Politics has changed. Old distinctions between left and right mean little today. Traditional party loyalties no longer hold sway with the electorate.

Public debate appears to flit through a series of seemingly random issues: free speech, statues, public toilets, obesity, the purpose of schools and universities, media representation, sexual harassment, race and racism. But a few fundamental questions underpin these talking points and are returned to repeatedly: What does it mean to be a man or a woman? How should we think about the past? How do we make children part of society? Should we privilege liberty or safety, personal freedom or collective security?

How we respond to these questions speaks to two distinct views of humanity. On one side, people – either individually or collectively – are stupid and bad, or ignorant and deserving of pity. Without sugar taxes and nudging, they become dangerously obese. Without parenting classes, they fail their children. Without unconscious bias training, they racially abuse each other. Without hate crime legislation, they are offensive. Left to their own devices, people make the wrong political decisions; for example, voting to leave the EU or lending support to President Trump. Those who take this view think people need reining in for their own good. Politics should be left to experts.

On the other side, people are seen as rational, capable and imbuing a collective wisdom, even though they may not always have the luxury of making personal decisions in circumstances of their own choosing. According to this perspective, neither the past nor national identity in the present are sources of shame. People may use crude language or have plain tastes but society is less racist, sexist and homophobic than ever before. Populist votes speak to a desire for people to improve their lives materially but also, just as importantly, to be respected and have their voices heard.

Today’s political divide is not between left and right but between experts and the masses, between a woke cultural elite and regular citizens. Old frameworks are of little use in making sense of this new landscape. New ideas, new analysis and new thinking are needed. This is where Cieo comes in.

At Cieo, we are firmly on the side of the people. We publish original essays, reports and analysis designed to celebrate humanity’s potential. Everything we write is linked by one common theme: an insistence that people be allowed to exercise ever greater influence over their own lives and communities.

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