Common sense strategy
Why the national development program should be conservative
According to the World Values Survey (WVS), Ukrainian society is consistently dominated by so-called survival values, centered around physical and economic security. Since Ukraine joined the project in 1996, it has become a reason for our constant self-flagellation, because post-materialist values - self-realization, human rights, freedom, etc. – have long dominated in the developed countries of the world. But our situation is by no means abnormal, because the transition to post-materialist values is possible only when the problems of survival are solved. At least that’s the opinion of American sociologist Ronald Inglehart, a leading theorist of the WVS. Ukrainians have nothing to start from in order to make a leap in values: we still do not have much of what is the foundation of the progress of states, given the various circumstances. Therefore, a certain paradox is that we can come to a society of postmaterialist values, which aspires to liberal democracy, only through the implementation of a conservative development strategy. The formation of such a strategy is a task primarily for the thinking stratum of society, which must form a certain vision, offering it to the general public and the political class.
The first question to be answered concerns what should be the optimal mode of functioning of the state. It is quite obvious that the socialist model of total paternalism is ineffective. But even the liberal model of the state – the night watchman, which is responsible only for the safety of citizens and the rule of law, does not meet the challenges facing Ukraine. This is most evident in the field of economics. A free market is undoubtedly needed, but it functions properly only in the relevant ecosystem created by the state. Otherwise, this ecosystem is created by oligarchs who appropriate the market to themselves. In fact, this is what happened in Ukraine – and this is the root of such problems as the small and relatively weak middle class, a narrow stratum of small and medium-sized owners and so on. In addition, not only “shopkeepers” are needed for an economic breakthrough, but also “national champions”, and it is impossible to raise the latter without a proper state policy (see Week / 30/2021). Dirigisme, protectionism – these words in the liberal dictionary have almost obscene connotations. However, this is the path taken at different times by the countries to which it is customary to explode. In the United States, for example, the industrial Atlanteans have shrugged their shoulders thanks to a century of dosed but highly effective protectionism. And this approach can not be called archaic: for example, protectionist measures are provided by the National Industrial Strategy of Germany until 2030. Libertarian fundamentalism can be a source of entrepreneurial inspiration, but by no means the basis of a national economic strategy. As Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, the market is not a moral value, but only a tool for solving certain problems.
The fact that the state itself must be functional in order to formulate any strategies needs no explanation. There is enough talk today about the need for stable, well-established institutions, protected from manual management and corruption – this is a question that everyone hears. But no one but the Conservatives are now asking themselves who should be at the helm of the state. It is a question of the quality of human capital, namely the ability of society to produce elites. This is unlikely to be read in democracy brochures, but it is of paramount importance. We have already had the opportunity to see that democratic variability of power is very much needed, but also that variability of power alone does not ensure good governance. Yes, Ronald Reagan is an actor who became president. But before you get to the Oval Office, he was engaged exclusively in politics for 16 years. Joe Biden came to the White House after 50 years of political career, Chancellor Angela Merkel took a decade and a half, and Boris Johnson – 18 years. The question, of course, is not in time, but in the fact that the political leaders of advanced countries are going through the school of the establishment. It is, again, an ecosystem formed by educational institutions, party machines, government agencies and various informal environments. In our country, this ecosystem is now created by oligarchic structures that educate loyal subjects in order to infiltrate the political class with them. Which, in turn, is formed almost randomly, adjusted for personal solvency.
In addition, Ukrainian society itself needs rehabilitation. “There is no such thing as society, but only individuals – men and women, as well as families,” – when Margaret Thatcher uttered this famous sentence, it went against the principles of tourism. However, Thatcher could afford such a libertarian outrage. Because British society in the 1980s was an example of a mature, well-formed society. Even the Conservative Party, to which Thatcher belonged, had a 300-year history. Instead, Ukrainians are a post-colonial, post-totalitarian, post-genocidal society, over which they have been conducting completely senseless and cruel experiments for 70 years. Not to mention that the first decade of independence was marked by an acute socio-economic crisis, the consequences of which we are still unaware of. Therefore, the basis of the national grand strategy should be restorative conservatism – measures aimed at returning to normalcy. Formed national identity, developed solidarity skills, effective delumpenization, a strong family institution and active local communities – it is on this foundation that mature democracies emerge, which are common to be explored. It will not be possible to turn everything upside down: no matter how powerful the grant support of our non-governmental organizations is, they will never be able to replace the organic unity of a healthy society. No less difficult tasks arise in the cultural plane. Whatever serious problems multiculturalism poses in the West, they are incomparable to the threats facing Ukraine. If Western societies are faced with the need to integrate migrant flows,
The COVID-19 pandemic showed that the cultural sector suffered the least where it could count on state support (see Week 31/2021). The fact that the “invisible hand of the market” did not save the cultural industry came as a great surprise to liberal dogmatists. But in the same way, the “hand of the market” will not save Ukrainian culture, which is also under intense pressure from the “Russian world” in all its manifestations. Therefore, without effective support from the state, in particular through cultural institutions and the creation of conditions for the development of Ukrainian culturally oriented business, we should not talk about decolonization. Suffice it to recall that the recent boom in Ukrainian cinema was due to the infusion of budget funds into the industry. If in 2011 only one (!) Ukrainian film was released, in 2017 – already 47. The same applies to other industries, not to mention basic science and other fields that a priori cannot be commercially oriented. Market competition is necessary and useful, but it has its limit of effectiveness – and this is another conservative truism, which today sounds almost scandalous. But there is no other way to cultural revival.
Therefore, in our conditions, conservatism is a strategy of common sense, not an attempt to implement in Ukraine some abstract theory based on exotic ideas about the world. The political philosophy of conservatism in general is far from utopian and is focused on ensuring the viability of a particular society in specific historical conditions. Contrary to popular stereotypes, conservatives throughout European history have often acted as crisis managers, conducting resuscitation during periods of acute crises. And it is this vision of tasks that best suits the current Ukrainian situation. Of course, there are different variants of conditional normality. For example, many post-Soviet countries – Belarus, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and ultimately Russia – are examples of the Western model being far from the only way to survive. But it should not be explained that then the hopes of winning “Europe in Ukraine” will have to be abandoned. If our European aspirations are still relevant, we will have to admit that the way to their realization is through the conservative resuscitation of Ukraine.