Tony Judt

From a profile of the historian and political essayist Tony Judt, who suffers from ALS.

Judt called attention to America's and Europe's worship of efficiency, wealth, free markets, and privatization. We live, he said, in a world shaped by a generation of Austrian thinkers—the business theorist Peter Drucker, the economists Friedrich A. von Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Joseph Schumpeter, and the philosopher Karl Popper—who witnessed liberalism's collapse in the face of fascism and concluded that the best way to defend liberalism was to keep government out of economic life. "If the state was held at a safe distance," Judt said, "then extremists of right and left alike would be kept at bay." Public responsibilities have been drastically shifted to the private sector. Americans and, to a lesser extent, Europeans have forgotten how to think politically and morally about economic choices, Judt warned, his fragile, British-accented voice growing louder. To abandon the gains made by social democrats—the New Deal, the Great Society, the European welfare state—"is to betray those who came before us as well as generations yet to come."

From an interview with Judt:

What, then, should people in Eastern Europe know about the United States' position toward them and their region?

Judt: This is not an area of great interest to the United States, whereas Russia is a great power, which could be useful to the United States, or a great nuisance to the United State. Either way, we will deal with Moscow. And listening to Warsaw is something we shall only do for the purpose of politeness. I do feel that it's important to say this, which is so obvious to me when I go to Washington, and it's a reason why the East Europeans will do much better to invest in a stronger EU, because only a strong EU -- because it's on Russia's borders -- will be forced to think about what it means to deal with Russia, territorially.

Remember, when Americans think about Russia -- just as when Americans think about the Middle East -- they think about "over there." It's a long way away; it's a foreign policy problem.

When Europeans think about Russia, or the Middle East, it's right next door. It's not a foreign policy problem, it's a domestic problem. Islam, immigrants, gas, memories of empire, it's all right next door.

This matters to Europe in a quite different way. Dreaming about Washington is one of East Europe's great mistakes. And they would be advised not to indulge it. Washington is not about to run to their rescue against Russia.