Comparing today’s populists and nationalists to the Nazis and fascists of 80 or 90 years ago is pointless. But I see much clearer parallels between the fall of Germany’s Weimar Republic and the vulnerability of Europe’s liberal elites. Some of the current defenders of the liberal order are making the same mistake as, for example, the German Centre party of the early 1930s, by underestimating the scale of the threat that they face. Harold James, a professor of history at Princeton University, has recently given us 10 reasons why our political systems today share some of the self-destructive characteristics of the Weimar Republic. One is the strength of the economic shock. Another is an excessive optimism about the power of constitutions to protect the system. I would like to offer some additional thoughts on the role of complacent narratives — the stories we tell each other that make us feel better. As a commentator on eurozone affairs, for example, I keep hearing that an Italian exi...

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