Russian President Vladimir Putin's dismissal of liberalism has struck a raw nerve across the ideological divide, drawing a sharp rebuke from European Council President Donald Tusk. Mr Putin declared that "the liberal idea has become obsolete" because it "has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population". His chief targets were immigration and multiculturalism, both hallmarks of Western societies that attract millions of hopefuls to European and American shores. Mr Tusk rebuffed the Russian leader's views by observing that to cast liberal democracy as being obsolete is to do the same for freedom, the rule of law and human rights. These are core values in much of the West, and beyond.
An underlying issue concerns the future of the global idea, which includes immigration and multiculturalism but goes well beyond them. By definition, globalisation demands that nation-states look beyond their borders and even their surrounding regions to exchange goods, services, people and ideas. This exchange allows nations to put their competitive advantages on the same table as others so that the global market can pick what it needs, rewarding companies and workers accordingly in the process. The globalisation of the market economy is an essentially liberal idea. Its opposite is protectionism, in which countries retreat to within their borders to protect national industries.