“The End of the Dream” is the title of an essay written by the British journalist John Gray published on December 10 in the New Statesman and referred to in The New York Times last Sunday.It made these points:
• Unreality is the common feature of the fashionable ideas of the last decade. Perhaps only a more serious crisis will overturn these delusive fancies.
• Ten years ago the best and the brightest were believers in the “Washington Consensus” – the idea that the debt-fuelled free market was the only economic system consistent with the imperatives of modernity and destined to spread universally.
• For anyone with a sense of history, the idea that a post-Cold-War bubble engineered by Alan Greenspan when he lowered interest rates to an artificial level embodies a new world order was obviously absurd.
• Closely related was liberal interventionism, the policy of using military force to spread liberal democracy.
• The delusive quality of this view was an unrealistic estimate of America’s position in the world.
• Fashionable ideas of globalization had the effect of blocking the perception of American decline.
• A single erroneous belief runs through all the successive delusions of the past decade. With few exceptions, both left and right seem to think that history is a directional process whose end-point, after many unfortunate detours, will eventually be an idealized version of today’s Western society, just as Francis Fukuyama forecast twenty years ago. The reality, that western power is in retreat nearly everywhere, is insistently denied.
• The omens are not encouraging. The make-believe that surrounds climate-change, epitomized in the empty statements of intent regarding unachievable goals that will be the only outcome of the Copenhagen meeting, shows that the biggest challenge for the future is being evaded.