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On Liberal Authoritarianism

If liberal principles seem threatened, it is only because they have been so successful. Look more carefully at American, British or European Union politics, and it is hard to find any viable alternatives to liberalism even in its supposed moment of peril. Donald Trump spews forth an endless stream of illiberal invective, but even as the US president, at one point holding majorities in both Houses of Congress, he has been unwilling or unable to roll back the liberal agenda in any meaningful way. Liberalism is, after all, based on the idea that individual liberty is the highest political virtue – and who doesn’t love liberty? ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.’ These were the words that created the United States of America, and ultimately the global liberal order.

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“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time; but there is the broad feeling in our country that the people should rule, continuously rule, and that public opinion, expressed by all constitutional means, should shape, guide, and control the actions of Ministers who are their servants and not their masters.”

— Winston Churchill, in Parliament, 1947