It is all too easy, with the benefit of hindsight, to mock Francis Fukuyama. Writing at the end of the Cold War, the American academic proclaimed the End of History: ideological competition was over, he argued, and liberal democracy had triumphed as the final, ultimate form of government.
This turned out to be hopelessly optimistic. It is possible, we have discovered, to adopt a version of capitalism, as China and Russia did, without embracing free speech and free elections. But Fukuyama had put his finger on a crucial trend. Globalisation is indeed spreading to politics and bringing about the same sort of convergence we see in every other field, from fashion to food…
The shocking reality is that the great democracies, including, tragically, Britain, are becoming steadily less libertarian and less democratic; at the same time, the rising Asian powers are becoming less oppressive overall, primarily thanks to their partial embrace of economic freedoms.
The two models are meeting in the middle, and the result is terrifying. Political systems are becoming less distinct and the old ideological power blocs (such as “the West”) are blurring or even gradually merging into one uniform mush (Bruno Maçães, a former Portuguese minister, talks of the rise of a “Eurasia” dominated by the EU, China and Russia, three entities that share a distrust of liberal democracy)…
What makes this convergence so striking is that the West is changing just as much as the developing nations. We are giving up on Enlightenment values, largely because we no longer believe in them; bizarrely, some in the West now even look kindly upon Vladimir Putin’s kleptocratic state.
In Europe and America, the changes have included a massive increase in the power of judges, unelected central banks that egregiously manipulate the economy, the post-9/11 surveillance states and ever-creeping paternalism and social control.
Even more remarkably, previously defunct ideas are back: there is once again an offence of blasphemy, punishable through Twitterstorms. Free speech is outmoded, seen as a form of oppression. Cultural Marxism is running rampant. Right and Left are embracing identity politics. But it is the EU that has done more than any other institution to undermine genuine liberal democracy. Its nomenklatura has deprived the public of any say in the biggest questions, from immigration to economic policy.