Protesters hold posters with word "Censored" and the names of Hungarian newspapers during a statement of far-right Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
It seems we are living through a distinctly illiberal moment. Wherever you look these days, free markets and open societies are under siege.
Look at China. Under President Xi Jinping, China has taken a series of actions meant to censor criticism and stamp out organized dissent. Last year, the country arrested nearly two hundred people for spreading politically inconvenient “rumors” about the Chinese stock market. Last week, it passed a sweeping new law that restricts the work of foreign NGOs. All the while, a cult of personality has been steadily, quietly building up around President Xi.
In Europe, also, illiberal forces are pushing forward. Right-wing political parties in Poland and Hungary have taken different steps to reshape their judiciaries, enact protectionist policies, and limit civil liberties. France, too, is struggling to balance its commitment to pluralism with its heightened security concerns.
Then there’s the United States. The 2016 presidential campaign has unleashed a wave of protectionist fervor on both sides of the political aisle. All remaining candidates have rejected the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the largest free-trade deal in history. More troubling, however, is the nativist, authoritarian rhetoric animating a segment of America that is fiercely anti-trade, anti-immigrant, and anti-globalist. America’s continued military presence in the Middle East, as well as its hollowing middle class, will likely reinforce these attitudes.
How did we get here? And how long will this illiberal moment last? This week’s selected readings suggest some answers.
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