The Atlantic

How Stigma Sows Seeds of Its Own Defeat

Defending the liberal project is a Sisyphean task in part because successfully inculcating liberal norms leads to habits that weaken the ability to sustain them.
Source: Reuters

In the Western world, the percentage of people who say that it is essential to live in a democracy is in precipitous decline. In the United States, only 19 percent of millennials agree that it would be illegitimate for the military to take control of government. The president-elect routinely speculates about authoritarian policies, like stripping citizenship from those who burn the American flag in protest.

During a bygone crisis in global politics, when the liberal order was under sustained attack, Friedrich Hayek published this diagnosis of the challenge before liberals:

If old truths are to retain their hold on men’s minds, they must be restated in the language and concepts of successive generations. What at one time are their most effective expressions gradually become so worn with use that they cease to carry a definite meaning. The underlying ideas may be as valid as ever, but the words, even when they refer to problems that are still with us, no longer convey the same conviction; the arguments do not

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic4 min read
WeWork and the Great Unicorn Delusion
The office-space company WeWork announced that it was postponing its initial public offering this week, a reaction to a sharp decline in its reported valuation from $47 billion a few weeks ago to less than $20 billion today. In many ways, the company
The Atlantic4 min readPolitics
We’re Now In The Hot Zone For Impeachment
New reports about President Trump’s calls with the Ukrainian president could push Nancy Pelosi to recalculate the politics of an attempt to remove him from office.
The Atlantic4 min readWellness
The Real Danger of Booze-Making Gut Bacteria
Microbes can produce so much alcohol that people become drunk—and sustain liver damage—without touching any booze.