Last week we discussed some of the factors that are contributing to the idea that the UK is doomed. Civil unrest is starting to grow, as evidenced by anti-immigrant protests, the IQ of native Brits has fallen over time, and of course its economy is highly-exposed to finance, which is in shambles.
The latest cultural datapoint is the government’s decision to prevent controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders from coming into the country. Wilders is on trial at home for “hate speech”, for angering Muslims by calling for the Koran to be banned and criticising the country’s immigration policies. The merits of his views — some of which are obviously repugnant — aren’t the point here. The point is that the UK is hanging itself, abdicating a liberal attitude towards free speech out of a desire not to offend a particular demographic. Maybe the government is worried about social unrest, but it’s decisions like these that make you question the viability of the country long-term.
In a WSJ op-ed, Bret Stephens argues that the case is a test of Western civilisation:
The notion that liberals can have it both ways — champions of free speech on the one hand; defenders of multiculturalism’s assorted sensitivities on the other — was always intellectually flimsy. If liberals now want to speak for the “right” of this or that group not to be offended, the least they can do is stop calling themselves “liberals.”
For conservatives, especially of the cultural kind — the kind of people who talk about defending Western Civ. — Mr. Wilders’s case should also provoke some reconsiderations. It may not be impossible to denounce the likes of Mr. Serrano while defending the likes of Mr. Wilders. But a defence of Mr. Wilders is made a lot easier if one can point to the vivid difference between a civilisation that protects, even celebrates (and funds!), its cultural provocateurs and a civilisation that seeks their murder.
This is no small point. Western civilisation is not simply the “Judeo-Christian tradition.” It is also the civilisation of Socrates and Aristophanes, Hume and Voltaire, Copernicus and Darwin; of religious schismatics and nonbelievers. This is the civilisation that is now required to define itself, oddly enough, by the case of a flamboyant Dutch politician with inconsistent ideas and a bouffant hairdo. If he can’t be defended, neither can Mr. Rushdie. Or Mr. Serrano. Liberals and conservatives alike, take note.
What does this have to do with economics or business, you’ll ask. The answer is: everything. A healthy economy is one in which people can work together and cooperate and that usually requires respect and some semblance of social cohesion. Economists have also established that the bedrock principles of liberal Western civilisation — free speech, the rule of law, property rights — are worth trillions and trillions of dollars. You see a country starting to throw those things away for short-term expediency, and what you’re watching is a society flushing its economy down the toilet.
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