Can you be a liberal – and still concede that the (dominant economic) liberalism of past decades has failed? You can. At least outside Germany, where this is already part of good manners even among liberals. What a “new liberalism” might look like has just been impressively outlined by Timothy Garton Ash in an essay. Inspiring.
In the essay, which was just published in German in the Neue Züricher Zeitung and in English in the magazine Prospect, the renowned historian from Oxford argues that the liberalism of the last 30 years was occupied too much with market fundamentalism in economic policy. With fatal consequences for our society. For example, since the 1990s, the mortality rate in the U.S. among white men between 45 and 54 with a college degree has fallen by 40 percent . At the same time that of those without a degree has risen by 25 percent. “You can’t be free if you are dead,” Ash proclaims, invoking such notable liberal philosophers as John Rawls and John Stuart Mill.
To address such pressing problems as the dramatic inequality, more radical measures must also be supported by liberals, Ash demands. Such policies could include, among other things, a negative income tax (as Milton Friedman recommended), an unconditional basic income (which an overwhelming 71 percent of Europeans said yes to in a poll conducted by his research team at Oxford), a tax-funded universal minimum inheritance, and universal basic health, housing, and social security benefits.
Timothy Garton Ash doesn’t stop there. He even calls for “going after the trillions of dollars hidden in tax havens around the world; a wealth tax; higher and more effectively collected taxes on digital corporations like Facebook; and a land tax.”