From Google Books: "As the economic collapse of 2008 made clear, the social contract that defined postwar life in Europe and America-the guarantee of security, stability, and fairness-is no longer guaranteed; in fact, it's no longer part of the common discourse. Tony Judt, one of our leading historians and thinkers, offers the language we need to address our common needs, rejecting the nihilistic individualism of the far Right and the debunked socialism of the past. In reintroducing alternatives to the status quo, Judt invigorates our political conversation, furnishing the tools necessary to imagine a new form of governance and a better way of life."
In this manifesto, Tony Judt lays out ideas for disillusioned people that have given up on everything and are now held hostage from a material world in which nothing but money seems to offer satisfaction. This phenomenon is particularly acute in young people born during the last 30 years, who are left without anchors in a world that has little to offer except material affluence and selfish pursuits.
Instead of letting our societies degenerate in vain pursuits, Tony Judt urges us to find a new vision, building on the ideas inherited from the Postwar period: a political contract between the state and its citizens in which the semi laissez-faire policies of the interwar period and the horrors of totalitarian states born out of loss of faith in democratic solutions were not to reproduced by providing necessary provisions and a welfare state via social-democrat policies.
In order to do so we have to rethink our societies, our roles within them and create together the kind of future we aspire to. We also need to stop listening to both liberal policies arguing that public companies area less efficient than private ones and to socialist ones that argue that the state is the answer to every problem.
While in some sectors it is true that state interventions create inefficiencies, private companies are not incentivized to undertake such projects in sectors requiring heavy investments such as infrastructure, transportation or health-care. Then why, after having paid the full price of developing these undertakings should we sell them at fire-price to private companies which will reduce the availability of services and try to show profits even though the purpose of such companies is not to make profits but to improve people's lives (the state effectively recouping its costs by taxing citizens on the wealth created thanks to the projects).
Inevitably, these wanna-be private companies will struggle financially and turn to the state to subsidize them, which will create moral hazard and push companies to seek state-support instead of improving services as a way to survive. Yet the state cannot let them fail: these companies are the lifeblood of societies.
After years of experiments with both state control and privatizations, we now need to find alternative solutions to build a sustainable economic system that still provides a fair chance to everyone in our societies.
One of the ways to do so is to get more involved in politics: in the last decades, people have been repeatedly deceived by politicians which thrived on short-termism and became managers instead of giving us a vision for our societies. Voters' turn out are lower and lower, reducing the check and balances so necessary for democracy to survive. By walking away even further from our political duties, we are at the risk of letting greed and thirst of power corrupting our leaders irreversibly, contaminating our whole politico-economic system. In short, we have to blame ourselves for the ills of modern politics. But only a political solution can solve a political problem.
Written by a great scholar while he was struggling with an incurable disease in terminal stage, this book offers an energetic and powerful wake up call to revive the ideas that built the prosperity we experience today.
If you are interested in this book, you can read the first chapter of this book in the NYT Book Review here.
About Carlito Riego
"Great perfection may appear imperfect, but its usefulness is inexhaustible. Great abundance may appear empty, but its usefulness cannot be exhausted. Great correctness may appear twisted, great skills appear crude, great eloquence appear awkward. Activity conquers cold; inactivity conquers heat. Clear serenity governs the world." - Lao Zi