Sobre o populismo

O Alexandre Homem Cristo está cheio de razão quando afirma que está em curso uma batalha pela linguagem centrada na definição de “populismo” – o novo fascista, neo-liberal ou comunista enquanto insulto no quotidiano politiqueiro. Cá no burgo, esta batalha, à semelhança do que acontece(u) com os epítetos anteriormente mencionados, faz-se em larga medida entre pessoas que sofrem de hemiplegia moral, políticos e comentadores que procuram colar aos adversários este rótulo como forma de deslegitimar a sua participação no processo político demo-liberal.

São, portanto, incapazes, de perceber ou admitir o que já tantos autores, de Margaret Canovan a Ernesto Laclau, ou mais recentemente, Cas Mudde e Jan-Werner-Muller, pese embora o sempiterno debate em torno da definição de populismo – como acontece com qualquer outro conceito na ciência política -, definiram enquanto características centrais do populismo, nomeadamente, a possibilidade de acomodar qualquer ideologia, de esquerda ou de direita (o populismo é uma ideologia de baixa densidade – na classificação de Mudde e Kaltwasser, que se socorrem desta expressão originalmente utilizada por Michael Freeden – ou seja, como escrevi num artigo para o Jornal Económicotem um reduzido conteúdo ideológico normativo, aparecendo normalmente ligado a outras ideologias que, essas sim, procuram articular determinadas concepções a respeito da natureza humana, da sociedade e do poder político, estabelecendo a partir destas uma determinada visão do mundo. O mesmo é dizer que o populismo se acopla a ideologias quer de esquerda quer de direita, existindo inúmeros exemplos de políticos e partidos de ambos os quadrantes que articulam uma retórica populista com as mais diversas ideologias. Existem, assim, subtipos do populismo, mas raramente se encontrará o populismo numa forma pura), a divisão da sociedade entre o povo puro e a elite corrupta e a pretensão de que a política seja a expressão da rousseauniana vontade geral, de que os populistas dizem ser os únicos e legítimos representantes.

Disto facilmente se percebe que, independentemente da forma como seja teorizado (ideologia, estilo discursivo ou estratégia política sendo as três formas mais comuns), o populismo é incompatível com a democracia liberal, daí que seja particularmente apropriada a definição mínima avançada por Takis Pappas (recomendação de Pedro Magalhães no Facebook) de populismo enquanto democracia iliberal. Esta definição mínima está, aliás, em linha com as considerações de Mudde e Kaltwasser a respeito dos impactos do populismo consoante a fase do processo de democratização em que surja, podendo ter impactos positivos sobre regimes autoritários, ao catalisar uma transição democrática, mas tendo frequentemente impactos negativos se surgir numa democracia liberal consolidada, representando uma ameaça que se pode concretizar num processo de desdemocratização (dividido em erosão democrática, ruptura democrática e repressão).

É por isto que, na minha humilde opinião, o populismo contemporâneo representa uma séria ameaça ao que Michael Doyle se refere como a zona de paz liberal, uma actualização da teoria da paz democrática derivada da ideia de paz perpétua de Kant, e, consequentemente, ao modo de vida a que estamos habituados no Ocidente. Mas sobre isto, passe a imodesta publicidade, falarei na próxima semana, no dia 21, no I Congresso de Relações Internacionais da Universidade Lusíada-Norte.

Para um debate sobre a política externa portuguesa numa época de turbulência

Esta semana podem encontrar um artigo da minha autoria no Prisma, nova plataforma de slow journalism do Jornal Económico, em que viso contribuir para o debate sobre a política externa portuguesa na era de turbulência em que vamos vivendo, marcada pela crise do euro, crise dos refugiados, Brexit, Trump, Putin, Merkel, populismo, eurocepticismo, fundamentalismo islâmico e uma União Europeia à procura de perceber o seu futuro.

A direita, a esquerda e a minha liberdade

Tenho lido críticas a uma certa direita trauliteira que não tem – nem remotamente – o nível intelectual e cultural de verdadeiras referências direitistas. De facto, do Observador às redes sociais, passando pelo CDS, a direita portuguesa tem-se tornado um espaço pouco recomendável, porque dominado por caceteiros, hiper-moralistas com telhados de vidro e que não passam de aprendizes de Maquiavel, muito economês, liberalismo de pacotilha e pouca ou nenhuma capacidade de pensamento e reflexão e de diálogo moderado e civilizado com outras perspectivas filosóficas, ideológicas e partidárias. Dir-me-ão que os jornais, os partidos e as redes sociais não são universidades ou think tanks, mas quer-me parecer que o grau de indigência intelectual não necessitava de ser tão elevado. Trata-se, tomando emprestada uma expressão, de uma direita analfabeta, uma direita que pouco ou nada lê, permeada por um dogmatismo impressionante para quem, como eu, subscreve o decálogo liberal de Bertrand Russell.

Não que a esquerda seja necessariamente melhor. Com efeito, continuamos a ter, como assinala José Adelino Maltez, “A direita e a esquerda mais estúpidas do mundo”, que “são como aquelas claques da futebolítica que afectaram socrateiros e continuam a infestar certos coelheiros, segundo os quais quem não é por mim é contra mim, porque quem não é por estes é a favor dos outros. Eu continuo a seguir a velha máxima de Unamuno: o essencial do homem ocidental é ser do contra. Para poder ser qualquer coisinha…”

Na verdade, a direita que habitualmente critica a esquerda por esta se alcandorar a uma certa superioridade moral, mimetiza esta atitude, o seu modo de pensar e comportamentos. Ambas reflectem aquilo a que me referi como a política do dogmatismo e a política da utopia, ambas alicerçadas no que Oakeshott chamava de política racionalista ou política do livro, da cartilha ideológica. Afinal, como também há tempos escrevi, é muito fácil ser libertário ou comunista: “Não por acaso, para o esquerdista, o Estado é o principal instrumento a utilizar e o mercado é o principal inimigo a abater, enquanto para o libertário é precisamente o contrário. Um pensador conservador pensa a partir do real, das circunstâncias práticas, sem deixar de criticar a sociedade em que vive, encontrando no Estado e no mercado diferentes esferas da vida humana, ambas necessárias a uma sociedade livre e próspera; um pensador esquerdista ou um libertário pensam a partir de um qualquer ideal e clamam contra tudo o que não se conforma a esse ideal. O racionalismo dogmático ou construtivista do esquerdista ou do libertário que defendem um valor acima de todos os outros em qualquer tempo e lugar, independentemente das circunstâncias práticas, consubstancia a política dos mentalmente preguiçosos.”

Talvez valha a pena relembrar uma célebre passagem de Alçada Baptista, para quem “Em Portugal, a liberdade é muito difícil, sobretudo porque não temos liberais. Temos libertinos, demagogos ou ultramontanos de todas as cores, mas pessoas que compreendam a dimensão profunda da liberdade já reparei que há muito poucas.”

Ao que eu acrescento que conservadores não dogmáticos, que entendam a dimensão pluralista e flexível da reflexão e da praxis política a que alude Kekes, também já reparei que há muito poucos. Há muito poucas pessoas, em Portugal, que, atentando especificamente no domínio do político, compreendam o que Oakeshott transmitiu, em On Being Conservative”, ao considerar que a disposição conservadora não implica necessariamente quaisquer crenças religiosas, morais ou de outros domínios “acerca do universo, do mundo em geral ou da conduta humana em geral.” O que está implícito na disposição conservadora em política são “determinadas crenças acerca da actividade governativa e dos instrumentos do governo,” que nada “têm a ver com uma lei natural ou uma ordem providencial, nada têm a ver com a moral ou a religião; é a observação da nossa actual forma de viver combinada com a crença (que do nosso ponto de vista pode ser considerada apenas como uma hipótese) que governar é uma actividade específica e limitada, nomeadamente a provisão e a custódia de regras gerais de conduta, que são entendidas não como planos para impor actividades substantivas, mas como instrumentos que permitem às pessoas prosseguir as actividades que escolham com o mínimo de frustração, e portanto sobre a qual é adequado ser conservador.”

Tendo eu passado por uma escola, o ISCSP, onde, citando Adriano Moreira, aprendi “a olhar em frente e para cima”, tendo como referências mestres como José Adelino Maltez e Jaime Nogueira Pinto, tendo ao longo da última década lido e reflectido sobre diversos autores, como Hayek, Popper, Oakeshott ou Kekes, ou seja, como alguém que privilegia o mundo intelectual sobre o político ou partidário, torna-se particularmente penoso não só constatar tudo o que acima escrevi, mas também continuar a compactuar com este estado de coisas através da minha condição de militante do CDS. Por tudo isto, solicitei hoje a minha desfiliação. Porque mais importante ainda do que ser do contra, é ser livre, e porque como escreveu Ortega y Gasset, “A obra intelectual aspira, com frequência em vão, a aclarar um pouco as coisas, enquanto que a do político, pelo contrário, costuma consistir em confundi-las mais do que já estavam. Ser da esquerda é, como ser da direita, uma das infinitas maneiras que o homem pode escolher para ser um imbecil: ambas são, com efeito, formas da hemiplegia moral.”

O declínio das democracias

Aqui fica o artigo sobre o declínio das democracias, da autoria de Gustavo Sampaio, publicado na edição de 29/03/2018 do Jornal Económico, para o qual contribuí com alguns comentários.

Liberalismo, populismo e tecnocracia

Jan-Werner Mueller, “Can Liberalism Save Itself?“:

Needless to say, technocratic rhetoric provides an excellent opening for populists, because it invites the very questions that populists are wont to ask: Where are the citizens in all this? How can there be a democracy without choices? This is how technocracy and populism can start to reinforce one another. They can seem like opposites – the intellectual versus the emotional, the rational versus the irrational. And yet each is ultimately a form of anti-pluralism.

The technocratic assertion that there is only one rational solution to a problem means that anyone who disagrees with that solution is irrational, just as the populist claim that there is only one authentic popular will means that anyone who disagrees must be a traitor to the people. Lost in the fateful technocratic-populist interplay is everything one might think of as crucial to democracy: competing arguments, an exchange of ideas, compromise. In the absence of democratic discourse, politics becomes a contest between only two options. And those committed to either side share the view that there are never any alternatives.

Dos erros do liberalismo

John Gray, “The problem of hyper-liberalism”:

If history is any guide, large numbers want a sense of security as much as, or more than, personal autonomy.

Liberals who rail at populist movements are adamant that voters who support them are deluded or deceived. The possibility that these movements are exploiting needs that highly individualist societies cannot satisfy is not seriously considered. In the liberalism that has prevailed over the past generation such needs have been dismissed as atavistic prejudices, which must be swept away wherever they stand in the way of schemes for transnational government or an expanding global market. This stance is one reason why anti-liberal movements continue to advance. Liberalism and empiricism have parted company, and nothing has been learnt. Some of the strongest evidence against the liberal belief that we learn from our errors and follies comes from the behaviour of liberals themselves.

(…).

In the past, liberals have struggled to reconcile their commitment to liberty with a recognition that people need a sense of collective belonging as well. In other writings Mill balanced the individualism of On Liberty with an understanding that a common culture is necessary if freedom is to be secure, while Isaiah Berlin acknowledged that for most people being part of a community in which they can recognize themselves is an integral part of a worthwhile life. These insights were lost, or suppressed, in the liberalism that prevailed after the end of the Cold War. If it was not dismissed as ata­vistic, the need for a common identity was regarded as one that could be satisfied in private life. A global space was coming into being that would recognize only universal humanity. Any artefact that embodied the achievements of a particular state or country could only be an obstacle to this notional realm. The hyper-liberal demand that public spaces be purged of symbols of past oppression continues a post-Cold War fantasy of the end of history.

Liberals who are dismayed at the rise of the new intolerance have not noticed how much they have in common with those who are imposing it. Hyper-liberal “snowflakes”, who demand safe spaces where they cannot be troubled by disturbing facts and ideas, are what their elders have made them. Possessed by faith in an imaginary humanity, both seek to weaken or destroy the national and religious traditions that have supported freedom and toleration in the past. Insignificant in itself and often comically absurd, the current spate of campus frenzies may come to be remembered for the part it played in the undoing of what is still described as the liberal West.

Gritar à toa

Sonho com o dia em que a diferença salarial média entre homens e mulheres se inverta em favor das mulheres e o número de mulheres em cargos políticos e públicos e de direcção no sector privado seja superior ao dos homens. Primeiro, porque, embora se trate de uma realidade em que gostaria de viver, especialmente considerando que durante a esmagadora maioria da história da humanidade as mulheres foram e continuam a ser discriminadas de formas abjectas, repulsivas e sem qualquer justificação, perceberíamos todos que nem assim se conseguiria ultrapassar falhas características da cultura de cada corpo político. Segundo, e mais importante, porque deixaríamos de assistir ao chinfrim que os guerreiros pela igualdade de género a todo o custo teimam em produzir vociferando os seus preconceitos ideológicos assentes numa concepção profundamente errada da condição humana e numa compreensão débil dos fenómenos sociais, decorrentes do racionalismo construtivista. O que não quer dizer que, entretanto, não encontrem outras causas a que possam dedicar os seus esforços. Afinal, o racionalismo construtivista talvez nunca tenha tido um solo tão fértil como as hodiernas sociedades demo-liberais onde, infelizmente, a política da cartilha ideológica se sobrepôe à política enquanto conversação e acomodação de diferentes perspectivas. Como canta Samuel Úria numa belíssima crítica à primeira, Repressão!/ Repressão!/ Grita-se à toa/ Qualquer causa é boa num refrão.

No Delito de Opinião

Hoje, a convite do Pedro Correia, contribuo para o Delito de Opinião com um post sobre a incapacidade crónica para debater civilizadamente de que sofrem alguns académicos que, por defeito, deveriam ser intelectualmente humildes, honestos e pluralistas e fomentadores da civilidade.

Populismo, demagogia e democracia

Pierre Manent, “Populist Demagogy and the Fanaticism of the Center”:

As a term, “populism” is indisputably marked with discredit and denunciation. The populist orientation is often said to have a “passionate,” “extreme,” or “irresponsible” manner and tone. But its content, too, is never credited with the characteristics of reason, moderation, and responsibility. The term “populism” denotes an orientation, a political opinion, or certain orientations or political opinions, which are discredited and denounced. What opinions, what orientations? They can vary widely, and it is possible to distinguish them according to their basic political polarity, a populism of the Left or extreme Left, and a populism of the Right or extreme Right. It is important, however, to understand that the common substantive of populism tends to prevail over these opposing qualifiers of Left and Right. Even if this effect is not desired, it at least follows from the use of the term. Jean-Luc Mélenchon is thus effectively placed in the same boat as Marine Le Pen, which displeases him greatly. (Here, despite the axiological neutrality that ought to rule political science, I cannot help but sympathize with Jean-Luc Mélenchon.) By classifying these two political leaders under the same heading, this grouping effectively clouds the political landscape to the point of rendering it incomprehensible.

We encounter, then, the following difficulty. How is it possible that a notion which seems to have become indispensable for the understanding of political debate tends rather to make it confused and indecipherable? Does this notion indicate the new reality of those who are thus labeled, or is it not rather a product of the new political intention of those who use it? If the notion of populism can cover political orientations as distant as those of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen—if it thus has the power to prevail over the opposition between the Left and the Right, and even between the extreme Left and the extreme Right—it is because powerful forces intend to reconstruct the political landscape no longer around the opposition between the Right and the Left but between populism and . . . what? We do not know yet, but since “populism” is pejorative and implies discredit, we will say “respectable” and “accredited” politics.

These powerful forces intend to reconstruct the political landscape around the opposition between populism, which we can still describe as Right or Left, and respectable politics, which can still retain its versions of Right and Left. When I speak of the intention of these powerful forces, I do not refer to any sinister plot to give new names to things that have not changed, or to any plot to deceive good citizens. The situation has doubtless already changed enough so that the effort to pit “populism” against “respectable politics” is not merely possible in theory, but already has real purchase. The ability of the Right/Left polarity to organize and describe political life is now likely much weakened.

We can, however, already remark on the difference between how the Right/Left polarity and the populist/respectable polarity see political life. The Right/Left polarity attributes an equal legitimacy to both poles. Even if each of these halves claims full political legitimacy and doubts the legitimacy and occasionally even the simple morality of its opposing half, the system itself is based on the equal legitimacy of the two halves or the two poles, with an uncertainty or a gray zone represented by the extremes (extreme Right or extreme Left), whose democratic legitimacy is always suspect. The new mode is characterized by the unequal legitimacy of the two poles or the two halves: populism as such is tendentiously illegitimate, while “respectable” politics is tendentiously the only legitimate politics.

It seems to me that we have not sufficiently noted to what extent this new mode is actually new. The distinctive feature that the democratic and liberal order used to have as its foundation was the equal legitimacy of the majority and its opposition. The new order now imposing itself more and more upon us rests on the contrast between legitimate opinions and illegitimate opinions. The point deserves to be examined further, but it already seems clear that with this transformation, we have started to pass from an order built on confrontation between equally legitimate opinions to an order relying on confrontation between legitimate opinions and illegitimate opinions, between political orthodoxy and heresy. If this were true, then we would be in the process of departing from democracy as it has thus far been known.

A história é o guia para a política

Ernst Cassirer, The Myth of the State (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1946), 156 (tradução minha):

(…) todas as épocas têm a mesma estrutura fundamental. Quem conhece uma época, conhece todas. O político que é confrontado com um problema concreto real encontrará sempre na história um caso análogo, e através desta analogia será capaz de agir da forma correcta. O conhecimento do passado é um guia seguro; aquele que adquiriu uma compreensão clara de eventos passados entenderá como lidar com problemas do presente e como preparar o futuro. Assim, não existe maior perigo para um príncipe do que negligenciar os exemplos da história. A história é o guia para a política.

Liberalismo e conservadorismo

Ryan Shorthouse, “The right-wing case against populism”:

In fact, liberalism and conservatism are two distinct philosophies that are often presented in perpetual conflict—but they are natural bedfellows. They need, support and tame each other.

The goals of liberalism—individual flourishing, power and respect—can only be developed by enduring cultural, democratic and civic institutions that teach, guide and protect people. The conservative emphasis on interdependency between—not just independence of—people to cultivate responsibility towards others and to future generations, can only truly be realised if we respect the liberal insight that all and different individuals are equally worthy. As for taming one another, the liberal individual can be rooted in reality and responsibility by conservative institutions. Conversely, traditional culture and institutions can be modernised by legitimate calls for emancipation and inclusion.

It is liberalism, not authoritarian populism, which is a true friend of western conservatism.

Em defesa da hierarquia

Vários autores, “In defence of hierarchy”:

On the other hand, the idea of a purely egalitarian world in which there are no hierarchies at all would appear to be both unrealistic and unattractive. Nobody, on reflection, would want to eliminate all hierarchies, for we all benefit from the recognition that some people are more qualified than others to perform certain roles in society. We prefer to be treated by senior surgeons not medical students, get financial advice from professionals not interns. Good and permissible hierarchies are everywhere around us.

Yet hierarchy is an unfashionable thing to defend or to praise. British government ministers denounce experts as out of tune with popular feeling; both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders built platforms on attacking Washington elites; economists are blamed for not predicting the 2008 crash; and even the best established practice of medical experts, such as childhood vaccinations, are treated with resistance and disbelief. We live in a time when no distinction is drawn between justified and useful hierarchies on the one hand, and self-interested, exploitative elites on the other.

(…).

All of this takes on a new urgency given the turn in world politics towards a populism that often attacks establishment hierarchies while paradoxically giving authoritarian power to individuals claiming to speak for ‘the people’.

(…).

Apart from their civic importance, hierarchies can be surprisingly benign in life more broadly. Hierarchy is oppressive when it is reduced to a simple power over others. But there are also forms of hierarchy that involve power with, not over. Daoism characterises this kind of power effectively in the image of riding a horse, when sometimes you have to pull, and sometimes let go. This is not domination but negotiation. In Daoism, power is a matter of energy and competence rather than domination and authority. In this sense, a hierarchy can be empowering, not disabling.

Take the examples of good relationships between parents and children, teachers and students, or employers and employees. These work best when the person higher in the hierarchy does not use that position to dominate those lower down but to enable them to grow in their own powers.

(…).

As well as being empowering, hierarchies should be dynamic over time. Hierarchies are often pernicious not because they distinguish between people, but because they perpetuate these distinctions even when they are no longer merited or serve a good purpose. In short, hierarchies become ossified. There might be reasons, for example, to appoint people on merit to positions of power, such as to Britain’s House of Lords. Historically, however, this has often led to people not only retaining that power when they have ceased to deserve it personally, but also passing it on to their children. All legitimate hierarchies must allow for changes over time in order for them not to lead to the unjust accumulation of power. This is built into the age-based hierarchies endorsed by Confucians, since the young will eventually rise to take on the elevated status and authority of the old.

(…).

Paternalistic hierarchy might then benefit individual autonomy. And hierarchy has one final benefit. Although it would seem to be divisive, hierarchy can promote social harmony. Many cultures justifiably place a high value on communal harmony. This involves a shared way of life, and also sympathetic care for the quality of life of others. Excessive hierarchy works against this, creating divisions within societies. Indeed, in a sense, hierarchy always brings with it the threat of tension, since it is a condition in which one adult commands, threatens or forces another to do something, where the latter is innocent of any wrongdoing, competent to make decisions, and not impaired at the time by alcohol, temporary insanity, or the like. But the goal of preserving communal life means that hierarchy might be justifiable if – and only if – it is the least hierarchical amount required, and likely either to rebut serious discord or to foster a much greater communion. This is a minimalist justification that only ever sanctions the least amount of hierarchy necessary.

(…).

Some of these ideas about hierarchy will no doubt be received more favourably than others. There will also be disagreement – as there is among ourselves – about whether we simply need to be clearer about the value of some hierarchies, or whether we need more of them in certain domains. Hierarchy has been historically much-abused and it is the understandable fear of being too enthusiastic about hierarchy that makes some queasy about talking about its merits. Nonetheless, we think it important to put these ideas forward as an invitation to begin a much-needed conversation about the role of hierarchy in a world that is in many ways now fundamentally egalitarian, in that it gives equal rights and dignity to all. However, it clearly does not and cannot give equal power and authority to all. If we are to square the necessary inequality that the unequal distribution of power entails with the equally necessary equality of value we place on human life, it’s time to take the merits of hierarchy seriously.

Populismo, representação, redes sociais e conservadorismo

Roger Scruton, “Populism, VII: Representation & the people”:

The fact remains, however, that the accusation of “populism” is applied now largely to politicians on the right, with the implication that they are mobilizing passions that are both widespread and dangerous. On the whole liberals believe that politicians on the left win elections because they are popular, while politicians on the right win elections because they are populist. Populism is a kind of cheating, deploying weapons that civilized people agree not to use and which, once used, entirely change the nature of the game, so that those of gentle and considerate leanings are at an insuperable disadvantage. The division between the popular and the populist corresponds to the deep division in human nature, between the reasonable interests that are engaged by politics, and the dark passions that threaten to leave negotiation, conciliation, and compromise behind. Like “racism,” “xenophobia,” and “Islamophobia,” “populism” is a crime laid at the door of conservatives. For the desire of conservatives to protect the inherited identity of the nation, and to stand against what they see as the real existential threats posed by mass migration, is seen by their opponents as fear and hatred of the Other, which is seen in turn as the root cause of inter-communal violence.

(…).

The phenomenon of the instant plebiscite—what one might call the “webiscite”—is therefore far more important than has yet been recognized. Nor does it serve the interests only of the Right in politics. Almost every day there pops up on my screen a petition from Change.org or Avaaz.org urging me to experience the “one click” passport to moral virtue, bypassing all political processes and all representative institutions in order to add my vote to the cause of the day. Avaaz was and remains at the forefront of the groups opposing the “populism” of Donald Trump, warning against his apparent contempt for the procedures that would put brakes on his power. But in the instant politics of the webiscite such contradictions don’t matter. Consistency belongs with those checks and balances. Get over them, and get clicking instead.

It is not that the instant causes of the webiscites are wrong: without the kind of extensive debate that is the duty of a legislative assembly it is hard to decide on their merits. Nevertheless, we are constantly being encouraged to vote in the absence of any institution that will hold anyone to account for the decision. Nobody is asking us to think the matter through, or to raise the question of what other interests need to be considered, besides the one mentioned in the petition. Nobody in this process, neither the one who proposes the petition nor the many who sign it, has the responsibility of getting things right or runs the risk of being ejected from office if he fails to do so. The background conditions of representative government have simply been thought away, and all we have is the mass expression of opinion, without responsibility or risk. Not a single person who signs the petition, including those who compose it, will bear the full cost of it. For the cost is transferred to everyone, on behalf of whatever single-issue pressure group takes the benefit.

We are not creatures of the moment; we do not necessarily know what our own interests are, but depend upon advice and discussion. Hence we need processes that impede us from making impetuous choices; we need the filter that will bring us face to face with our real interests. It is precisely this that is being obscured by the emerging webiscite culture. Decisions are being made at the point of least responsibility, by the man or woman in the street with an iPhone, asked suddenly to click “yes” or “no” in response to an issue that they have never thought about before and may never think about again.

Reflect on these matters and you will come to see, I believe, that if “populism” threatens the political stability of democracies, it is because it is part of a wider failure to appreciate the virtue and the necessity of representation. For representative government to work, representatives must be free to ignore those who elected them, to consider each matter on its merits, and to address the interests of those who did not vote for them just as much as the interests of those who did. The point was made two centuries ago by Edmund Burke, that representation, unlike delegation, is an office, defined by its responsibilities. To refer every matter to the constituents and to act on majority opinion case by case is precisely to avoid those responsibilities, to retreat behind the consensus, and to cease to be genuinely accountable for what one does.

This brings me to the real question raised by the upheavals of 2016. In modern conditions, in which governments rarely enjoy a majority vote, most of us are living under a government of which we don’t approve. We accept to be ruled by laws and decisions made by politicians with whom we disagree, and whom we perhaps deeply dislike. How is that possible? Why don’t democracies constantly collapse, as people refuse to be governed by those they never voted for? Why do the protests of disenchanted voters crying “not my president!” peter out, and why has there been after all no mass exodus of liberals to Canada?

The answer is that democracies are held together by something stronger than politics. There is a “first person plural,” a pre-political loyalty, which causes neighbors who voted in opposing ways to treat each other as fellow citizens, for whom the government is not “mine” or “yours” but “ours,” whether or not we approve of it. Many are the flaws in this system of government, but one feature gives it an insuperable advantage over all others so far devised, which is that it makes those who exercise power accountable to those who did not vote for them. This kind of accountability is possible only if the electorate is bound together as a “we.” Only if this “we” is in place can the people trust the politicians to look after their interests. Trust enables people to cooperate in ensuring that the legislative process is reversible when it makes a mistake; it enables them to accept decisions that run counter to their individual desires and which express views of the nation and its future that they do not share. And it enables them to do this because they can look forward to an election in which they have a chance to rectify the damage.

That simple observation reminds us that representative democracy injects hesitation, circumspection, and accountability into the heart of government—qualities that play no part in the emotions of the crowd. Representative government is for this reason infinitely to be preferred to direct appeals to the people, whether by referendum, plebiscite, or webiscite. But the observation also reminds us that accountable politics depends on mutual trust. We must trust our political opponents to acknowledge that they have the duty to represent the people as a whole, and not merely to advance the agenda of their own political supporters.

But what happens when that trust disintegrates? In particular, what happens when the issues closest to people’s hearts are neither discussed nor mentioned by their representatives, and when these issues are precisely issues of identity—of “who we are” and “what unites us”? This, it seems to me, is where we have got to in Western democracies—in the United States just as much as in Europe. And recent events on both continents would be less surprising if the media and the politicians had woken up earlier to the fact that Western democracies—all of them without exception—are suffering from a crisis of identity. The “we” that is the foundation of trust and the sine qua non of representative government, has been jeopardized not only by the global economy and the rapid decline of indigenous ways of life, but also by the mass immigration of people with other languages, other customs, other religions, other ways of life, and other and competing loyalties. Worse than this is the fact that ordinary people have been forbidden to mention this, forbidden to complain about it publicly, forbidden even to begin the process of coming to terms with it by discussing what the costs and benefits might be.

Of course they have not been forbidden to discuss immigration in the way that Muslims are forbidden to discuss the origins of the Koran. Nor have they been forbidden by some express government decree. If they say the wrong things, they are not arrested and imprisoned—not yet, at least. They are silenced by labels—“racism,” “xenophobia,” “hate speech”—designed to associate them with the worst of recent crimes. In my experience, ordinary people wish to discuss mass immigration in order to prevent those crimes. But this idea is one that cannot be put in circulation, for the reason that the attempt to express it puts you beyond the pale of civilized discourse. Hillary Clinton made the point in her election campaign, with her notorious reference to the “deplorables”—in other words, the people who bear the costs of liberal policies and respond to them with predictable resentments.

(…)

ll this has left the conservative movement at an impasse. The leading virtue of conservative politics as I see it is the preference for procedure over ideological programs. Liberals tend to believe that government exists in order to lead the people into a better future, in which liberty, equality, social justice, the socialist millennium, or something of that kind will be realized. The same goal-directed politics has been attempted by the EU, which sees all governance as moving towards an “ever closer union,” in which borders, nations, and the antagonisms that allegedly grow from them will finally disappear. Conservatives believe that the role of government is not to lead society towards a goal but to ensure that, wherever society goes, it goes there peacefully. Government exists in order to conciliate opposing views, to manage conflicts, and to ensure peaceful transactions between the citizens, as they compete in the market, and associate in what Burke called their “little platoons.”

That conception of government is, to me, so obviously superior to all others that have entered the imperfect brains of political thinkers that I find myself irresistibly drawn to it. But it depends on a pre-political unity defined within recognized borders, and a sovereign territory that is recognizably “ours,” the place where “we” are, the home that we share with the strangers who are our “fellow countrymen.” All other ways of defining the “we” of human communities—whether through dynasty, tribe, religion, or the ruling Party—threaten the political process, since they make no room for opposition, and depend on conscripting the people to purposes that are not their own. But procedural politics of the conservative kind is possible only within the confines of a nation state—which is to say, a state defined over sovereign territory, whose citizens regard that territory as their legitimate home.

Sobre o futuro da ideia de inteligência

Stephen Cave, “Intelligence: a history”:

So when we reflect upon how the idea of intelligence has been used to justify privilege and domination throughout more than 2,000 years of history, is it any wonder that the imminent prospect of super-smart robots fills us with dread?

From 2001: A Space Odyssey to the Terminator films, writers have fantasised about machines rising up against us. Now we can see why. If we’re used to believing that the top spots in society should go to the brainiest, then of course we should expect to be made redundant by bigger-brained robots and sent to the bottom of the heap. If we’ve absorbed the idea that the more intelligent can colonise the less intelligent as of right, then it’s natural that we’d fear enslavement by our super-smart creations. If we justify our own positions of power and prosperity by virtue of our intellect, it’s understandable that we see superior AI as an existential threat.

(…).

We would do better to worry about what humans might do with AI, rather than what it might do by itself. We humans are far more likely to deploy intelligent systems against each other, or to become over-reliant on them. As in the fable of the sorcerer’s apprentice, if AIs do cause harm, it’s more likely to be because we give them well-meaning but ill-thought-through goals – not because they wish to conquer us. Natural stupidity, rather than artificial intelligence, remains the greatest risk.

It’s interesting to speculate about how we’d view the rise of AI if we had a different view of intelligence. Plato believed that philosophers would need to be cajoled into becoming kings, since they naturally prefer contemplation to mastery over men. Other traditions, especially those from the East, see the intelligent person as one who scorns the trappings of power as mere vanity, and who removes him or herself from the trivialities and tribulations of quotidian affairs.

Imagine if such views were widespread: if we all thought that the most intelligent people were not those who claimed the right to rule, but those who went to meditate in remote places, to free themselves of worldly desires; or if the cleverest of all were those who returned to spread peace and enlightenment. Would we still fear robots smarter than ourselves?

Preconceito, autoridade e razão

Miguel Morgado, Autoridade (Lisboa: Fundação Francisco Manuel dos Santos, 2010), 77–78:

Em sentido literal, isento de cargas pejorativas, o preconceito é tão-somente «o julgamento que se faz antes de se ter examinado todos os elementos que determinam uma situação». Assim, um preconceito não é necessariamente um julgamento errado. Não faltará, porém, quem diga que obedecer à autoridade é confessar a indisponibilidade ou a incapacidade para superar as alegadas carências do preconceito. Grande parte do pensamento do século XVIII europeu, a que se convencionou chamar das «Luzes», não protestou outra coisa. Há preconceitos cuja relevância e valor se podem dever às limitações naturais da condição humana. Contudo, outros preconceitos há que perduram graças exclusivamente à autoridade, que aqui funcionam como uma espécie de assistência respiratória de julgamentos duvidosos. Neste caso, preconceito e autoridade aliam-se para perpetuar a servidão humana, ou pelo menos de certos estratos da humanidade, aqueles que se sujeitam à autoridade e adoptam o preconceito. É também deste modo que os adversários da autoridade denunciam sub-repticiamente a associação entre autoridade e a negação da razão, ou aplaudem a alegada inimizade entre a autoridade e a razão. Recusam-se a aceitar que a compreensão humana do mundo decorre também dos julgamentos que temos de pronunciar em variadíssimas ocasiões da nossa vida, que a razão não opera num vazio histórico, que a aceitação da autoridade é uma prática incontornável e, em circunstâncias felizes e oportunas, proporcionadora de um recto exercício das faculdades do entendimento, justificada por a autoridade, enquanto autoridade, e na medida em que é autoridade, ser igualmente fonte de verdade. Recusam-se a aceitar que a relação entre a autoridade e a razão não é a de um simples confronto, apesar de lhes ser mostrado que o reconhecimento da autoridade sugere desde logo que não se prescindiu da razão. Esse reconhecimento traz implícito o raciocínio segundo o qual vale a pena aceitar o julgamento da autoridade porque esta pronuncia julgamentos superiores aos meus. Daí que seja enganador dizer que a autoridade é imposta por alguém sobre outrem. Na realidade, se a autoridade tem de ser reconhecida e aceite, o termo «imposição» torna-se deslocado. Ademais, a obediência à autoridade, que se segue ao seu reconhecimento, continua a comprovar que estamos diante de um acto regulado pela razão, já que a superioridade dos ditames da autoridade sobre os nossos julgamentos pode, em princípio, ser sempre demonstrada racionalmente.

Sobre o politicamente correcto

Raymond Boudon, Os Intelectuais e o Liberalismo (Lisboa: Gradiva, 2005), 85-86:

Podemos afirmar que estes diversos factores – a descida média das exigências escolares e universitárias, a implantação de uma epistemologia que desvaloriza o conceito de um saber objectivo – produziram ainda outro efeito de importância crucial: contribuíram para um alastramento do moralismo nos meios do ensino e, mais ainda, nos meios intelectuais, já que é mais fácil emitir um juízo moral sobre um determinado episódio histórico ou sobre um determinado fenómeno social do que compreendê-lo. Compreender pressupõe ao mesmo tempo informação e competência analítica. Emitir um juízo moral, pelo contrário, não pressupõe nenhuma competência especial. O reconhecimento da capacidade de compreender pressupõe uma concepção objectivista do conhecimento. O reconhecimento da capacidade de sentir, não. Acresce que, se um dado juízo moral vai ao encontro da sensibilidade de um certo público, ou cumpre os dogmas que cimentam uma determinada rede de influência, pode ser socialmente rentável.

A isto é preciso acrescentar, antecipando uma objecção possível, que o relativismo cognitivo – o relativismo em matéria de saber – não implica de maneira nenhuma o relativismo em matéria de moral. Pelo contrário, o relativismo cognitivo estimula a ética da convicção. Porque, como uma convicção não pode, à luz do relativismo cognitivo, ser objectivamente fundamentada, o facto de ser vivida como justa é facilmente encarado como único critério que permite validá-la. Este critério tende por isso a ser considerado necessário e suficiente. O episódio do Quebeque a que anteriormente me referi, em que um grupo de feministas propôs que fossem atenuadas as exigências do doutoramento a favor das mulheres, com o argumento de que o saber é sempre incerto enquanto as exigências morais são irrecusáveis, é um exemplo que atesta este efeito.

Assim se compreende que a desvalorização do saber possa ser acompanhada de uma sobrevalorização da moral ou, mais exactamente, de uma exacerbação das exigências em matéria de igualdade em detrimento de outros valores. É talvez este fenómeno que algumas expressões hoje repetidas à exaustão tentam captar: «o pensamento único», «o politicamente correcto», a political correctness.

Liberais e conservadores precisam uns dos outros

George H. Nash, “Populism, I: American conservatism and the problem of populism”:

In the late 1950s and early 1960s the three independent wings of the conservative revolt against the Left began to coalesce around National Review, founded by William F. Buckley Jr. in 1955. Apart from his extraordinary talents as a writer, debater, and public intellectual, Buckley personified each impulse in the developing coalition. He was at once a traditional Christian, a defender of the free market, and a staunch anticommunist (a source of his ecumenical appeal to conservatives).

As this consolidation began to occur, a serious challenge arose to the fragile conservative identity: a growing and permanent tension between the libertarians and the traditionalists. To the libertarians the highest good in society was individual liberty, the emancipation of the autonomous self from external (especially governmental) restraint. To the traditionalists (who tended to be more religiously oriented than most libertarians) the highest social good was not unqualified freedom but ordered freedom grounded in community and resting on the cultivation of virtue in the individual soul. Such cultivation, argued the traditionalists, did not arise spontaneously. It needed the reinforcement of mediating institutions (such as schools, churches, and synagogues) and at times of the government itself. To put it another way, libertarians tended to believe in the beneficence of an uncoerced social order, both in markets and morals. The traditionalists often agreed, more or less, about the market order (as opposed to statism), but they were far less sanguine about an unregulated moral order.

Not surprisingly, this conflict of visions generated a tremendous controversy on the American Right in the early 1960s, as conservative intellectuals attempted to sort out their first principles. The argument became known as the freedom-versus-virtue debate. It fell to a former Communist and chief ideologist at National Review, a man named Frank Meyer, to formulate a middle way that became known as fusionism—that is, a fusing or merging of the competing paradigms of the libertarians and the traditionalists. In brief, Meyer argued that the overriding purpose of government was to protect and promote individual liberty, but that the supreme purpose of the free individual should be to pursue a life of virtue, unfettered by and unaided by the State.

As a purely theoretical construct, Meyer’s fusionism did not convince all his critics, then or later. But as a formula for political action and as an insight into the actual character of American conservatism, his project was a considerable success. He taught libertarian and traditionalist purists that they needed one another and that American conservatism must not become doctrinaire. To be relevant and influential, it must stand neither for dogmatic antistatism at one extreme nor for moral authoritarianism at the other, but for a society in which people are simultaneously free to choose and desirous of choosing the path of virtue.

(…).

What do conservatives want? To put it in elementary terms, I believe they want what nearly all conservatives since 1945 have wanted: they want to be free; they want to live virtuous and meaningful lives; and they want to be secure from threats both beyond and within our borders. They want to live in a society whose government respects and encourages these aspirations while otherwise leaving people alone. Freedom, virtue, and safety: goals reflected in the libertarian, traditionalist, and national security dimensions of the conservative movement as it has developed over the past seventy years. In other words, there is at least a little fusionism in nearly all of us. It is something to build on. But it will take time.