Islam only bide their time, the world is theirs. It is not the end of history; it is the end of the West.
Paul Craig Roberts is the author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Click here for Peter Brimelow's Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.
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