Sir, Reading Gideon Rachman (“ The west has lost intellectual self-confidence”, Comment, January 6) made me wonder whether it might be him who has lost confidence, not the west. All three of his “props of the post-cold-war world” are straw men.

Faith in free markets was never as strong as he claims, and to debate inequality now is no more to reject liberalism than was America’s break-up of Standard Oil a century ago.

The “Washington consensus” he claims has been dumped was pretty similar to Germany’s current policy for the eurozone. Markets are still the main force, as oil is currently showing.

Has the Arab uprising destroyed faith in democracy? Only four countries can truly be said to have had a revolution (Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen), so we could equally say that democracy has already taken root in 25 per cent of those countries in less than five years. That is better than should have been expected.

And the end of American power? Well, seeing that everyone but a few neoconservatives have been talking about a multipolar world ever since 1990, forming the Group of 20 and reforming voting shares in the International Monetary Fund, this is surely not a new concern. In fact, September 11 2001 was a signal of exactly that, even if it obliged America to fight back.

Cheer up, Gideon. The west’s real problems — and of course, it does have them — are all at home, and are self-inflicted.

Bill Emmott

Dulverton, Somerset, UK

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