“The nation-state alone does not have a future,” Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said this week. It was a direct challenge to President Trump’s “America First,” the slogan whose poison keeps on giving. His United States has become the most unserious of nations.
Stephen Heintz, the president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, has written of a crisis “that stems from the growing obsolescence of three core operating systems that have shaped civilization for the past 350 years: capitalism, fueled by carbon since the dawn of the Industrial Age and increasingly driven by global financialization; the nation-state system, formalized by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648; and representative democracy, a system of self-rule based on Enlightenment ideals of freedom, fairness, justice and equality.”
The problem is that “our practice of capitalism is both putting the planetary ecosystem at risk and generating vast economic inequality.” The nation-state is “inadequate for managing transnational challenges like global warming.” And “representative democracy is neither truly representative nor very democratic as citizens feel that self-rule has given way to rule by corporations, special interests and the wealthy.”
The virus and accompanying economic collapse have only redoubled the urgency of these reflections. This is the Age of Undoing — of world order, of international law, of truth, of America’s word. It is a dangerous time, as Germany knows better than any nation. Autocracy feeds on fear, misery, resentment and lies. It did in the 1930s; it does now. Better to love your country with a broken heart than to love it blind.