Repost: Liberalism 101

Continuing my series of reposts of essays deleted from Intellectual Conservative by evil leftist hackers, here is an essay attempting to identify the essential features of the liberalism that is all-pervasive. Most Orthosphere readers will find this quite basic, but one should always seek to articulate the basics in clearer and more succinct ways.

This essay has been edited more heavily than my previous reposts, because the original edition was designed for the just-barely conservative reader. I didn’t want to frighten him too much. In the present edition, I speak more honestly. But this essay is still aimed at the “seeker,” the one who recognizes that something is deeply wrong with Western societies but who is still seeking the truth about the situation.

Liberalism 101

If you sense there is something wrong with the status quo, you have taken the first step toward wisdom. But what exactly is wrong?

There are many specific problems, almost too many to enumerate: Legitimization of sexual sin. The enthusiastic embrace of mass immigration by unassimilable and even hostile foreigners. Officially-mandated affirmative action, that is, the deliberate pulling down of whites in order to benefit nonwhites. The deliberate undermining of traditional authorities such as fathers and clergymen. The disruption, by feminism, of the family and its vital childrearing function. The deliberate promotion of ugliness. And so on.  But is there something that unifies these diverse phenomena?

There is a unifying phenomenon, and it can be summed up in one word: “Liberalism.” Liberalism is the most common name for a way of thinking (and therefore living) that has taken near-total control of America and all the other Western nations. To understand the times, we must understand liberalism.

Of course, we must also understand the truths that correct the errors of liberalism. But first we must know the errors, and we must recognize how widespread they are.

It must be noted up front that there is a valid distinction between liberal and leftist, but the distinction is one of degree rather than of kind.  Leftists are consistent liberals, and liberals temper the principles of the left with common sense and common decency, making themselves inconsistent in thought and deed.  Nevertheless, and in keeping with common usage, we shall generally use the word “liberalism” to denote the basic way of thinking.

Liberalism Exists

The first point to establish is that there even is such a thing as liberalism.  Since leftist thinking is ubiquitous, there is a temptation to react only to its most outrageous manifestations, while failing to recognize its most basic tenets.  Just as the proverbial fish is unaware of the water, the contemporary American will naturally be unaware of liberalism until it is pointed out to him.

Indeed, even conservatives, being temperamentally conservative, have a strong desire to affirm the status quo.  But if liberalism has become the unofficial state religion of America, then the status quo must be challenged.

And liberalism, being the status quo, often masquerades as common sense.  How many times have you heard someone say, in effect “You have an irrational bias toward conservatism, but I’m not biased.  I just go where the evidence leads.”  Since liberalism is taught by most of America’s highest authorities (chiefly the schools, the news media, and entertainment), it is the position that requires the least thought.  In fact, many people are unaware that liberalism is a philosophical system that could possible be wrong, depending on the evidence.  For them, liberalism is simply the way things obviously are. And this serves as a useful defensive strategy for liberalism: If we cannot identify it and locate it, we cannot fight it

So how do we identify liberalism?  To begin, imagine the following thought experiment:

Assemble a list of 20 specific issues that are currently in dispute, each of which has two well-defined positions (basically “support it” and “oppose it”).  For example, the list might begin with these issues:

1) Legalizing same-sex marriage.

2) Opposing gun control.

3) Outlawing abortion.

4) Establishing a comprehensive, federal-government-run system of socialized medicine.

Make sure that for each issue, a typical person would label the two sides “conservative” and “liberal.”  Also make sure that half the statements are of liberal positions, and half are of conservative positions.

Ok, so we have 20 well-defined current issues which divide along right-left lines.  Now imagine choosing someone and asking him for his views on the first 10 issues, and suppose he has taken the liberal position on each of these 10 issues.

Question: What are the chances that he will take the liberal position on most, if not all, of the remaining 10 issues?  Clearly the chances are very good.  But why?

Because liberalism really exists.  That is, there exists a comprehensive system of thought commonly called “liberalism,” and since this worldview has a certain integrity (that is, it is not just a random collection of unrelated assertions), we can make predictions about what people who hold to it will believe.  Since people, as opposed to philosophical systems, are often inconsistent, we cannot expect that John Q. Liberal will take the party line on all issues.  But to be a liberal, he only has to think and act for the most part in accordance with liberalism.

Given any specific and well-defined issue with political ramifications, it is usually pretty clear which side is the liberal side.  So examine as many specific liberal views as you can, and attempt to discern the basic beliefs that they have in common.  In other words, determine what basic ideas provide the logical foundation that supports the views that abortion and same-sex marriage should be legal, that we should have government-run health care, that there should be no religion in government-run establishments, and so on.

What then can we conclude about liberalism?  I will presume that the reader has enough experience to recognize the essential truth of the following summary without having to be provided with the myriad examples and discussions that would be necessary to convince someone with no knowledge of American society. In particular, note that the following conclusions follow simply from listening to the language liberals use when speaking of their liberal convictions, and taking then these words at face value.

It is important to take liberals at their word when they speak of their convictions. It is very common for a non-liberal to make the mistake of assuming that the liberal with whom he’s speaking thinks like he [the non-liberal] does, and therefore to refuse to believe that the liberal really believes the crazy things he says. This is a huge mistake. Unless they are deliberately lying in order to confuse their enemies, liberals really believe the crazy things they say such as, for example, that same-sex “marriage” is a fundamental human right and that anybody who opposes it is not significantly different from a Nazi.

Liberalism is a worldview.

That is, liberalism is not just a randomly-chosen collection of unrelated beliefs.  Liberalism is a comprehensive system that describes reality, answers the big questions of human life, and prescribes a code of conduct for individuals and nations. Liberalism has a philosophical consistency to it, which is why, in the thought experiment described above, we can have confidence that somebody who is liberal on the first 10 issues will be liberal on most of the others.  People do not form opinions at random; they generally hold views that are consistent with their fundamental beliefs about how reality operates.

To begin our description of it, we observe that liberalism emphasizes freedom, equality, openness to the outsider (i.e., multiculturalism) and nonjudgmentalism. How do we know that liberalism emphasizes these things? By listening to what public figures say (especially those leaders who are explicitly identified as being liberal), and by taking their words at face value.

“Freedom” is, of course, another word for the liber in liberalism.  Liberalism certainly emphasizes freedom when it can, especially as a weapon with which to destroy traditional forms of thought and life, such as that men and women have a duty to marry and have children, or that homosexuality is a sin. In these cases, liberals use the imperative of freedom as a means of destroying traditional morality.

But freedom cannot be an ultimate good, because it is only a negative condition: the absence of restraint.  Much more important to the contemporary American liberal is equality, both as a moral imperative (“we need to treat all people the same”) and as a description of man’s condition (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”).  From the belief in the inherent equality, at least in potential, of all people, come the imperatives to be open to the outsider and to be nonjudgmental.

For example, as is clear to anyone who has paid any attention to the debate over immigration, even most conservatives take the position that America has no right simply to declare a halt to all immigration, because that would be an egregious violation of the sacred principle of openness.  Aside from appeals to utility (“Immigrants do jobs Americans won’t do”), the basic position of all liberals and most conservatives is that refusing to allow foreigners to immigrate to America is inherently wrong, and that’s just all there is to it.  And please note: Here we see many conservatives thinking like liberals.

As for the moral imperative to be nonjudgmental, it follows from the belief in equality, and from the imperative to be open to the outsider.  If we were to judge people, we would conclude that people are actually unequal in nature and ability: Some are smarter, some are more diligent and some are more violent and antisocial than others, for example.  Furthermore, if we were to judge societies, we would notice that some societies are more compatible than others with our American values and way of life.  And from all these judgments it would follow that we would have to treat people and societies unequally, which would be unacceptable according to liberalism.  Therefore we must not judge.

The Foundational Principles of Liberalism

What basic beliefs are necessary to justify the liberal emphases of freedom, equality, multiculturalism and nonjudgmentalism?  It would seem that the following are required:

1) Liberalism holds that the God of the Bible does not exist.  This does not necessarily mean outright atheism; liberals have varying concepts of God.  Most liberals believe in some sort of god, but their god is usually “mystical,” that is, a god about whom nothing can be known with certainty, and therefore “God” for them has no ultimate authority. But liberalism definitely denies the existence of the God described in the Bible, because to be compatible with liberalism, “God” must not be “judgmental,” must not require belief in any particular religion, must not sent people to Hell (unless they are spectacularly wicked), etc.

How do we know the nonexistence of the God of the Bible is one of the foundations of liberalism? Primarily in two ways: Liberalism (as described below) assumes man is the Supreme Being, which would be absurd according to the biblical worldview, and the intellectual leaders of liberalism are all either outright atheists or at the very least not biblical theists.

2) More generally, liberalism rejects Christian, Western and American tradition, and all traditional forms of authority such as fathers, clergymen and aristocrats. Since tradition is the sum total of what we receive from those who went before us, liberalism rejects the wisdom of the ages. And since authority is the right to be believed or obeyed, liberalism denies that anyone should rule. Both of these denials result from a primitive desire to rebel rather than good reasons.

But reality must eventually be acknowledged, so liberalism forces man to look outside of liberalism if he is to become wise. And society cannot exist without authorities, so when liberalism denies that anyone has real authority, it forces the authorities to rule by raw force or by deception.

3) Therefore liberalism holds that contemporary man is the Supreme Being.  This supreme being could be either man the current group (according to postmodern liberalism), or man the individual (according to classical liberalism). More specifically, since there is no authoritative god or tradition, contemporary man determines what is true and false, what is (morally) right and wrong, and what is beautiful and ugly. Therefore truth, goodness and beauty are subjective, not objective, and this naturally leads to relativism, the doctrine (or perhaps just the attitude) that truth, morality and even existence itself vary from person to person.

4) Liberalism must believe that man is naturally good, for otherwise, without a God to set things right, we have no hope.  And if man is born good, it must be society that makes people bad, in which case we must remake society.  Liberalism thus holds that all human societies up to those that currently exist have been deeply flawed, at the level of their basic premises, and accordingly liberalism pushes for a fundamental rethinking of every aspect of society and its ordering: laws, rules, customs, traditions, schools of thought, etc.  All must be changed in order to remove from society every trace of the false ways of thought that have allegedly produced so much misery.

5) Liberalism leads to nominalism. Since there is no transcendent realm (at least no transcendent realm about which we can know anything), things mean whatever we say they do. And since man constantly changes his mind, there are no objective (that is, the same for all) and absolute (that is, the same at all times and all places) truths. There are consequently no objective limits, standards, rules, categories, etc.  Therefore, according to liberalism, we have permission to make the changes discussed in point three above. Thus, for example, we have the “living Constitution,” which means only what today’s Supreme Court says it does, and which accordingly embodies the latest leftist fads.

6) Since there is no transcendent realm, we must all be radically free and radically nonjudgmental. Since there is no transcendent authority, man is naturally free, and must therefore be free from authority, custom, and often even reality itself. Since there are no objective or absolute standards or categories, we must not judge people.

7) The imperative to change society leads to totalitarianism. Since the imperative to promote equality all across the board is non-negotiable, liberal authorities will not tolerate any significant expression of anti-liberalism, even if it originates from a legitimate part of the process of government.  If an executive order, or a bill passed by the legislature or the voters, violates liberalism, it must be nullified by the courts or the bureaucracies, which would be the two branches of government that are almost entirely controlled by liberalism.  This nullification of the normal process of democracy is not seen as undemocratic (and therefore invalid) by liberals, because it is carried out on behalf of liberalism’s most sacred duty.

This imperative also leads to totalitarianism “in the small,” in the sense that every aspect of society must now be ruled by a vast army of bureaucratic “experts” who decide how human life is to be conducted, and create rules to back up their decisions. The basic principle of this bureaucratic rule is that we must have equal freedom, and so nobody must infringe on the rights of anyone else to feel, think or live in any way he likes, as long as other people are not hurt (whatever “hurt” means.)  Think of the diversity consultants and seminars, the civil rights organizations, and the harassment lawsuits. In order for all to be “free to be who they are,” every aspect of our life must be ruled by experts.

Liberalism is a religion

Since liberalism is a comprehensive system of thought that describes the nature of reality, answers the big questions of life, and provides a code of conduct for both individuals and societies, it qualifies as a religion.  Calling liberalism a religion sounds a little less odd now that Ann Coulter has published Godless: the Church of Liberalism, and this way of thinking emphasizes the comprehensive and fundamental nature of liberalism: It isn’t just a collection of ideas, it’s a way of life.

An example showing the religious nature of liberalism is a blog post by the Norwegian blogger Bjorn Staerk (who at the time of the writing was known as a conservative) that includes the following:

Brave is sitting down calmly on a plane behind a row of suspicious-looking Arabs, ignoring your own fears, because you know those fears are irrational, and because even if there’s a chance that they are terrorists, it is more important to you to preserve an open and tolerant society than to survive this trip. Brave is insisting that Arabs not be searched more carefully in airport security than anyone else, because you believe that it is more important not to discriminate against people based on their race than to keep the occasional terrorist from getting on a plane. [Emphasis added.]

[Update: This post is no longer available at its original site, but it has been widely quoted.]

Staerk later defended these sentiments against criticism, thereby showing his words to be more than a passing fancy. [This text is also no longer available online.]

Although Staerk was known as a conservative, these comments clearly mark him as a liberal: Only a liberal would regard the ideals of tolerance and non-discrimination as more important than his own life. More specifically, only a liberal would say that taking prudent action to defend his life and the lives of others from the credible possibility of a terrorist attack, by asking the authorities to investigate suspicious behavior, is so immoral that it would be better to die in a terrorist attack than to take the chance of humiliating and inconveniencing an innocent Arab.

So here we have a liberal saying he’d literally rather die than transgress the liberal imperative of non-discrimination by taking what would have been regarded in the not-so-distant past as simply commonsense precautions.  What could possibly explain his position?  We observe that an individual’s religion contains those principles (if any) for which he would be willing to die, so there is only one possible conclusion: liberalism is a religion, and is accordingly regarded by serious liberals as something they would be willing to die for.

Liberalism is the Unofficial State Religion of America

There is nothing improper in making this claim. Every society must have some sort of (at least unofficial) state religion because a religion is primarily a system of thought that describes reality, and leaders must always have a philosophical system to guide their decisions.  Furthermore, the majority of the population needs to approve of the reasons the leaders give for their decisions, or at least to find those reasons tolerable. Therefore it is no insult to liberalism to call it a religion.  On the contrary, to do so is to take it seriously as a system of thought and governance.  It is not its status as a religion that makes liberalism illegitimate; it is the specific doctrines of liberalism that make it a menace.

What is the evidence that liberalism is our state religion?  Just ask yourself, What system do most teachers and professors (and even, God help us, many clergy) teach?  What way of thinking is taught as (or assumed to be) true by most journalists?  What ideas are portrayed as true, good and beautiful by most artists?” What ideas are assumed true by most politicians? If you answered anything other than “liberalism,” you have not been paying attention.

And what system of thought do most of our leaders use to make their important decisions?  When the Supreme Court says that anti-sodomy laws are unconstitutional even thought the Constitution says nothing about homosexuality, when the President signs legislation outlawing incandescent light bulbs, and when a state governor signs legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, they are following the dictates of liberalism. And in a sense they have no choice in the matter, at least most of the time: If America’s intellectual leaders mostly say that liberalism is true, and if America’s populace mostly agrees (or at least doesn’t openly disagree), then America’s political leaders must generally go along with liberalism, or risk the wrath of the people.

The Unprincipled Exception

One big question, though:  If liberalism is as false as we have said it is, and as dominant, how is it that America continues to function as well as it does?  After all, if a largely false way of thinking is the basis for most of our important decisions, we ought to have committed the collective equivalent of suicide long ago.  Yet America is still relatively healthy, albeit headed in a bad direction

The answer is provided by what blogger Lawrence Auster has dubbed the “unprincipled exception.”  When faced with the necessity of making important decisions, Americans frequently violate liberalism, whether by supporting the death penalty for a particularly heinous crime, taking steps to make life harder for illegal aliens, or withholding approval of homosexuality.  Conservatism may be in trouble, but at least in America, it still has the ability to win some fights.

But exceptions to liberalism are generally unprincipled.  That is, they are not accompanied by any understanding, let alone repudiation, of the fundamentals of the liberal creed. In order for our life to be tolerable, common sense and common decency demand that we make plenty of these exceptions to liberalism.  But in many cases, probably most, this opposition to liberalism is purely ad hoc, and does not proceed from a comprehensive rejection of our religion of liberalism.  A particular application of liberalism just feels like it’s too much, but the feeling is all there is; it does not lead to a fundamental reappraisal of one’s system of thought.

And this leads to an even more alarming point: Many conservatives are basically liberals who just happen to oppose a few of the important specific initiatives of liberalism. They have the courage and the understanding to oppose, for example, mass immigration, socialism, or the legitimization of homosexuality, but they do not oppose liberalism in toto, or per se.

This is, unfortunately, only to be expected.  Thinking about one’s fundamental beliefs is difficult and frightening, even for those (i.e., conservatives) with enough wisdom and courage to doubt the state religion in which we have all been indoctrinated for our whole lives. As David Horowitz describes so vividly in his autobiography Radical Son, rethinking one’s attachment to the left involves a reorientation of one’s whole being, and therefore it triggers a dark night of the soul.  Those not so attached to the left may not find the path to enlightenment quite so earth-shaking, but one can never change one’s fundamental way of thinking, and go against most of the powers that be, without considerable fear and trembling.

But conservatives should take heart.  If you have the insight and wisdom to doubt at least some of the liberalism that people all around you believe, and the courage to maintain your beliefs in the face of the unremitting scorn and ridicule that the left directs against even the most mild apostasy, then you certainly have what it takes to go all the way, and uncover liberalism in its essence.  If you are a conservative, I encourage you carefully to examine the liberalism you oppose. If you oppose the effect (mass immigration, same-sex marriage, socialism, etc), you should oppose even more the fundamental cause that makes the effect what it is.

And that fundamental cause is the rejection of our traditional ways of thinking, founded on the Bible and Christian, Western and American tradition. To recover a properly-ordered (or at least, an adequately-ordered) society, we must reject liberalism and return to ways of thinking grounded in biblical truths and the wisdom of the ages.

69 thoughts on “Repost: Liberalism 101

  1. Therefore liberalism holds that contemporary man is the Supreme Being

    Liberalism now tends to hold that there is nothing higher than man, so in a sense he is the supreme being. So, yes, man is the measure, but that does not mean that the liberal views man in anything close to same way a traditionalist believer views God or the gods, so it would be false to say that liberalism holds that man is the Supreme Being, capital S capital B. In fact, liberalism in the long run tends to view man as nothing more than an animal, and of no more worth than other animals. I strongly suggest reading C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man on this. You might want to sprinkle in a little Peter Singer too, if you can stand it.

    • That’s correct. Man is the supremest being, but he’s not that supreme.

      But when liberals are trying to cheer us up, or induce us to vote for them, or fatten us up for the kill, they hold that man is naturally good, or at least naturally good enough.

  2. Liberalism leads to nominalism.

    This goes a bit far. Liberalism tends to accepts the objective reality and truth value of both scientific knowledge and individual desires. Atoms and the void, pleasure and pain et al. Some people may play at postmodernism, but as Jim Kalb notes, when it comes down to it, scientism and utilitarianism rule.

    (Which is why it can be so much fun to show how much liberalism conflicts with both science and the material well being of people, though we shouldn’t base our own beliefs entirely on those kinds of arguments.)

    • Under liberalism, if you examine anything too closely, it disappears, because there is no objective reality. This is the sense in which we get nominalism.

      But you are right that most liberals, in order to live in the real world, must make unprincipled exceptions to the nominalism that obtains under their system.

      • Nominalism doesn’t *directly* deny that there is an objective reality, true. It denies that there are real essential natures to things; this it is glad to insist follows directly from the basic nominalist assertion that there is no such thing as a universal concept (or, ergo, a transcendental concept). But if there are no essential natures to things, then things are just nothing more than what we make of them – at least, so far as we ourselves are concerned. And since this must be true for every perspective whatever, from nominalism the denial of objective reality follows quite straightforwardly.

        NB that if nominalism is true, it can still make sense to try to understand your experience, and to behave on the basis of that understanding in such a way as to optimize your utility. If nominalism is true, then you can still claim to do science and seek profits. But you can’t claim to know the truth, or that you are doing right.

      • I would agree that liberalism tends to think that as far as humans go the world is what we make it.

      • According to nominalism, there are no essences. So even if liberalism presupposes or otherwise somehow involves nominalism, it would have to deny that it is essentially such.

        (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

  3. You’ve knocked it out of the park with this one. But i have to point out that the American tradition was founded on Liberalism. From the language of the Constitution to our defiance toward the King, this nation has been one giant exercise in flipping the bird at the Traditional order. Now I’ll agree that the American Revolution was more properly ordered toward reality than the subsequent French Revolution (arguably due to our people’s recognition of the Biblical God versus the unmitigated hubris of the Jacobins) but the difference between the two revolutions is one of degree and not of kind.

    First time commenting, and I’m young yet (early 20s) so go easy on me.

    lights

    • Welcome, lights. I don’t recall seeing you here before.

      There is a lot of truth in what you say. The American Revolution took many explicitly liberal positions, and left the conservative social order as an assumed and unstated given. As subsequent events show, this was a mistake. A good comment on this is “Fixing the Founding” at VFR

  4. Since there is no transcendent realm, we must all be radically free and radically nonjudgmental.

    Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner. Liberalism denies that there can be moral (or even aesthetic) values that transcend questions of pleasure and pain and how to divide those things up.

  5. Liberalism must believe that man is naturally good, for otherwise, without a God to set things right, we have no hope.

    I would be careful about this line of argument. It is much the same as the one one atheists use to explain religious belief: we’re going to die, so believers make up a God to give them hope.

    In fact, Iain McGilchrist has shown that the left, rationalist, side of the brain is incorrigibly optimistic. This appears to have little to do with argument. Hence, left liberals unimpeachable belief that this program is going to eliminate poverty, or right liberals belief that the market and/or technology is going to solve everything.

  6. People seem to use religion, here and elsewhere, in three senses:

    1. Belief in and interaction with supernatural agents
    2. A comprehensive world view or ideology.
    3. A belief system arrived at through non-rational (intuitive) means.

    Liberalism clearly fits under 2 and 3, but the primary meaning of religion is 1, so this causes a lot of confusion. Particularly, just because liberalism fits 2 and 3 does not mean that liberalism has anything to do with 1, other than denying it any reality. In particular, it does not posit man as a divine being. If anything, it degrades him to the status of an animal.

    • I agree with your point so far as classical liberalism. Modern liberalism on the other hand is tending towards meeting all of those categories. I cite as proof the rise of a pantheistic worldview among many leftists. This is probably why there is a renewed interest in Spinoza amongst many liberal academics and why Eastern philosophies have always attracted liberals.

      • This isn’t new. Some people want to hold onto vestiges of religion and spirituality. But they aren’t necessary for liberalism and are only tolerated in so far as they are reduced to therapy or a private hobby without real significance.

      • Which wasn’t at all what I was saying. I was saying modern liberalism is CREATING a belief in supernatural agents.

      • I thought I’d explain myself a bit more. Not all liberals go in for full on atheism. A lot of them prefer to stop off with various vestigial, watered down versions of religion: Unitarianism, Deism, Westernized Buddhism, Vedanta, Spinozan philosophy etc. This has a long history and is nothing new. Spinoza was in for a while with Einstein and now seems to be making something of a comeback. The popularity of each particular version of these things tends to come and go in cycles.

      • Interestingly there are a lot of what I call pseudo-liberals in the leftist camp. Many blacks, various aboriginal groups, Muslims, some environmentalists, some other Third World immigrants. These really do have an authentic and conservative religiosity to them. But in the West, they don’t like the white ethnic majority, so they ally themselves politically with the left.

  7. While purporting to define liberalism this article fails to take into account the origin of liberalism.

    “Liberalism holds that the God of the Bible does not exist’

    Sure this holds true for modern liberalism but historically is this true? Many of the founders of liberal thought were religious, either Deist or Protestant. Liberals can quite legitimately argue that their program is not hostile to Christianity that their philosophy it fact it bolsters it. Lockeans can argue that by getting religion out of the public square “religion cannot be corrupted” and “through free will on the market place of ideas the best religion will win”. Liberals make these arguments all the time. Of course it is also telling which particular Christian sect liberalism has always had the most hostility towards.

    “Liberalism is the Unofficial State Religion of America”

    Again as others here have pointed out this fact has always been so. The sooner traditionalists realize just how anti-traditional the American founding’s ideology was the better.

    • Yes and no.

      You can liberalize religion, community, and family to some degree without completely obliterating them. You can say that liberty and equality are important values or even that we should have more liberty and more equality while still being a Christian. In fact, Christianity does liberalize religious community, in the sense of making it universal and not tied to a particular ethnic group. But you can’t say liberty and equality are ultimate values that trump all others and still be a Christian.

      Historically, many, if not most, modernist and liberal thinkers have not been orthodox believers. Hobbes’ materialist god isn’t the God of the Bible. The Deist god isn’t the god of the Bible either. And since 1800 I’d say most of the main liberal theorists and thinkers have been outright atheists. And liberalism has tracked decline in orthodox belief pretty well since then.

      • “You can say that liberty and equality are important values or even that we should have more liberty and more equality while still being a Christian.”

        Though at this point there isn’t much further you take liberty and equality, so right now this isn’t a difference that makes a difference.

      • ” modernist and liberal thinkers have not been orthodox believers”

        Well considering Locke and the American Founders most of whom were purported to be orthodox believers I think the jury is still out on the religiosity of early liberalism.Also what it is interesting is that most of those figures come out of the same milieu.

      • Most of the well known American Fathers appear to have been deists. The most important exceptions would be Adams (Unitarian) and Hamilton (a bad Christian, but probably a Christian). Washington is a maybe.

  8. You claim that liberalism is a coherent ideology. Yes, there is a sort of list of specific positions which people who think of themselves as “liberals” generally hold. And a counter list that people who think of themselves as “conservative” generally hold. But you claim that there is some sort of rhyme or reason to these lists. Or that there is some sort of implicit set of assumptions with which they cohere. I disagree. I don’t think that either of the lists are coherent. It’s a long story as to why and how, and I won’t try to tell that whole story here.
    I find this blog very interesting. I strongly agree with much of what I read and strongly disagree with much. The nice thing is that certain things are being said very clearly and argued well that are rarely said outloud much less thought through clearly. In response to your post, I just want to throw in another challenge. In my view–and again this is a long story–both “liberalism” and “conservatism” have lost their way. But I do not support the form of conservatism you seem to be defining. Why not? There are many ways to say this. One way is this: I have two heroes. I feel fortunate to have lived during the time that they lived. They are my heroes because they do not fall into the easy categories of “liberal” and “conservative” that most people find their way into. Neither Martin Luther King nor John Paul II were relativists. “Liberals” of course think they are followers of King–but that is beause they haven’t paid close attention to what he really said. Take a look at the volume “Strength to Love.” “Liberals” probably think of John Paul II as “conservative.” But he doesn’t fit into either category–nor does he fit into the philosophy of “conservatism” that you are shaping. For example, consider this quote from the encyclical “Evangelium Vitae”: “In this way, and with tragic consequences, a long historical process is reaching a turning-point. The process which once led to discovering the idea of “human rights”-rights inherent in every person and prior to any Constitution and State legislation-is today marked by a surprising contradiction. Precisely in an age when the inviolable rights of the person are solemnly proclaimed and the value of life is publicly affirmed, the very right to life is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death.

    On the one hand, the various declarations of human rights and the many initiatives inspired by these declarations show that at the global level there is a growing moral sensitivity, more alert to acknowledging the value and dignity of every individual as a human being, without any distinction of race, nationality, religion, political opinion or social class.

    On the other hand, these noble proclamations are unfortunately contradicted by a tragic repudiation of them in practice. This denial is still more distressing, indeed more scandalous, precisely because it is occurring in a society which makes the affirmation and protection of human rights its primary objective and its boast. How can these repeated affirmations of principle be reconciled with the continual increase and widespread justification of attacks on human life? How can we reconcile these declarations with the refusal to accept those who are weak and needy, or elderly, or those who have just been conceived? These attacks go directly against respect for life and they represent a direct threat to the entire culture of human rights. It is a threat capable, in the end, of jeopardizing the very meaning of democratic coexistence: rather than societies of “people living together”, our cities risk becoming societies of people who are rejected, marginalized, uprooted and oppressed. If we then look at the wider worldwide perspective, how can we fail to think that the very affirmation of the rights of individuals and peoples made in distinguished international assemblies is a merely futile exercise of rhetoric, if we fail to unmask the selfishness of the rich countries which exclude poorer countries from access to development or make such access dependent on arbitrary prohibitions against procreation, setting up an opposition between development and man himself? Should we not question the very economic models often adopted by States which, also as a result of international pressures and forms of conditioning, cause and aggravate situations of injustice and violence in which the life of whole peoples is degraded and trampled upon?”

    • > But you claim that there is some sort of rhyme or reason to these lists.
      > Or that there is some sort of implicit set of assumptions with which they
      > cohere. I disagree. I don’t think that either of the lists are coherent.
      > It’s a long story as to why and how, and
      > I won’t try to tell that whole story here.

      In all of your message I do not see anything which gives arguments to sustain this position, so this affirmation is completely unfundamented.

      >“In this way, and with tragic consequences, a long historical process is
      > reaching a turning-point. The process which once led to discovering the
      > idea of “human rights”-rights inherent in every person and prior to any
      > Constitution and State legislation-is today marked by a surprising
      > contradiction. Precisely in an age when the inviolable rights of the
      > person are solemnly proclaimed and the value of life is publicly affirmed,
      > the very right to life is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the
      > more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the
      > moment of death.

      This is very strange, to me he is making several mistakes here:

      1> Human Rights are a typically liberal idea. Christians have the 10 laws, so liberalism came up with a kind of caricature of this Christian idea and made their own version of what the fundamental laws should be. But it is anti-christian to accept those laws as being before everything else. We do not need “Human Rights”, we already have traditional solution to everything that “Human Rights” claim to solve:

      *Justice
      *Private property
      *Honor
      *10 personal commandments, such as “Do not kill”
      etc

      So we do not need any kind of Human Right to tell us that people have the right to life. We already have the Christian principle that people should not kill other people (unless in death penalty or war).

      And the same goes on for all other ideas. We do not need them. The truth of God is more then enough, we don’t need to complete it with liberal ideas.

      And it fails me completely how would anyone think that we need Human Rights. So Jesus and the apostles were not moral because they did not profess faith in the “Universal declaration of human rights”?

      2> Maybe he thought that liberalism is too powerful to be fought directly, so he cleverly tried to plead allegiance to it while trying to point some contradiction in liberal ideas to push his agenda of anti-abortion and anti-eutanasia. For me this is a hopeless position, you cannot defeat the devil by joining him and then trying to convince him to change his ideas a bit because they are contradictory. You have to fully reject his world view and affirm yours.

      3> Maybe he though that the Human Rights are similar somewhat to Christianity, so he though that he could make some kind of mixing of liberalism and Christianity? Well, I think that history itself proves that this idea was a disaster now that Post-Modern Liberalism openly pushes anti-Christian and anti-White ideas.

      > On the other hand, these noble proclamations are unfortunately
      > contradicted by a tragic repudiation of them in practice. This denial is
      > still more distressing, indeed more scandalous, precisely because it is
      > occurring in a society which makes the affirmation and protection of
      > human rights its primary objective and its boast.

      So a society which holds liberalism as its primary objective pushes imoral ideas. And that is taken as a surprise!?!? We should push Christianity and Tradition as the primary objective, not liberalism. Can someone please explain me why he is pushing liberalism instead of Christianity here?

      > if we fail to unmask the selfishness of the rich countries which exclude
      > poorer countries from access to development or make such access
      > dependent on arbitrary prohibitions against procreation, setting up an
      > opposition between development and man himself?

      Wow, this is a very strange mix of ideas here. He starts with pure marxism in “selfishness of the rich countries”,. This idea is completely non-sense:

      1> We never had inter-state marxism in all of our History. I can barely hold laughing at the idea of a post-modernist marxist saying that the 12-century Chinese were sellfish rich bastards which denied access to the mongols to their riches which in turn explains why the mongols are so violent. This is a crazy idea. A Marxist idea. Each one should take care of his business and stop looking with envy to other.

      2> Independent countries already have everything they need to take care of themselves because they are independent. I am from a relatively poor country, so I can attest that. Poor countries mostly have large natural resources, they can sell them if they want money. They can make large taxes in the extraction of natural resources and make huge amounts of money that way, just like pretty much every poor country does. If the resources so obtained are not well utilized, that’s a problem that poor countries need to solve by themselves.

      3> Each people should take care of their own, and to extend they might want to help their similar peoples too: I would help fellow whites and fellow Christians. But to hold that we have a full responsability to every single other human on the planet is crap. Those people about whom we are talking about are grown ups!!! They can take care of themselves and dont need us to clean their asses and feed them with a spoon!

      > Should we not question the very economic models often adopted by

      Which economic model? Capitalism? Are you sure that John Pawel II wrote this? Didnt he fight against communism?

      Capitalism is not an evil economic model. Capitalism is just the natural result of private property, and private property is a core idea in both tradition and Christianity.

      > States which, also as a result of international pressures and forms of
      > conditioning, cause and aggravate situations of injustice and violence in
      > which the life of whole peoples is degraded and trampled upon?”

      International pressures cause all of the problems in poor countries? Yet another marxism here.

      I do think that international pressure does cause of lot of problems in many countries: It caused a lot of trouble for white in South Africa which just wanted a clean separation, they wanted to give independent realms for the africans and were forced by the international anti-white marxists to subject themselves to the on-going humilhation and genocide.

      International pressure attacked Christian Serbs and defended the islamization of Europe.

      So I do agree that international pressure is extremely evil, but for the completely opposite reason: International pressure is nothing more then the weapon of marxists and post-modern liberals in their war against the European people. They are at war with our religion, they are at war with our honor and they are at war with our very right to exist.

      • My whole point is to challenge the idea that the commonly accepted list of “liberal” and “conservative” positions are intellectually coherent and consistent. You are right that I do not argue much for this position. As I said, it is a much longer story than can fit into a single blog post! I offer instead two great figures who I do not think fit into the standard “liberal” and “conservative” categories. What I think they show is precisely the incoherence of those standard categories. My whole point is to challenge the idea you accept, that there is even such a thing as a strictly speaking “liberal” vs. “conservative” idea. Or that, again, these two commonly accepted lists really are coherent. You find fault with the “mixing” of “liberal” and “conservative” ideas. I challenge the classification upon which you base this claim. Yes, I have not done very much to explain why. There is a great deal to be said. I have let John Paul II speak for himself. I think he means every word he says–I don’t think he has a hidden agenda which fits the “purely conservative” one that many “conservatives” may wish he had. But I am glad that my challenge has in fact provoked a response.

      • One more point: I think John Paul II IS saying that the modern idea of human rights is in fact consonant with the love commandment–it is in fact one way of stating the love commandment. He is certainly not saying that the essence of the idea was lacking in Christ and the apostles! Rather, he is saying that to understand what human rights truly means, we must realize that it is founded in the love commandment. He is also saying that when we try to find some other basis for human rights, we are building on sand. And may even end up with something quite opposed. Also, John Paul was quite clear about the difference between Marxism and Christianity–that’s why he disciplined some of the Latin American “liberation theologians.” I think the consonance he finds between the love commandment and ideas about “universal human rights” is this: God loves and desires the salvation of each individual. This love and desire is absolute and unqualified. This love transcends all differences. And we are called to love as we have been loved. This does not mean that loyalty to a group to which one belongs is to be excluded or is a sin. (Liberals too quickly and in fact quite hypocritically gloss over the necessity and obligation of loyalty to the group to which one belongs, be it family, or nation, etc.) But it does mean that such preferential loyalty cannot be our final and absolute loyalty. The final and absolute loyalty of a Christian must be to God. And then, to that to which God himself is loyal, which is, each human person beyond oneself.

      • > Jeremy Smith
        > My whole point is to challenge the idea that the commonly accepted list of
        > “liberal” and “conservative” positions are intellectually coherent and
        > consistent.

        Well, I do not like how all kinds of issues were mixed together into only 2 solutions either, personally I think that this kind of division is valid only in the USA, and that a general theory cannot be so simplist. But that does not invalidate the existence of either Liberalism nor Conservatism. Both do exist.

        Just try to split the list of issues into 3 categories, like this:

        1> Social Issues -> In social issues one can be: Liberal, Mixed or Conservative
        2> Economy -> In economic issues one can be: Radically distributive (Marxist), Moderately Distributive or Anti-Distributive (Libertarian, neoliberal)
        3> Foreign Policy -> One can be: Anti-Intervencionist (Libertarian, mainstream Liberal), Intervencionist for the Defence of ourselves and our similars (like the Crusaders) or Intervencionist in the name of Liberalism (like neocons)

        Then it will be much clearer that various ideologies are indeed coherent. Some examples:

        Mainstream Liberal -> Socially liberal, Moderately Distributive, Anti-Intervencionist

        Liberalism+Marxism -> Socially liberal, Radically Distributive, Intervencionist in the name of Liberalism

        European Conservative -> Moderately Distributive, Socially Conservative

        USA Conservative -> Anti-Distributive, Socially Conservative

        Libertarian -> Mixed in Social Issues, Anti-Distributive, Anti-Intervencionist

  9. “Most liberals believe in some sort of god, but their god is usually “mystical,” that is, a god about whom nothing can be known with certainty, and therefore “God” for them has no ultimate authority.”

    I’m not Christian, though I am a theist. I do believe in objective truth, but I see no evidence to believe that that objective truth is 100% found in the Bible (or Koran, or Torah, or XYZ). I do believe there are objective truths out there and I could probably tell you some those I believe if necessary, but I also believe that knowing “the truth” is a little beyond the pale of the human mind. There is a reason only God understands it all and we have to guess at it sometimes. My belief is that so long as we make honest attempts to guess well he will still show us grace.

    • You say we can’t know truth. I say we (as fallen human beings separated from God) can’t be sure on our own. Hence divine revelation. The Word of God is part of that, as is the Tradition of the Church (as the Church predates the Bible).

      • I don’t think we can know the whole truth. If we could we’d be Gods. We draw what we can from that which has been provided for us by God and get as close to the truth as we can.

        I’ve yet to see a reason why I should suppose that the Bible, or anything else, represents the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

        Trying to figure out the truth through that which God has provided is a daily and difficult task for which I ask for his grace.

  10. Let me say at the outset that I am inclined to the conservative side of most contemporary political debates. Sometimes strongly so. A sociologist might have predicted this based on my age, ethnicity, and frequency of church attendance. On the other hand, I never voted for George W. Bush and changed my party registration during his presidency. I have since switched back to the GOP.

    George Lakoff in Don’t Think of an Elephant! argues that the liberal-conservative or red-blue divide is really over a nurturing mother vs. a strict father parenting model. Whatever the merits or flaws of this model (in what sense can abortion be classified as nurturing?), it has the advantage of simplicity. There is no need to go into a discussion of nominalism.

    Such an analysis, however, leaves out other worldviews. Libertarians who are Randian conservatives would cut across the usual conservative-liberal lines by being strongly for private property rights, but also pro-choice, pro-legalization of recreational drugs, and indifferent to the redefinition of marriage. Libertarian socialists on the other hand would argue for socialism over capitalism, might favor the use of illegal substances, but might also favor gun control. Modern Catholic thinkers tend to be liberal on issues such as the death penalty, gun control, and immigration and conservative on abortion and marriage.

    I recommend for your consideration, but am not yet prepared to fully endorse, this summary of Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. Haidt argues, among other things, that liberals have reduced morality to two universal principles (caring and fairness), while conservatives balance five principles (by adding loyalty, authority, and sanctity to the mix). The book also cautions us on the pitfalls in Western moral reasoning.

    • nitpick alert: conservatives don’t add additional moral principles to the list, liberals are simply insensitive to any moral principles other than caring and fairness. In that sense liberal morality is woefully inadequate.

  11. If you’re interested in some feedback from an actual (more or less) liberal:

    – just because beliefs cluster together in the current American political mind doesn’t mean they are necessarily coherent. For instance, conservatives have certain beliefs that occur together that are completely incoherent with each other (most glaring, a support for both Christianity and unbridled capitalism). I’m sure that the current coalition identified as liberal has some similar contradictions. I can’t think of any off the top of my head right now, but certainly 20 years ago there was a weird mixture of both supporters of sexual freedom and feminist anti-porn crusaders.

    1) Liberalism holds that the God of the Bible does not exist.

    Well, duh. Neither does philosophically sophisticated but conservative Christianity, from what I understand of it.

    2) More generally, liberalism rejects Christian, Western and American tradition, and all traditional forms of authority such as fathers, clergymen and aristocrats.

    Wait, what? Since when are aristocrats an American tradition? The American revolution was a revolution against aristocracy. (Well — they were something of a tradition in the South, which is one reason we had to fight a second war to finally get rid of them).

    More generally, the point above is ridiculously broad. Anarchists reject all authority, but liberals are not anarchists. Who is probabably the most morally authoritative figure for contemporary liberalism? Martin Luther King Jr, a clergyman.

    3) Therefore liberalism holds that contemporary man is the Supreme Being.

    Liberals do not believe in the concept of a Supreme Being.

    4) Liberalism must believe that man is naturally good, for otherwise, without a God to set things right, we have no hope.

    Sorry, that’s total nonsense. Nobody believes that, not even Rousseau (who is oftern wrongly attributed such silly views). Liberals believe that man is capable of both good and evil, because that is obviously the case. More sigificantly, they believe it is possible to change society in such a way as to encourage the expression of the good and discourage the opposite. That is perhaps the defining characteristic.

    “Liberalism thus holds that all human societies up to those that currently exist have been deeply flawed, at the level of their basic premises, and accordingly liberalism pushes for a fundamental rethinking of every aspect of society and its ordering: laws, rules, customs, traditions, schools of thought, etc. All must be changed in order to remove from society every trace of the false ways of thought that have allegedly produced so much misery.”

    You seem to be confusing liberalism with radicalism. They are far from identical and in fact are usually held to be opposites.

    5) Liberalism leads to nominalism.

    I suppose.

    6) Since there is no transcendent realm, we must all be radically free and radically nonjudgmental.

    You don’t know many liberals, do you? One thing they are not is “radically nonjudgmental”.

    7) The imperative to change society leads to totalitarianism.

    (you seem to have changed your voice here from what liberals believe to what you think their beliefs lead to. And you contradict the point you just made. And you don’t seem to understand what “totalitarianism” means any more than you understand what “liberal” means)

    Oh well that’s enough. I guess I should applaud your effort to understand those who differ from you, but you’ve created a laughable paper-mache caricature.

    • This is a site for traditionalist conservatives. Contemporary mainstream “conservatism” is a fusion of right wing liberalism/libertarianism and traditionalist conservatism that doesn’t really make much sense. It really only came together because the two factions had a common enemy in left liberalism.

      Also, radicalism is just liberalism in a hurry.

      Also, liberalism is most definitely opposed to saying something is inherently better than something else. If that isn’t non-judgmentalism, I don’t know what is.

      • It’s kind of funny to see somebody insist on fine distinctions between different flavors of conservatism in one pgraph and then lump everybody on the left together in the next.

      • Haidt shows that there are three “types” of morality: left wing, libertarian, and conservative.

    • I agree with much of what you say–and I’m glad you have pointed these things out. I’m not quite sure exactly what you are saying in reference to religion and nominalism. But after struggling with all these things for years, the way things essentially seem to me is like this: the contradiction in conventional conservatism is just as you say, between the affirmation of aquisitive capitalism and the simultaneous affirmation of Christianity;. On the other side, what I have come around to is this: that the equally if not more fundamental contradiction in conventional liberalism is between its affirmation of human rights and its refusal to legally protect the unborn. How are people capable of such contradictions? That’s a question that bothers me. It may be because they don’t “really” believe in their supposed fundamental principles: be they of Christianity or of human rights. Or it may simply be they have not thought things through. Or it may be they have thought things through, but they just don’t see it. It’s called “cognitive dissonance”–a phrase which, if I understand its use correctly, should be “unwitting tolerance of cognitive contradiction.” Well, most people disagree with me on this one. But all one can do is struggle with the reality one faces and with the ideas one finds or shapes to understand that reality. This is where I have ended up.

      • “the equally if not more fundamental contradiction in conventional liberalism is between its affirmation of human rights and its refusal to legally protect the unborn.”

        The contradiction is avoided by defining personhood in such a way as to exclude fetuses (aka “the unborn”). I don’t want to argue that position here, both because it is off-topic and because I have some problems with it myself, but that is the theory.

      • The way I understand it Christianism does not demand any kind of economic model. I think that a number of economic models can be compatible with Christianity, including Capitalism and Tribal Colectivism. And always remember commandment #7 “Thou shalt not steal” This commandment clearly promotes private property, which is the base of capitalism. Giving money away in form of charity is promoted, but that does not conflict with capitalism. Some of the greatest capitalists are also huge donators to charity, like Warren Buffett. If there was no capitalism how would he be able to mass those billions and billions which he donates now?

        Similarly there is the question of being obsessive about money, being greedy. But this is a mental state to fight against, not a reason to scrap Capitalism.

        And finally there are practical considerations. Living low tech might work for the Amish, but the humanity is too numerous is most places to be able to live like that. We need the progress which capitalism brings to sustain our large numbers and the Bible commands us to multiply, so even if low tech living might be nice, it is not a solution which can be applied for everyone.

    • “One thing [liberals] are not is ‘radically nonjudgmental’.”

      Slogan seen by myself on the office door of a (fervently Democratic and self-described liberal) sociology professor at a local college:

      “Non-Judgment Day Is Near.”

      Nonetheless you are correct; liberals only *claim* to be nonjudgmental. In reality most look forward to a world in which the great majority of their opponents have been wiped out, even as those few intolerant people who remain will be afraid to show their faces in public.

    • Onecertain:

      You call it a caricature because you refuse to understand, or are not capable of understanding, the real nature of liberalism. You are probably like most liberals in thinking that liberalism is just common sense and common decency, and you fail or refuse to acknowledge what your system actually entails.

      Since we of the Orthosphere understand it better, we reject liberalism. And we invite those capable of thinking clearly about these issues to join us in this rejection.

      • “You call it a caricature because you refuse to understand, or are not capable of understanding, the real nature of liberalism….Since we of the Orthosphere understand it better, we reject liberalism”

        One tenet of liberalism that perhaps you reject is the need to provide support for an argument, rather than mere assertions that you are correct. But if You of the Orthosphere are content to rest your beliefs on nothing but your own understandings, be my guest.

        It seems awfully postmodern in a way though, since anybody with any set of beliefs whatsoever can use the same technique (and indeed, it is used quite a bit in things like race and gender studies, where it is presumed that certain life experiences give you a trump card in an argument).

      • You also did not give support for your arguments, but made mere assertions. So that does not decide the issue in your favor. Something as vast as liberalism (or its negation) cannot fully be either supported or refuted solely through evidence and rational argumentation; one’s presuppositions determine how one will interact with the evidence. There is a great deal of evidence to support my appraisal of liberalism, but a mere blog post, as opposed to a treatise, can only allude to it. And if one is hostile to traditionalist conservatism, the evidence will not stick.

      • @Onecertain

        Since we have a liberal here, I’d like to make some questions:

        1> How can liberals actively support ethnomasoquism? Seriously, I cannot see how someone would desire to kill his own family, his own ethnicity and still be able to look at himself in the mirror. To see what I am talking about, read: http://www.vdare.com/articles/john-derbyshire-on-the-roots-of-white-ethnomasochism

        2> Do you really look forward to the society that liberalism is building? I mean, just watch the current trends and imagine what will the world be like in 50 years from now of more post-modern liberalism. Ignore the possibility of any other ideology, such as traditional conservatism, reverting the course and consider what society would be like 50 years from now of pure liberalism. I think it would be worse then barbaric pre-hispanic caraib, where tribes roamed in boats to rape and barbecue other tribes. Moral is constantly redefined, so by then for sure pedofilly will already be legal. If the likes of Pussy Riot are our greatest model, why would anyone waste time working? Just inject some drugs, play rock and screw everything else, untill you die of overdose. Family will have already been aniquilated by then, so the native population will start greatly diminishing, while waves of immigrats arrive. Christians will survive, although persecuted by the central government because they are obsessed about that homophobic book which is now prohibited, the Bible. In the middle of the chaos, islamic immigrants wage their Jihad. Liberalism does not seriously do anything about it, because it would be pollitically incorrect to do so, so we have bombings every day.

        And that’s not nearly a ridiculous imagination, that’s not very far from England and France nowadays.

        So I repeat the question: Do you really look forward to the future liberalism is building? And if you don’t like where liberalism is heading us, then why do you support it?

      • @Felipe

        How can liberals actively support ethnomasoquism? Seriously, I cannot see how someone would desire to kill his own family, his own ethnicity and still be able to look at himself in the mirror.

        First off, liberals don’t support every stupid thought that happens to come out of another liberal’s mouth, and that goes double if the “liberal” in question is a crappy pop band or a comedian on the TV.

        But to take the idea seriously as an aspect of liberalism (using the word very expansively as seems to be the convention here) — well, OK, there is some of that. It is rooted, I think, in one of the defining characteristics of the modern liberal mind, universal skepticism and self-criticism, sometimes shading into self-loathing, and sometimes applied to one’s racial group.

        Louis CK is one of the comics in the video that you link to, and a very funny guy. His whole shtick is amused self-loathing, mostly of his individual self. Either you find that amusing, or you don’t.

        Do you really look forward to the society that liberalism is building?

        I didn’t know liberalism was in charge. From my vantage point, the world is ruled by other forces, most of them involving money and violence, organized in corporations or nations. Liberalism has very little to do with it. These forces make use of liberal ideas when it suits their purposes and illiberal ideas when those seem useful.

        The world we live in was built by modernism, of which liberalism is a small part. Most of the changes of the last few hundred years were driven by the rapid development of technology and science and the changes those have wrought in social institutions. (Liberalism is certainly a part of that story but not the driver of it IMO). So, while there is a lot to criticize about the modern world, I would not particularly like to go back to gthe 1950s or the 1850s or the 1550s, wherever your presumed illiberal paradise lies, even if that were possible. Barring a truly catastrophic economic collapse, we are stuck with the modern world and must go forward by fixing it, not backwards.

      • @Onecertain
        > Louis CK is one of the comics in the video that you link to, and a very
        > funny guy. His whole shtick is amused self-loathing, mostly of his
        > individual self. Either you find that amusing, or you don’t.

        Indeed now I think that the article doesn’t capture exactly what I ment. For me Ethnomasoquism is supporting things like racial quotas, supporting the new holiday of the “day of the negro consciousness” (Yep! We have that in Brazil, yet another present from the marxist government) and despite all those things having the nerv of saying “You are a racist!” to any white person which claims to prefer his own, even yet even worse that we all know that the label “racist” is merely a term to humilhate whites, and that it can never be seriously applied to black people regardless of what they do or say. It really can’t get any more sado/masoquist than that.

        And while it is true that marxism is the main motor in those things, my point is a lot of mainstream people actively support those 3 things mentioned above, people that are clearly not marxists… even some white evangelicals which are otherwise very conservative. But how is that possible? I cannot explain it in any other way except to think that while they are not marxists, they believe in liberalism, and liberalism actively supports ethnomasoquism.

        And if liberalism is not the source of this ethnomasoquism that I am talking about then what is it? Where does it come from? The only other viable option is marxism. But original marxism was not ethnomasoquist, quite the contrary, marxists killed millions of minority groups in their ethnical cleansing in Vietnam, Cambodja, Soviet Union, etc.

        So that’s where I am back at liberalism as the guilty guy. Either that or we need to separate marxism in classical marxism and contemporary marxism, and then attribute ethnomasoquism to contemporary marxism. Funny that contemporary marxism in not against the native population in places where they rule in Africa. Contemporary marxists really only hate whites world-wide, so ethnomasoquism is not really the ideal word here. Anti-white might express it better.

        > I didn’t know liberalism was in charge. From my vantage point, the world
        > is ruled by other forces, most of them involving money and violence,
        > organized in corporations or nations. Liberalism has very little to do with
        > it.
        > These forces make use of liberal ideas when it suits their purposes and
        > illiberal ideas when those seem useful.

        I disagree with this idea. I do hear it quite often, but just follow the evidence:

        *What kind of forces made the Labour government in England go for mass immigration? There are no forces for that, just ideology: ethnomasoquism
        *What kind of forces made the marxist government institute the “day of the negro counsciousness” in São Paulo? The black movement was barely 100 persons, a ridiculously low number for a city of 11 million. There was no real pressure from anywhere for it. I cannot explain it any other way then that they wanted to either humilhate conservatives or that they really are ethnomasoquists.

        And so on, and so forth. All of those things have nothing to do with corporations, nothing to do with money and quite often little to do with power. It is pure ideology.

        > So, while there is a lot to criticize about the modern world, I would not
        > particularly like to go back to gthe 1950s or the 1850s or the 1550s,
        > wherever your presumed illiberal paradise lies, even if that were
        > possible.

        For Brazil the illiberal paradise is as close as the 1970s, during the military regime. That surely was a paradise compared to now (although I was born after that, so I can’t be 100% sure):

        *Safe streets as opposed to roaring gangs armed with machine guns
        *Marxism was completely outlawed and marxists were either in jail or far-away loosing their stupid guerrilha war against our mighty army
        *Total fairness: No racial quotas, no promotion of any kind of sub-group. But also no laws to opress anyone: You simply get what you work for as an individual, regardless of your race.
        *Total freedom from PC: No white girl was afraid to say “I’d never date a black”. Why should society force people into ethnomasoquism? People are entitled to their opinions without the PC inquisition.

    • Preach it, brother.

      Some good points made there (though I’d have to take issue with the Supreme Being point).

      I found Mr Roebuck’s equation of liberalism with radicalism particularly disappointing. Did William Gladstone believe that “[a]ll must be changed in order to remove from society every trace of the false ways of thought”, or advocate totalitarianism? Did J.S.Mill? Did Lord Grey? Or, if we’re working with North American examples, did Thomas Jefferson or JFK or Mackenzie King? Clearly not. The only way around this is to take the rather passive-aggressive route that they didn’t actually realise what they really believed.

      • My position is that contemporary liberalism is unquestionably radical, with, for example, its demand that we all honor homosexuality and mass immigration by unassimilable and hostile aliens.

        True, the liberals of yesteryear were, by today’s standards, somewhat conservative. But although they may not have known what the movement they launched would lead to, there is a direct connection between historic and contemporary liberalism.

        People are often carriers of ideas whose nature and consequences they do not fully understand.

      • That’s quite true in principle, but the position that liberalism is not fundamentally different from leftist radicalism is an eccentric one. It smacks of wanting to aggregate one’s opponents into a single hostile mass, and the black-and-white polemical thinking patterns that underlie it. Your post was a thoughtful and intelligent one, but I felt that it was spoiled by this kind of thing.

        St Thomas Aquinas was well known for charitably putting his opponents’ positions more clearly and persuasively than they could have done themselves. I’m not sure that that approach is entirely apparent in cacophemistic phrases like “mass immigration of unassimilable and hostile aliens” as a description of liberal policies.

      • Liberals, as opposed to leftists, don’t see them as “unassimilable and hostile.” [And I wasn’t saying that all aliens are unassimilable and hostile.] But even when they are, liberals, like leftists, don’t want to prevent them from immigrating, for that would make us “no different from our enemies.” Therefore, in practice, today’s liberals do support mass immigration by hostile persons.

        Individual liberals hold to a wide variety of positions. Liberalism, though, has integrity, even if many people are not clear on exactly what it is.

      • I don’t deny that there is a “thing” that can usefully be called liberalism – I just question whether you’ve correctly identified the essence of what it is. Equating it with leftist radicalism may seem logical to you, but it creates more problems than it solves. Take an ideology like communism, for example – most commentators would agree that communism is essentially illiberal or anti-liberal, and I submit that bracketing it together with liberalism creates confusion rather than clarity. In my experience, real radicals and socialists hold liberalism in disdain. Sure, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wrong if the people whose beliefs you are analysing would disagree with your analysis – but it ought to give you pause.

        As for immigration, I’m not familiar with the American debate on that issue, so I’d better not comment further.

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  13. I would like to see some actual proof that “Capitalism” conflicts with Christianity.

    I would posit that such an assertion shows a rather shallow understanding of both.

    This alleged “conflict” has been bandied about here without much support, and I should say by people that apparently know better. Capitalism is a resource management technique–unlike communism, it is not a ideology.

    From it does not flow “acquisitiveness” and certainly not moral vice.

    Men get to keep what they earn; Foolishness and immoral dealings are in the end rewarded with failure. Markets best set economic value.

    It is true that for capitalism to deliver its promise other things must be in play: the rule of law, property rights, sober and stable government that is limited, the notion of fundamental rights; a moral code that ultimately a reflection of the religious experience of a nation.

    The system worked so well in America because all these things were present. We are failing now because the Marxists–and that is what modern “liberalism” is–have greatly succeed in tearing these things down, aided by “useful idiots” such as “oncecertian”.

    It would seem to me that “unbridled” capitalism in this context is eminently Christian, and in fact could not have developed anywhere else but inside Christendom. Most certainly, it is more Christian than Feudalism, Mercantilism, or the various forms of collectivism political economy.

    Christ was not a socialist or a Collectivist. The individual stands before God, not a committee. It is a misreading of both covenants to imagine that God wishes us to be poor or to foreswear material progress. This was clearly understood until lately.

    I fear that many here have internalized the Marxist agit-prop put forward by the Left. It is both specious and spurious. I would ask you to reconsider.

    True religious and spiritual life is impossible without freedom and liberty, and political liberty is not possible without economic liberty.

    I say all of this to the blog at large, not to one certain as he is incapable of engaging.

    It is absolutely comic to hear a “Liberal” (read “Communist”) grouse about “acquisitiveness”. It is they who are acquisitive and who have been on the long end of the stick since the New Deal; it is they that are the materialists, both philosophically and economically, and they support it through thievery. They just do not like anyone else having more then they have. This accusation of inconsistency is really projection. The great hypocrisies of Marxism are more than the rational, moral mind can bear. Thus the projections and self deceptions.

    • Agreed, but for one thing: feudalism is not less Christian than capitalism, nor are capitalism and feudalism in conflict, nor is feudalism inconsistent with personal liberty.

    • From [capitalism] does not flow “acquisitiveness” and certainly not moral vice.

      The opposite, in fact. Capitalism actually encourages moral virtue. PLUS, it harnesses the vice that is in all of us and puts (much of) it to the service of virtue, including putting our inate and inescapable selfishness to the service of our fellows.

      I sometimes think that one of the major reasons “liberals” so hate capitalism is precisely because tames and redirects human perversity to good ends without first turning society (or the individuals so harnessed) upside down.

    • In one phrase, I stated that “acquisitive capitalism” conflicts with Christianity. That phrase could be interpreted in many different ways–and by just throwing the phrase out I certainly left it open to interpretation. I did not mean that Christian ethics requires the abolition of capitalism. I did not mean that capitalism is the same as greed. The most accurate definition and analysis of the essence of capitalism I have read is that of Max Weber. He is very clear that greed is a motive in all social systems. Capitalism does support the pursuit of self interest. But it sets very strict rules about how self interest is to be pursued. Those rules fall first of all under the category of accounting–where each business analyzes every aspect of its endeavor in clear explicit quantitative terms in order to discover exactly what the costs are of each item and activity, and exactly what aspects of the business endeavor contribute to exactly what extent to profit. This did not come out of nowhere! It is a highly sophisticated and demanding discipline that emerged through a long arduous cultural development. And this is REGULATION. Capitalism by definition is regulated business activity. It is not optional for one business to keep accurate books, and another, sloppy ones. A price will be paid–either in business failure or legal prosecution. And the development of capitalism, BY DEFINITION, involves government regulation. For example, money, stocks, bonds, the business corporation, banking, conflict resolution must have a legal basis, and the efficient functioning of business depends on the rule of law. (I keep reading that one of the chief obstacles to Western companies doing business in China is the fact that China does not respect the rule of law to the extent that, for example, the U. S. does.) Capitalism, by definition, cannot be unbridled, and cannot be pure greed. But I say all this to emphasize that capitalism as we know it is not simply the pursuit of wealth, greedy or otherwise. It is a certain cultural pattern of economic activity–and while it may have something in common with any economic activity, there are very significant differences among economies of different places and times. This is one fact that Weber demonstrated very clearly.
      So what are we to make of the ethical status of our economic system from a Christian perspective? The virtue of our economic system, it seems to me, is that it both promotes and harnesses self interest in ways that in fact have promoted the good and prosperity of society as a whole, and not only of a rich minority. But here is where a problem arises, I think, in relation to Christianity: our economic system appeals to self interest. But the central appeal of Christianity is not to self interest, but to love of neighbor. The virtue of our economic system is that it channels the energy even of people who only care about themselves in ways that mostly in fact promote the greater good. This is one of the moral justifications of capitalism–even from the Christian perspective. But on the other hand, our system is at the same time a powerful incentive to selfishness–because it rewards selfishness so well. And our capitalist culture keeps sending the message: “maximize profit for your company; get rich yourself” I think the response of Christianity to capitalism is that it is permitted. But that on the other hand, it is dangerous. It is dangerous because it by definition appeals to self interest only, and fact often fans the flames of selfishness. There is an inherent conflict between Christianity and capitalism for that reason. But this is also to say that there is an inherent conflict between Christianity and any human society. For all societies have to appeal the self interest of their members if they are to be cohesive. Is modern capitalism more problematic from the perspective of Christian ethics than other economic systems? That is also a question worth asking by I have gone on long enough.

  14. This is an interesting and well written essay, but, as a committed liberal, I didn’t find that I could really identify with the depiction of liberalism that it presents.

    I believe that you have it precisely the wrong way around when you write: “Liberalism must believe that man is naturally good…. And if man is born good, it must be society that makes people bad”. What you’re describing there is some sort of Rousseauianism rather than the traditional pragmatic British liberalism that I espouse. I am a liberal because I believe that human beings often tend to be irrational, aggressive and generally flawed. In particular, they cannot be trusted with power. This is so important that it bears saying twice. Human beings cannot be trusted with power.

    It is for this reason that liberals of my stripe mistrust “traditional forms of authority such as fathers, clergymen and aristocrats”. It has nothing to do with “a primitive desire to rebel” – in fact, if anything, it implicitly acknowledges the existence of original sin. I am temperamentally very conservative (and very religious) – I would love to persuade myself that traditional authorities can be trusted to rule wisely and justly. I actually used to believe this when I was younger. Then I discovered a bit more about real life, and so I don’t any more. Now, it’s quite true that “society cannot exist without authorities” – we’re not anarchists, after all – but it seems rational to me to insist that those authorities be as controlled, constrained and accountable as possible because the alternative is risky and invites injustice and abuse.

    I guess the other reason that I’m a liberal is that I accept the diversity of human life. You may not agree with homosexuality, but, whether you like it or not, some people are gay and want to form marital-type relationships (which in my view is a praiseworthy desire, since I believe in marriage and fidelity). Similarly, not all heterosexual couples are naturally inclined to adhere to traditional gender roles and behaviour. Good or bad, this is a fact, and it seems to me that liberalism recognises these sort of facts rather than attempting to fit the whole of society to a Procrustean bed.

    Thanks for the essay, though – it’s always good to see people on both sides thinking deeply about these things.

  15. Pingback: The Futility of Liberalism and the Hope of Traditionalism | The Orthosphere

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