Brookings: Up Front
I am a new American. Along with 52 other people from 47 nations, I took the oath of allegiance on October 18th 2016, the very last day for voter registration in my home state of Maryland.
As I am still a British citizen, I also voted in the Brexit referendum. So hey, it’s not my fault. Except that, as a fully-fledged member of the liberal elite, it is a bit: and maybe yours, too.
The biggest problem facing liberal democracies is not a lack of economic growth but a lack of respect, since respect is the essential ingredient of a flourishing liberal society.
Hierarchical, authoritarian societies rely above all on respect for the rules, for the order of things; but liberal, republican societies are founded on respect for each other, for our fellow citizens.
Plenty of thinkers from Adam Smith to William Penn have stressed the importance of respect for liberty. But perhaps the greatest advocate was Aretha Franklin. R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
Respect is the glue for relational equality. We typically think about equality in terms of rights, as enshrined in law; or in terms of resources, expressed largely in dollars or pounds. But the basis for these kinds of equality is equality in terms of relations, which is sustained through mutual respect.
Historian James Kloppenberg, in Toward Democracy – The Struggle for Self-Rule in European and American Thought, argues that a central premise of modern democracy is an “ethic of reciprocity” which he says means “treating all persons with respect and weighing well their aspirations and their ways of looking at the world.”
In a society of equal respect, we can, according to Philip Pettit, “speak our minds, walk tall among our fellows, and look each other squarely in the eye.’
The capacity and willingness to look each other squarely in the eye demonstrates true equality. …