Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Ratio Working Papers,
The Ratio Institute

No 343: Populism, Liberalism and the Quest for Meaning and Community

Nils Karlson ()
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Nils Karlson: The Ratio Institute, Postal: The Ratio Institute, P.O. Box 5095, SE-102 42 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: Liberalism is losing ground, while populist or even authoritarian nationalist regimes are on the rise. This paper argues that the causes of the decline are, at least partly, endogenous, that a narrow focus on economic efficiency and the successful critique of socialism and the welfare state have created an idea vacuum that has opened up for these illiberal tendencies. The conclusion is that a central challenge for liberalism is to offer a comprehensive idea and narrative about meaning and community that is not socialistic, conservative or nationalistic, but distinctly liberal, to counter these developments.

Keywords: populism; liberalism; community; meaning; welfare state

JEL-codes: B53; B55; D63; H11; I38

14 pages, December 23, 2020

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