formed over very long periods of time. For perhaps four centuries men have been thinking in terms of adversary sovereignty, with the implication that the state must have a reserve of unlimited discretionary power to protect its society against other states. States could not trust one another because all states were alike. For at least three generations, Western societies have considered redistribution of income and wealth a legitimate and important function of the state without worrying about the need for establishing any limits to it. And for almost a generation now, our politics has been dominated by the belief that the government knows what to do to maintain the private economy in satisfactory operation and that it should therefore be responsible for its operation and have the powers necessary for discharging that responsibility. All three conceptions are clearly inadequate to cope with contemporary reality, but it will take time for governments to elaborate more adequate conceptions and to persuade national electorates of their adequacy.
The question is, however, how much time we have left. From the policies conducted by the Western governments, the recently sovereign developing countries learn how the world works. Western influence on the world, though still great, is declining. Eventually our societies will be the minority partner in the terrestrial enterprise. What do we want the majority to believe about the liberal idea that animated the West's historical achievement and that we continue to profess but have, in recent decades, ceased to act upon? What kind of world will it be, if the majority comes to believe that the idea is a sham?