Ben Ansell's position is that successful political systems provide "democracy, equality, solidarity, security, and prosperity." However, democracy, equality, solidarity, security and prosperity are all variables within a society, and as variables, they are all subject to change in how they are perceived within that society. At any given time, society and individuals within a society will perceive having too much of some variables and not enough of the others. I suspect, therefore, that politics will always be seen as "failing" and it is that "failing" that drives elected and appointed officials in a democracy to try to improve things.

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Google gets 23,800 hits for "Tony Timpa", 58,400 hits for "Justine Damond", and 39,400,000 for "George Floyd". Some lives count for a lot more than others. Some lives barely matter at all.

Democracy is dead. The 'woke' have killed it.

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Apr 18, 2023·edited Apr 18, 2023

Thank you for a very thought-provoking discussion, as usual.

While I find much to agree with in Mr. Ansell's analysis, my problem with it, or at least with generalizing it uncritically, can be summed up in this sentence:

"There are five broad goals that most people can generally agree on: democracy, equality, solidarity, security, and prosperity. "

Perhaps he's right as far as most Europeans (with the possible exception of the French) are concerned, and that this is the basis of their political settlement. However, the driving force of the American and French Revolutions, the concept that made them "revolutions" in the strict sense and that still does, is that the purpose, goal, and ultimate value of government is the protection and extension of individual LIBERTY, in the Enlightenment sense summarized in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen as "the freedom to do all that is harmful to no one else".

In this schema, Mr. Ansell's goals of "democracy, equality, solidarity, security, and prosperity" are not "goals" at all, but means and instruments in the service of the ultimate goal, the protection and extension of individual liberty. Put that way, the complications and difficulties become immediately clear, because each of these goals-redefined-as-means is necessary to the goal of liberty, but each of them is to some extent contradictory of it, and certainly contradictory of it when treated as a goal in itself or as an absolute. That's the real balancing act that Mr. Ansell's analysis doesn't address, because he seems to assume it away.

This is also why, except in some cloistered corners of the Left, I can't see this analysis as it stands making much real headway in the United States. Thanks to the decline in Civics education over the past 30-50 years a large number of Americans may no longer have the language to define their ideology as succinctly as I did above, but they still feel it and understand it, at least at an emotional level, and tend to reject any set of policy prescriptions that does not give individual liberty pride of place.

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On the issue of economic equality the question is how much inequality is acceptable. Or how much solidarity is necessary? The reference to charity, however, is misplaced. Charity demeans the recipient and exalts the giver creating an inequality of status on top of the economic inequality.

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