“But at least war, like racism, offers clear moral choices. Even today, most people know what they think about military action or racial prejudice. But in the arena of economic policy, the citizens of today s democracies have learned altogether too much modesty. We have been advised that these are matters for experts: that economics and its policy implications are far beyond the understanding of the common man or woman—a point of view forced by the increasingly arcane and mathematical language of the discipline.
Not many ‘lay people’ are likely to challenge the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of the Treasury or their expert advisors in such matters. Were they to do so, they would be told—much as a medieval priest might have advised his flock—that these are questions with which they need not concern themselves. The liturgy must be chanted in an obscure tongue, accessible only to the initiated. For everyone else, faith will suffice.
But faith has not sufficed. The emperors of economic policy in Britain and the US, not to mention their acolytes and admirers everywhere from Tallinn to Tbilisi, are naked. However, since most observers have long shared their sartorial preferences, they are ill-placed to object. We need to re-learn how to criticize those who govern us. But in order to do so with credibility we have to liberate ourselves from the circle of conformity into which we, like they, are trapped.
Liberation is an act of the will. We cannot hope to reconstruct our dilapidated public conversation—no less than our crumbling physical infrastructure—unless we become sufficiently angry at our present condition.”
Tony Judt, Ill Fares the Land, Penguin, 2010.