It is quite sad for a scholar to see his grand thesis of history reversed. But it is sadder for a brilliantly argued thesis, such as the one Francis Fukuyama laid down in his book “The End of History and the Last Man,” crumble under the weight of the events of 2016. In that 1992 book, Fukuyama wrote that the economic logic of modern science and the “struggle for recognition” have made tyrannies passé, then pronounced the definitive victory of liberal democracy both as a governing principle and a way of life for modern societies.
Having been witness to a despot laying waste to our country, and suffering on a personal realm, I enthusiastically embraced Fukuyama’s thesis, like many of the baby boomers who never had an easy life from the time the First Quarter Storm played out to that epic event in 1986. If it held, and would have the life span of the House of Habsburg, why not, we all said.
The events of 2016, which left much of the democratic world in a state of shock and awe, had shattered Fukuyama’s thesis. The events of 1986, which led to the Velvet Revolution, the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the implosion of the USSR, are now viewed as intervening events to the rebirth of authoritarianism. Under many guises and forms, and not under the terms of the Comintern. But where it got a beachhead, like the recent case of the US, showed how fragile and short-lived was the life span of Fukuyama’s grand thesis.
And the big year for the rise of authoritarianism was the year that just passed.
One of its many variations is adopting a populist façade to win victories in the old and sophisticated democracies. It is definitely on the rise, magnified to the hilt by the recent US elections won by billionaire Donald Trump, who won the Electoral College vote despite the lack of a rudimentary grasp on what governing the most powerful country in the world is all about. And on a platform built on overt call to reassert American power, which Mr. Trump said had been diminished by effete leaders playing nice with the rules of the liberal democratic order.
While Mr. Trump is a Twitter feed of inconsistencies, he has been consistently behind policies that would upend the liberal democratic order, which in turn undergirds most if not all trading rules and foreign relations templates of the US and the democratic world. John Bolton, the Number 2 man to-be at State, is a UN skeptic. Mr. Tillerson, the Number One to-be at State, is cozy with Putin and Russia. Mr. Trump blames China for lost manufacturing jobs in the US and its lack of political will to impose protectionist policies when required.
Import restrictions? Higher tariffs? Building a figurative wall to rein in the movement of goods from the countries that have specialized in cheap exports? Mr. Trump has hinted he will do all these measures once needed. Never mind the grave international repercussions of protectionist policies. Plus, building a literal wall to shield the US from unauthorized immigrants from Mexico.
The man in charge of US trade policies, Peter Navarro, has vocally spoken out about unfair trade with China.
Across Europe, and to Mr. Putin’s eternal delight, authoritarian leaders with no respect for the law and global arrangements are ascendant. Hungary has its Fidesz Party. Poland’s ruling party has an Orwellian name – Law and Justice Party. France and Austria ‘s version are gaining ground and may take control of their respective governments soon.
Germany, recently struck by a terror attack not seen in years, is seeing the rise of neo-Nazi groups, the kind of which were emboldened by Mr. Trump in the US.
What about Dutertismo?
Dutertismo, if you listen to the rhetoric seems to be hewing to these kind of policies. In reality, it is not. Except for the war on drugs, Mr. Duterte has done nothing radical and abrupt. Mr. Dominguez, who is in charge of finance, is not about to disrupt the established rules of fiscal and monetary policies. His recommendation to Mr. Duterte is to extend for another six years the BSP term of Mr. Tetangco.
Mr. Lopez, who is in charge of trade policies, is not about to recommend a pullout from the WTO and the global international trading order. He is for the expansion of trade, not for the curtailing of it. He is trading partner-agnostic, which means he would trade with any country that would give us fair terms.
Mr. Pernia, the economic adviser, would not even support the recommendation of Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol to extend the QR on rice which would lapse this year. He opposed the recommendation of Ka Paeng Mariano to impose a moratorium on land conversion.
Mr. Duterte’s economic managers are not ideologically divergent from the economic managers of Mr. Aquino.
The word coming out of his economic management team is this: The war on drugs will be stay. But on economic policies, there will be no adventurism and bold policy experiments. Look at it this way. Even on the meager increase on the SSS pension, the revenue managers want a trade-off. If this is not orthodox, I don’t know what is.