Institutionalist economist Geoffrey Hodgson writes a fascinating and highly informative blog entitled New Politics. This post from January discusses the authoritarian nationalist turn in world politics and the vital importance of liberalism in countering this threat. His writing is lucid, compelling, and very well-informed by lessons from history.
Although the post is more about politics than economics, from a political economy perspective, the two are more useful when analysed together. In modern capitalist economies, the role of the state is inseparable from other institutions such as the rule of law and the market.
The debate over economic policy should be thoroughly exercised in the public realm of a healthy democracy. This requires well-educated citizens open to engaging critically in such a debate, allowing space for diversity and pluralism without dictating their terms. Intolerance is present in elements of both left and right and is contrary to the liberal perspective.
As an undergraduate student in the late 1990s, I was rather alone with my interest in the political, social and historical aspects of economics. One of my teachers put it down to a ‘generational thing’. Some of today’s young do appear more engaged politically, which is a positive development. Having said that, it is all too easy for any of us to ignore views which do not fit our preconceptions and to become intolerant of alternatives.
There is more information more or less freely available to many of us than ever before, which can be a mixed blessing, particularly when those in power work hard to control the dominant narratives that inform and guide us. This is possible not just in authoritarian states, but in established democracies too.
Apathy is truly a dangerous thing in the face of increasing concentrations of economic and political power across our societies, and needs to be countered. Hodgson’s blog is a step in that direction.