By Stefan Matias Kløvning

On the 19th October, the 43rd President of the United States George W. Bush spoke at the Lincoln Centre in New York, where he spoke about freedom, free markets, and security. Some noteworthy excerpts will be mentioned below.

• Democracy must be valued and protected.
“The great democracies face new and serious threats – yet seem to be losing its confidence in their own calling and competence. Economic, political and national security challenges proliferate, and they are made worse by the tendency to turn inward. The health of the democratic spirit itself is at issue. And the renewal of that spirit is the urgent task at hand.” Democratic political institutions do not establish themselves, and are not maintained by themselves. The reason some states are democratic today and others not, are based on who were able to develop them, based on a multiplicity of factors. We who have developed these institutions have rule of law and accountability of the government, and we must keep our eyes on them at all times. The political climate in the United States the latest years have shown statism on both sides of the political spectrum. We do not hold our politicians accountable if we agree with their causes. As referral we have most notably the 2016 election, with Clinton supporters holding Trump accountable for his actions, but not Clinton for hers, and on the other side Trump supporters holding Clinton accountable but not Trump. This does not help in the maintaining of the democracy, and we must learn, while still standing up for what we believe in, to acknowledge wrongs and rights on both sides. Dialogue is necessary, and it has to a degree now deteriorated, something Bush goes over later in the speech.

• Free markets work
“Since World War II, America has encouraged and benefited from the global advance of free markets, from the strength of democratic alliances, and from the advance of free societies. […] Free nations are less likely to fight each other. And the free trade helped make America into a global economic power.”
The American Dream is built on the assumption that hard work leads to success and profit in life, that was the hope of the Puritans who escaped the British for their unreasonably unfair extractive political system, and they wanted to invent a system where they were free from this, which they did in the Bill of Rights. But freedom per se must be that of freedom from government, not freedom from responsibilities, and that is why there must be possibilities to create businesses and compete in the market for lower prices and better products, because economic power correlates with political power. And though I’m being a passionate libertarian about this, I also recognize the fact that this system does not regulate itself, and needs restraint to a reasonable degree. But these restraints should be limited only to what would lead to further equality of opportunity in these markets.

• We must return to civil discourse
“We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.”

This reminds me of an advice from Canadian psychology professor Jordan B. Peterson, saying that you should interpret someone’s argument as of the highest possible value, and then dismantle it. We have a psychological tendency to simply disregard other people’s arguments without considering them if they go too much against our own theories. In an interview with The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles, Peterson talked about ideology as a parasite, partly for the reason of confirmation of own theory with disregard to facts going against them. Both sides of the political spectrum are guilty of this, and the further polarization of American politics will either have to be reversed or escalated to another civil war, in which the former sounds most appealing. We live in a marketplace of ideas, where the best ones win. As businesses in a free market, we’re all members of this competition, however much we may be inactive in it. We must not turn back to Collectivism’s reduction of the human spirit to a single collective of ideas. If we should have learned anything from 20th century Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and the Soviet Union, that would be it. Collectivism binds us to a single group of ideas, with disregard for what is outside it, and Individualism becomes the light in the dark. Being able to develop theories outside of contemporary opinion, reading books that others don’t read, learning things which the curricula don’t cover, it moves us up a stage in the ladder of that marketplace, and improves our ability of interaction with other people and gives us an advantage. But what may this all mean if the discourse is deteriorated?

• We must recover our identity
“Parts of Europe have developed an identity crisis. We have seen insolvency, economic stagnation, youth unemployment, anger about immigration, resurgent ethno-nationalism, and deep questions about the meaning and durability of the European Union. America is not immune from these trends. […] The American dream of upward mobility seems out of reach for some who feel left behind in a changing economy. Discontent deepened and sharpened partisan conflicts. Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication. […] We’ve seen nationalism distorted to nativism – forgotten that immigration has always brought to America. […] Our identity as a nation – unlike many other nations – is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility. We become the heirs of Thomas Jefferson by accepting the ideal of human dignity found in the Declaration of Independence. We become the heirs of James Madison by understanding the genius and values of the U.S. Constitution. We become the heirs of Martin Luther King Jr., by recognizing one another not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.”

It has been redeveloped a form of tribalism in the United States and the rest of the free world, and it has come by the name of identity politics, occurring on both sides of the political spectrum, one being reactionary to the other, and the breakdown of civil discourse explained above has led to an increase in political radicalism in this manner on both sides. This is based on “fixing the errors” of history, and for the Left this is to reverse the marginalization of aboriginals, blacks and women which occurred up until ~the 18th and 19th century. This mindset of historical justice opens the door for equality of outcome becoming a precedent, which would deteriorate fairness from our democratic free-market free world. Theoretically this may sound more or less appealing, but practically it would just continue the errors of history rather than reverse its previous ones. Our national identity must be recovered so that it reestablishes itself as the basis of a people’s commonality as citizens, rather than partisans for their individual ideologies. As right-winger Milo Yiannopoulus said following the Charlottesville occasion, “let’s not fight identity politics with identity politics.”