Macron’s Liberalization Has Made Travel More Affordable in France

View of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France
View of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France (Unsplash/Rodrigo Kugnharski)

Emmanuel Macron’s liberalization of intercity public transport in France is paying off.

Until 2015, railroads had a monopoly on domestic ground routes of 100 kilometers or more. Macron — then economy minister, now president — wrote legislation that allowed buses to compete.

Bloomberg reports that 6.2 million passengers took a long-distance bus in 2016 and bookings are up another 25 percent this year.

That’s still a fraction of the more than 100 million annual high-speed train passengers, but competition from buses is forcing the state-owned railway to cut rates. Read more “Macron’s Liberalization Has Made Travel More Affordable in France”

Liberal Democrats Are the Least Bad Option in Britain’s Election

British Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron
British Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron (Shutterstock/Finbarr Webster)

This British election is an impossible choice for liberals like us.

We can’t possibly support Jeremy Corbyn, whose policies of nationalization and unilateral nuclear disarmament would compound the disaster of Brexit — which he did far too little to prevent — many times over.

But we are not impressed with Theresa May either. She was the best possible candidate to succeed David Cameron last summer, but only because the alternatives were worse. Many British voters could make the same calculation this week. Read more “Liberal Democrats Are the Least Bad Option in Britain’s Election”

British Liberal Democrat Revival Starts to Look More Likely

Tim Farron
British Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron (Shutterstock/Finbarr Webster)

After they formed a coalition government with the Conservatives in 2010, Britain’s Liberal Democrats only lost elections — local, mayoral and national.

The low point came in May 2015, when the party lost 49 of its 57 seats in the House of Commons. Big names, like Danny Alexander and Vince Cable, were voted out. Liberal strongholds across South West England simply vanished.

Liberals have talked up a “LibDem revival” since that dismal election result and commentators have dismissed it as sheer optimism.

But could there be something to it after all? Read more “British Liberal Democrat Revival Starts to Look More Likely”

Dubai, Singapore and the Future of Neoliberalism

The skyline of Dubai, November 6, 2009
The skyline of Dubai, November 6, 2009 (Jason Rodman)

It is the little things, they say, that count. The small places can tell us big things.

There are no smaller places than city states. Holdovers of bygone eras, they are quite nearly the oldest form of political organization our species has. Only tribalism is older and city states arose from settled tribes that over generations grew into legendary places like Ur, Jericho, Athens, the Yellow River city of Cai and the Indus Valley site of Harappa.

We have no empires left; a few kingdoms, though they keep dropping off the map. Nobody much minds. Yet if we were to lose our city states or our microstates, it would represent a collapse of the international order as we know it. Despite their tiny size, city states are bellwethers of their time. Read more “Dubai, Singapore and the Future of Neoliberalism”

New York Times Gets Rutte’s Aggressive Liberalism Wrong

Mark Rutte
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte answers questions in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, July 5, 2016 (European Parliament)

The New York Times reports that Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has taken a “Trump-like turn” in the face of a “hard-right challenge”, siding with the “silent majority” in its prejudices against immigrants.

That gets it quite wrong. Read more “New York Times Gets Rutte’s Aggressive Liberalism Wrong”

Sound Policies Not Enough to Fend Off Populist Challenge

Angela Merkel Barack Obama
American president Barack Obama listens to German chancellor Angela Merkel during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 2, 2014 (Bundesregierung)

After Donald Trump’s unexpected election victory in the United States, liberal-minded commentators (this one included) looked to Germany’s Angela Merkel to keep the barbarians at bay.

The centrist German leader gave some indications that she’s up to the task of defending liberal democracy and the liberal world order from the nationalist-populist challenge. She conditioned the future of the American-German alliance on shared Western values and urged Germans, after announcing she would seek a fourth term as chancellor next year, to unite and shape globalization “together with others” rather than fight it.

“Openness will bring us more security than isolation,” she said.

Did we read too much into this? Read more “Sound Policies Not Enough to Fend Off Populist Challenge”

Dark Days Ahead for Liberals

Washington DC at night
Washington DC at night (Pixabay/skeeze)

The light are going out for liberals and globalists around the Western world.

Austria is on the verge of electing its first far-right head of state since the end of the Second World War.

Poland last year switched its centrist, pluralist government for an ultraconservative administration that is threatening the independence of the judiciary and the freedom of the press.

Marine Le Pen, who leads a party that was once unambiguously fascist, is almost certain to make it into the second round of France’s presidential election next year.

Even in the United Kingdom, the homeland of liberalism, there was an atmosphere of isolationism and xenophobia around the vote to leave the European Union in June.

And now America, “the last best hope of Earth,” as Abraham Lincoln once called it, has elected Donald J. Trump. Read more “Dark Days Ahead for Liberals”

Reprimand Liberals, Don’t Repudiate Liberalism

Theresa May addresses the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, England, October 7, 2009
Theresa May addresses the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, England, October 7, 2009 (Conservatives/Paul Toeman)

I argued here last month that Britain’s Conservatives could alienate liberal voters if they lurched too far to the right.

Theresa May’s speech on Thursday to a party conference in Birmingham did nothing to alleviate my concern. Read more “Reprimand Liberals, Don’t Repudiate Liberalism”

A (Small) Opportunity for Britain’s Liberal Democrats

Tim Farron
British Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron (Shutterstock/Finbarr Webster)

If Labour reelects the far-left Jeremy Corbyn as its leader this week, which seems likely, and the Conservatives under Theresa May do lurch a little to the right, that should leave space in the center of British politics for the Liberal Democrats.

Unfortunately for them, that space will never be very wide.

I argued here the other day that May is breaking — however carefully — with David Cameron’s liberal legacy in order to secure the support of suburban and provincial voters who are more right-wing than the party has been. Many of them voted Conservative in 2015 and many voted to leave the European Union in the referendum in June, prompting Cameron, who had advised a “remain” vote, to step down.

A rightward shift under May, on education and immigration policy, could tempt more urban and liberal-minded voters to defect, I warned:

If May seems in thrall to those who voted to leave the EU because they are dissatisfied with the modern world, don’t be surprised if those who only voted for the Conservatives when they had finally come to terms with the modern world abandon her in the future.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron is exploiting this vulnerability. His is now “the free-market, free-trade, pro-business party,” he told a conference in Brighton this week. Read more “A (Small) Opportunity for Britain’s Liberal Democrats”

Don’t Push Ordinary People Over the Edge

Americans
Visitors at the de Young museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, California, October 16, 2005 (Thomas Hawk)

Regular readers of this site will be familiar with what Andrew Sullivan has called the West’s ; I agree that the political conflict in Europe and North America is now between “blue” cosmopolitans and internationalists, who tend to be liberal, well-educated and mobile, and “red” nationalists and nativists, who are often socially conservative, less educated and stuck in one place.

I’m decidedly “blue” and so Britain’s vote to leave the European Union last month and the rise of Donald Trump in the United States hasn’t filled me with hope.

Long term, I know the “reds” are fighting yesterday’s battles — and I suspect they know it too. But in the short term, red victories can do a lot of damage.

What’s to be done? Read more “Don’t Push Ordinary People Over the Edge”