There is an old saying “Hard times make strong men; strong men make easy times; easy times make weak men; weak men make hard times”. Does this apply to liberalism? Is this, in part, a reason liberalism is collapsing? Yes. There are a few psychological etiologies behind this. One is the one I talked about in my Universe 25 blog. The lesson of Universe 25 was not that overpopulation causes societal collapse but that animals have instinctive malthusian instincts because the mice never evolved in a habitat like Universe 25 and in the natural habitats they did evolve in, abundance was fleeting therefore the population collpased because the mice expected the abundance to abate based on millions of years of evolution.
While Universe 25 doesn’t explain the urban decay of the 1960s it was claimed to, it does explain NIMBYs. NIMBYs are a lot like the mice of Universe 25, they are too intellectually myopic to comprehend things like climate change or sociology much like the mice were, being mice, too stupid to understand the food was going to keep coming. Failing to understand the abstract and more sophisticated realities of life, they reduce to fighting based on instinct and they prefer the “tranquility” and “quietude” of suburbia without noisy kids or community centers or things like that. That is their malthusian instinct.
Yes, low-density suburbia will cause wildfires and hurricanes and won’t, statistically, make them any happier and will, statistically, make them more depressed. They don’t like lots of people because their ancestors on the steppes of Africa millions of years ago became malnourished when there was overpopulation of an area. So, because their lizard-brains don’t know Lucy is dead, they organize to kill the planet with global warming and pollution so the hunter-gatherers their lizard-brains believe exists can avoid nutritional deficencies in Africa.
People, naturally, don’t become creative or use their intelligence outside of an obvious and acute threat. They almost unconsciously seek homeostasis. The NIMBYs lack the higher-level consciousness to comprehend the more technical and esoteric and so they default to their lizard-brain. The Homo Sapiens stuff doesn’t kick in until there is a threat their lower brain understands. This is why, ultimately, easy times create weak citizens. It is difficult to get someone to volunteer themselves for discomfort outside of a strong oxytocin-induced kinship bond in light of an acute threat. People seeking to maintain homeostasis are weak people.
In the relative utopia of Fukuyama’s paradise, the threats became more technical and esoteric and people had their most basic levels of Maslow’s hierarchy met therefore they sought to maintain a homeostasis. While in Africa a million years ago, that may ensure a stable tribe and food security, in contemporary society that keeps the coal burning and, more importantly, prevents any risk-taking or creative thinking whatsoever and that means there is no way to climb out. To keep using climate change as an example, radical and bold actions needs to be taken which requires both creative thinking and the willingness to break homeostasis. Like climate change, liberal democracy requires boldness and creativity. Contrary to what Fukuyama thought, liberalism dies in homeostasis.