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It's Still Not the End of History Print E-mail

It's Still Not the End of History

  By Timothy Stanley and Alexander Lee

25 years after Francis Fukuyama's landmark essay, liberal democracy is under threat. Can it bounce back?

Most of us in the West are liberals, whether we admit it or not. We want equal rights for all, reject racial differences, cherish the freedom of worship while preserving the freedom to disagree, and seek an economic order that suits the ambitions of the individual. But there’s a growing sense that liberalism isn’t delivering at home and that it’s not as popular as we think it ought to be in the developing world. The problem is that hubris has blinded its defenders to the crisis consuming liberalism’s identity, leaving them unable or unwilling, to respond to pressing challenges around the world.

Twenty-five years ago this summer, Francis Fukuyama announced the “end of history” and the inevitable triumph of liberal capitalist democracy. His argument was simple: Democracy would win out over all other forms of government because the natural desire for peace and well-being set nations on a path to progress from which it was impossible to divert. If a state—even a Communist state—wished to enjoy the greatest prosperity possible, it would have to embrace some measure of capitalism. Since wealth-creation depends on the protection of private property, the “capitalist creep” would invariably demand greater legal protection for individual rights.

As many critics pointed out, Fukuyama’s logic was a bit too reminiscent of the pseudo-Hegelian historical determinism that Marxists and Fascists deployed to disastrous effect earlier in the 20th century, but when his article appeared in The National Interest, it was hard to disagree with him. The Berlin Wall was about to fall, the Soviet Union was collapsing, and the world was clamoring for the consumerist boom in an orgy of free-market excitement. Everything seemed to suggest that only liberal capitalist democracy allowed people to thrive in an increasingly globalized world, and that only the steady advance of laissez-faire economics would guarantee a future of free, democratic states, untroubled by want and oppression and living in peace and contentment.

Today, it’s hard to imagine Fukuyama being more wrong. History isn’t over and neither liberalism nor democracy is ascendant. The comfy Western consensus he inspired is under threat in ways he never predicted. A new Cold War has broken out. China’s “Marxist capitalism” suggests you can have wealth without freedom. And the advance of ISIS may herald a new, state-oriented Islamic fundamentalism.

But most disturbingly, the connection between capitalism, democracy, and liberalism upon which Fukuyama’s argument depended has itself been broken. In the wake of the credit crunch and the global economic downturn, it has become increasingly clear that prosperity is not, in fact, best served either by the pursuit of laissez-faire economics or by the inexorable extension of economic freedoms. Indeed, quite the opposite.
 
Bills player tweets 'Blame ESPN' for Michael Sam not getting job Print E-mail
 
Scots Get Skittish About Going It Alone Print E-mail

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Scots Get Skittish About Going It Alone As Independence Vote Looms

 

Faced with the economic reality of independence, many Scots are approaching the referendum nervous about breaking up with the U.K.

 Next month, Scots will go to the polls to decide if they should end their political union with the United Kingdom and become an entirely self-governing nation. It would be the first time Scotland has seized independence since the blood-soaked era of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce seven centuries ago.

Scotland has had its own parliament since 1999, which allows it control over health, education and justice but not fiscal and monetary policy, defense or foreign policy. Connolly certainly isn’t buying the pro-independence argument that Scotland would emulate its booming Scandinavian neighbors if it was given total control over its destiny. “Alex Salmond has been watching too much Braveheart,” he said. “All this talk of us being the new Norway is all very well, but 25 percent of Norwegians aren’t Buckfast-drinking jakeys.” 

For those unfamiliar with the local tongue, he was suggesting that Scotland has a larger than average street-drinking fraternity, many of whom are partial to the notoriously strong fortified wine.

The “Yes” campaign says this sense of pessimism found even in the patriotic Highlands is unfounded and has been stoked by opponents who are desperate to bully and scare the Scots into submission. They claim London-based politicians like British Prime Minister David Cameron, have deliberately undermined Scottish confidence in order to safeguard the status quo. Worse than that, they accuse Cameron of using Britain’s global embassy network to cajole governments around the world into telling Scotland they won’t be able to stand on their own two feet.

 
Beijing's Hong Kong Ruling Sparks Protests Print E-mail

Beijing's Hong Kong Ruling Sparks Protests

ByJenny W. Hsu, Chester Yung and Jeffrey Ng

Hong Kong pro-democracy legislators heckled a top Chinese official on Monday as he sought to explain Beijing's position on how the city should elect its leader, while police and demonstrators scuffled outside the venue.

Dozens of pro-democracy politicians disrupted remarks by Li Fei, deputy secretary-general of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's rubber-stamp parliament, which decreed on Sunday that candidates for Hong Kong's top leadership post must be approved by a committee heavily loyal to Beijing.

Legislators shouted slogans and held up signs saying "breach of promise" and "shameful." A few of them were escorted out by the police, while some were dragged out.

 Pro-democracy voices in Hong Kong have threatened a mass civil-disobedience campaign if they weren't offered "genuine choice" in 2017 elections, and 23 legislators said Sunday they would veto Beijing's proposal in the 70-seat Hong Kong legislature, where it needs two-third approval. By constituting a bloc of more than a third, the city's 27 pro-democratic legislators hold effective veto power.

 
Decaying Guantánamo Defies Closing Plans Print E-mail

At the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, last month, two detainees conversed through layers of fences.

Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

Decaying Guantánamo Defies Closing Plans

By CHARLIE SAVAGE

More than 12 years after the Bush administration first sent detainees to the prison in Cuba, tensions are mounting over whether President Obama can close it before leaving office.

One sweltering afternoon last month, a Boeing C-17 military transport plane arrived at the American naval base here. It had come to take six low-level detainees to new lives in Uruguay after 12 years of imprisonment.

Days before, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. had called Uruguay’s president, José Mujica, pressing him to resettle the men. The foreign leader had offered to accept the detainees last January, but by the time the United States was ready for the transfer this summer, Mr. Mujica was worried that it would be politically risky to follow through because of coming elections in his country, according to Obama administration officials.

After four days of frantic negotiations between the two governments as the plane sat on the tarmac, the C-17 flew away without its intended passengers.

Although President Obama pledged last year to revive his efforts to close Guantánamo, his administration has managed to free just one low-level prisoner this year, leaving 79 who are approved for transfer to other countries. It has also not persuaded Congress to lift its ban on moving the remaining 70 higher-level detainees to a prison inside the United States.

 
Five myths about California’s drought Print E-mail

Five myths about California’s drought

California is experiencing its third-worst drought in 106 years, resulting in idled cropland and soaring water prices. Since the state produces almost 70 percent of the nation’s top 25 fruit, nut and vegetable crops, California’s pain could soon hit the rest of the country through higher food prices. Will conservation and new water-saving technologies be enough to weather this dry period? 

 
Ron Paul Dons 9/11 Truther Tin Foil Print E-mail

Ron Paul Dons 9/11 Truther Tin Foil

By Olivia Nuzzi

The former Congressman – and father of the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination – thinks the government is keeping secrets about 9/11.

Former Rep. Ron Paul believes that the government knew beforehand, in detail, about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and that the information has been kept from the public in a classified section of the 9/11 commission report. 

When the host of Money and Markets, Charles Goyette, recently said that it is "shocking that the American people are prohibited from knowing the whole truth about 9/11," Paul countered: "Boy, that's for sure. It's shocking, but then, when you stop and think about it, shouldn't we expect this from our government? Which is really sad." 

Paul admitted of his beliefs: "It's politically very risky to talk about it," particularly when your son is in the process of trying to run for president, which Paul's son, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, is.

...................................

Reasonable man that he is, Paul conceded that the U.S. government probably didn't actually plot 9/11 because, you know, that would be crazy: "Does [foreknowledge of the attacks] prove that our president and others actually sat down and laid the plans and did this? I don't think it does, but I think it does show that one of the reasons why they want to cover it up is because they don't want to say, the FBI and the CIA were, at the time, spending $40 billion a year to spy on everybody to make us safe and secure, and therefore they really messed up, so they had to hide that." 

Paul then offered that "our own government did more harm to the liberties of the American people than Bin Laden did."

 
Drugs as the New Parents Print E-mail

Drugs as the New Parents

By Mark Goulston, M.D., F.A.P.A.

Are downers replacing comfort lacking from moms and uppers replacing encouragement lacking from dads?

 
How to Build Better Teachers Print E-mail

How to Build Better Teachers

Mastering the craft demands time to collaborate—just what American schools don't provide.

By Sara Mosle

Teaching dwarfs every other profession that requires a college degree. Nationwide, 3.7 million schoolteachers serve grades K–12—more than all the doctors, lawyers, and engineers in the country combined. Teacher shortages, once chronic, abated during the recession, when layoffs were widespread, but will soon return with a vengeance. Fully half of all teachers are Baby Boomers on the brink of retirement. Among novice teachers, who constitute an increasingly large proportion of the remaining workforce, between 40 and 50 percent typically quit within just five years, citing job dissatisfaction or more-alluring prospects. Given this drain at both ends of the teaching pipeline, schools will likely need to hire more than 3 million new teachers by 2020. That is an enormous talent hole to fill.

Yet the United States has, if anything, too many teacher-training programs. Each year, some 1,400 of them indiscriminately churn out twice as many graduates as schools can use. Program quality varies widely, so many would-be teachers don’t suit schools’ needs. In a scathing 2006 report, Arthur Levine, a former president of Columbia University’s Teachers College, accused many education schools of being little more than a “cash cow” for their hosting institution. Among the problems he highlighted were exceedingly “low admission standards,” a “curriculum in disarray,” and faculties “disconnected” from the realities of the classroom.

Once hired, many teachers are left to sink or swim. In recent years, several states have adopted controversial accountability measures, known as “value added” metrics, with a view toward winnowing out poor performers who haven’t produced student improvement on standardized tests; helping teachers hone their craft has seldom made it onto the agenda. But perhaps we’re finally ready to focus attention on the far bigger and more important question of how to attract and retain the top teachers we want.

 
Insurance for End-of-Life Talks Makes Gains Print E-mail

Dr. Joseph Hinterberger discussed end-of-life care with Mary Ann Zebrowski. If reimbursed, “I’d do one of these a day,” he said.

Credit Heather Ainsworth for The New York Times

Insurance for End-of-Life Talks Makes Gains

By PAM BELLUCK

Private insurers have begun reimbursing doctors for “advance care planning,” and such talks could be covered for Medicare patients as early as next year.

Five years after it exploded into a political conflagration over “death panels,” the issue of paying doctors to talk to patients about end-of-life care is making a comeback, and such sessions may be covered for the 50 million Americans on Medicare as early as next year.

Bypassing the political process, private insurers have begun reimbursing doctors for these “advance care planning” conversations as interest in them rises along with the number of aging Americans. People are living longer with illnesses, and many want more input into how they will spend their final days, including whether they want to die at home or in the hospital, and whether they want full-fledged life-sustaining treatment, just pain relief or something in between. Some states, including Colorado and Oregon, recently began covering the sessions for Medicaid patients.

But far more significant, Medicare may begin covering end-of-life discussions next year if it approves a recent request from the American Medical Association, the country’s largest association of physicians and medical students. One of the A.M.A.’s roles is to create billing codes for medical services, codes used by doctors, hospitals and insurers. It recently created codes for end-of-life conversations and submitted them to Medicare.

 
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