On September 15th The Economist celebrated their 175th anniversary with a manifesto speaking out against the weakening of liberal values. Though the meaning of the concept liberal is notoriously unclear, there certainly is more to it than free markets and cynical neoliberalism.
The Economist stresses that liberal values are essentially about respecting the individual and protecting freedom and the common good, as well as propagating «open markets and a limited state administration».
The manifesto laments the loss of these values over the past 25 years, as liberal practices have ceded to populism, pessimism, hierarchy and elitism.
These claims are supported by books like The Retreat of Western Liberalism and Has the West Lost it? as well as articles like «Is Democracy Dying» and «What’s Killing Liberalism?» (Foreign Affairs/The Atlantic). In the past six months The Economist has scrutinised liberal values including the cases in which liberals have failed. They remind us that the liberals of the 19th century were actually radical in the original meaning of the word – getting to the root of social problems to make fundamental necessary changes. By the grace of liberals, we now have a life expectancy well above the 30 years that were the norm when The Economist was founded, and liberal policies have led to a five-fold increase in educated adults since then.
In their editorial, The Economist discussed how a new liberal meritocracy has gradually ended up restricting freedom for the few. Many seemed to forget the foundation of liberal values: that we are all born the same and thus deserve the same opportunities. The liberal elites and the ruling class have for some time lived in a bubble: they go to the same schools, marry each other, live on the same streets and meet in the same fora. Consequently, they are criticised for not having hindered «wars, financial crisis, technification, refugee migrants and chronic precariousness». They also denounce the shameful conservative bent of many liberals, making them unwilling to confront the changing times and «afraid to defend deeper reforms». They have reaped too many benefits from the existing system, The Economist writes.