Honig has this to say about America and it is equally true of Australia:
The jury is still out on whether you can take a huge country, keep it pluralistic, enshrine liberty and individual development and not have it fly apart. That has always been the tension in this society. Can you combine individual push with common social purpose?
Well, that should be our task, to make sure that it does survive — because we are still a beacon for the rest of the world. I truly believe that we have something remarkable to say about how you form a society and how you live a life.
The main problems which face western society today are: the growing incapacity of the political system, the family, education processes and society to produce sufficient responsible citizens with a sense of public duty and the drift towards careless individualism, discontented egoism, nihilism, destructive values and mindless idealism. There is no threat of a violent revolution to overthrow the system and establish a Marxist state. The danger that exists is twofold. First there is the gradual destruction of much that is worth preserving, with little that is constructive being put in its place, because of unfair criticism of what "is" and "mindless idealism" in relation to what ought to be. Second, the growth of government leads to control of individuals and institutions as well as drying up the springs of initiative, innovation, enterprise and individual responsibility, creating dependency and, most importantly, giving rise to groups which obtain a disproportionate part of the resources of the country, exploiting the majority.
The values and institutions of the western democratic order are far from perfect. Perfection or anything near perfection is an unobtainable ideal. Reform must proceed in this context. The wrong ideas and turnings in the reform process have been analysed above: ideologically based reform which rejects community values, the liberal tradition and the evolved solution; the practice of avoiding evaluation by focusing on the weakness of the system and ignoring its strengths; and the identification of modernisation with social engineering.
The main problem of the future is of the critical spirit, which has made a tremendous contribution to western civilisation, running riot in a narrow, counter productive manner, destroying what exists without practical and viable alternatives. Communism consumed the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, parts of Eastern Europe, and other countries through the forcible destruction of one system and the establishment of another. There are both positive and destructive aspects of communist states, with the destructive aspects definitely in the ascendancy. However, the problems that face well-established representative democracies with strong private enterprise infrastructures, are big government, the control of the many by a few and a gradual undermining and destruction of the system without constructive alternatives.
There is no danger of a Soviet type or any other communist type state being established in Australia or the western democracies. The long term future, if the present trends continue, will be characterised by the following developments. Increasing economic problems and growing unemployment. A gradual undermining, without viable alternatives, of the values and institutions which have contributed to the rise and prosperity of western civilisation. Increasing government regulation and bureaucratisation (which limit individual freedom and the scope for effort, motivation and achievement). A growing demand for government activity and welfarism. Inability of governments to cater to such demands. The use of civil disobedience, violent dissent and terrorism by dissatisfied groups, causing inconvenience and disruption and the inevitable counter reaction of governments (whether socialist or of any other complexion) involving restrictions on civil liberties. The placing of restrictions on trade union and industrial activity. A state which maintains the institutions and trappings of liberal democracy but has accumulated reservoirs of bureaucratic power, limiting civil liberties and using escalating emergency powers to stifle dissent and control violent groups. A central government which cannot exercise adequate control over its bureaucracies, and favoured private organisations. In this respect there would be a fundamental difference from a communist state. Nor will the internal security forces be as efficient and ruthless as those of the communist state. There could be a partial withering away of the state - a bureaucratic giant monster in which few things work as intended (but not a withering away of the State as in Marxist theory nor the rise of a brutal repressive and oppressive state as in Marxist practice) This is the future prospect, unless the force of ideas and common sense can cause a change in direction.
The attack on the values and institutions of the western democratic order has been highlighted. I have not painted a rosy picture. I do not want to end on a note of pessimism. What of the future? There are reasons for pessimism and for optimism. A great deal depends on how supporters of liberal values respond to the challenges of our times. The analogy has been drawn between Rome and western civilisation. The fall of Rome was preceded by permissiveness and growth of bureaucracy and welfarism but there ends the analogy. Rome did not have the benefit of scientific and technological development. Roman civilisation in its creative periods did not have the civilising influence of Christianity and Christian based morality which, despite the faults and failures of the Church and individual Christians, has been the driving force in the liberal tradition.
I leave you with Macauley's words, "It's a great time to be alive." It is a great time to be alive and a great place in which to be alive. Would you rather be alive now or in 1850 or 1750 or 1550 or in medieval times? Would you rather be in Australia or in Russia or in Chile or in Libya or in South Africa? There is hope for the future if concerned liberals can rise up and face the problems and challenges of our times. The future depends on individuals rising up to challenge the coercive utopians and the proponents of permissive nihilism.
George Orwell puts into the mouth of Winston Smith, the tragic hero in Nineteen Eighty Four, the oft repeated thought that if there was to be a hope for the future it was in the proles (the masses outside the governing bureaucracy and the party). In the real world of 1984 and beyond, in the education system, the public affairs media, the bureaucracy and the political system, anti-liberal ideas are vocally and influentially dominant and growing in influence. Many (but not all) who hold contrary ideas are intimidated into varying degrees of timid silence or qualified and halting comment. The hope for the future must lie in the common sense of ordinary people and the innate yearning for freedom and life which has been constant throughout human history. The common sense of people must be tapped before it is obliterated.
An epitaph for western civilisation?
From bondage to spiritual faith;
from spiritual faith to great courage;
from courage to liberty;
from liberty to abundance;
from abundance to selfishness;
from selfishness to apathy;
from apathy to dependence;
and from dependence back again into bondage.