Did somebody ever call you a smart-ass, a floaty or a fundamentalist? If you clearly voice your ideals and have a strong opinion on how to live your life, maybe someone did. In our fact-based society, idealists quickly lose their credibility. But what if we only talk facts?
Fukuyama, famous for his “end of history thesis”, argues that neoliberalism is the sole victor of the violent ideological struggles during the twentieth century and before. Stalinism, fascism, nazism, anarchism: the Western world does not have the best experiences with totalitarian ideologies of the left and the right.
You might say the consequent dominance of liberal democracy is a victory of the ‘head’ over the ‘heart’ as facts have pushed ideals out of the equation. Politicians have traded words like ‘conviction’ for ‘profit’, ‘solidarity’ for ‘responsibility’ and ‘purpose’ for ‘efficiency’. It’s almost as if the ideological is taken out of the ideology.
Is this the right response to the horrors of the 20th century or are we overreacting? I hardly think it desirable to look at the current migration crisis from a purely neoliberal perspective. Bundeskanzlerin Merkel recently did a brave attempt to move beyond the financials but is punished for it right now both domestically and abroad.
The fact that the economic perspective always is the first and foremost perspective taken, slowly leads to the disqualification of ideals and convictions as the basis for sound policy. As a consequence it’s often only when all is too little too late, that governments might move beyond financial concerns.
I have experienced how easily we fall into mere economic calculation, and how unsatisfactory this is. For a long time however, I felt most pressing moral issues were solved in the Netherlands and as a result abstained from developing my moral compass. Petty politics aimed at finding the most efficient way to continue the road ahead just didn’t seem to require my engagement. Only while working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did I realise there’s an ethical question beyond practically all issues in politics and how we are lost without ideals.