The bigger problem is a culture in which people think tying each other to the railway tracks is a great, common-sense idea.I put it this way in the conclusion to Why Margaret Thatcher Matters--which I wrote in 2007--and I don't think I can formulate it any better now:
For a brief, perishable moment during the 1990s, it was possible to imagine that the great questions of history had been settled. But history did not, as Francis Fukuyama predicted, come to an end. Quite the contrary.The fundamental challenge is not to unseat one president. That's the first and most important thing to do, but it will be no more than temporarily palliative unless we grasp that the opponent is not Obama but a complex, seductive, enthralling idea. Obama will not be the last we hear of this; he was hardly the first.
Socialism was buried prematurely. This fact has been little remarked, precisely because the world’s attention has in recent times been focused on the dramatic rise of Islamic extremism. Amid this anxiety it has been forgotten that the appeal of socialism as a political program is ultimately far wider, more seductive and more enduring than political Islam. To the vast majority of the secular world, Islam is alien and will always be alien. Islamic law is widely and correctly perceived as a recipe for immiseration. This is not so of socialism, a political movement that like fascism embodies the religious impulse in secular form, and is thus an ideology destined to rise again and again from the grave.
Wherever men are miserable – and that is almost everywhere – they will be vulnerable to those who promise Utopia, for if Hobbes expressed some portion of the truth, Rousseau expressed some portion of the truth as well. There is no inconsistency between the declaration that life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short and the declaration that man is everywhere in chains. That this observation is bleak is no reason not to think it correct. If for no other reason, I doubt the promises of socialism will ever lose their capacity to inspire. ...
This conflict, even more than the divide between religion and secularism, will be the fault line of the coming century. How could it not be? It has been the fault line of political life since the French Revolution.
I cannot promise this ... but I do strongly suspect that Margaret Thatcher’s ideas and personality will assume an even greater significance with time. Recognizing what she achieved in Britain – and coolly appraising the cost of these victories, which was considerable – is as essential for our generation as for hers. Every society confronting these historical forces will inevitably arrive at the same place. It is the place Margaret Thatcher found herself upon her ascent to 10 Downing Street.
She perceived these forces, and for a time she mastered them: This is why she matters.
These forces are still at work; they must again be mastered again.
This is why she matters to you.
That idea cannot be defeated, as I believe George Savage put it in a comment thread, with "a good PR campaign." Nor can it be defeated in one election. For all Thatcher achieved, she succeeded only in slamming the breaks on the advance of socialism in Britain: She did not reverse it as thoroughly as I thought when I wrote that book.
We need to achieve something much harder to achieve than one good election campaign. We need citizens who are capable of understanding the arguments--not the slogans, not the improved propaganda, but the difficult, complex arguments.
Ultimately, this is about education and the news media. The only way to win this in the long run--in which, I hope, some of us will still be alive--is to have citizens who are for the most part able, by the age of 18, to read and think about complex historical and economic arguments--as once they were, in America--and who provide the demand for serious news coverage in the mainstream media--as once they did.
The debasement of education and the news media has taken place over at least two generations. It is unrealistic to expect it will easily be reversed in less time.
FP: I have argued for a very long time with those claiming that the left-right continuum is no longer relevant. It'll always be relevant because it involves secular religion and you cannot get rid of any religion. I also argued that the continuum is a line that forms a circle where the extreme ends meet: the consequences of the extreme left and extreme right are essentially the same, as Hitler, Stalin and Mao proved.
Where I would disagree with Berlinski is that while the West self-destructs in the secular religious conflict, civilization exhausts itself sufficiently to lose to supernatural religion--Islam . But I certainly agree with her that the root factor is indeed the destruction of education: it is its collapse that makes publics vulnerable to both types of religion. That's been one of my chief arguments.