Why another essay about liberalism? Because the common man needs to be equipped to defend himself.
And speaking of the common man, for whom is this nine-thousand-word essay written? For the man who understands some things about the ubiquitous liberalism but has not yet been properly schooled.
The intended reader, then, is intelligent, perceptive and fairly knowledgeable of the general ways of the world and therefore naturally senses that there is something wrong with the status quo. The intended reader knows the basic liberal rules of society and knows that they are held to be obviously true and good, but he has enough knowledge to sense that these rules are wrong. So he does not need to be convinced about the basic nature of liberalism; this essay assumes that the reader can recognize liberalism from a general description of it.
But the intended reader, ready to learn and also knowing that he needs to learn, has not yet discovered how properly to think about liberalism. This essay (a major expansion of my “Liberalism 101”) presents an introduction to proper thinking about liberalism. It also introduces the reader to the antidote for the poison of liberalism.
The Essay Itself
Something is fundamentally wrong with the modern world. If you sense this, you have taken a great step toward wisdom. But what exactly is wrong?
There are many specific troubles, too many to count. But let us consider some examples.
Observe first that not only is there great trouble in our times but, even more alarmingly, the authorities often approve of (and are often the main source of) the trouble, such as:
Legitimization, even celebration, of sexual disorder. Since disorder is bad, why do they celebrate?
The enthusiastic embrace of the mass immigration that is dissolving our nation. Since it is wicked deliberately to dissolve our nation, why are they enthusiastic?
Officially-mandated affirmative action, that is, the deliberate pulling down of whites in order to benefit nonwhites. Since even nonwhites can see this is grossly unfair (even when they are glad it is happening), why is it officially mandated?
The deliberate undermining of traditional authorities such as fathers and clergymen. Society needs legitimate authority, so why are they trying to destroy what we need?
The disruption, spearheaded by feminism, of the family and its vital role of raising children. Since family is the foundation of human life, why are they attacking the source of our life?
And the deliberate promotion of ugliness. And the massive and disastrously disruptive growth of government. And on and on.
The common name for the way of thinking that gives rise to all these perversions is “liberalism.” So the authorities are pushing a liberalism that is dragging us down.
There is also a personal aspect to the crisis of modern times. “They” say that we must be tolerant and not discriminate. That beauty is only an opinion. That truth is only subjective. That morality is only relative. And so on. But if these slogans be true, then reality itself becomes meaningless and absurd, and our lives are also absurd and meaningless. And if our lives are absurd, then Oh, what’s the use?
This is not just the ordinary sin and foolishness that have always existed. Today, much evil is officially promoted and celebrated. Something is fundamentally wrong.
And liberalism is not an external enemy, not a separate and sharply defined entity that we can locate and guard against. Liberalism has permeated all of American life so that almost everyone is liberal to at least a certain extent. We must therefore call people to repent of their liberalism, to reject the destructive lies in which they have participated, and to seek a better way. It is to this purpose that the current essay is dedicated.
So we are in danger. And to defend ourselves, we must first understand. Is there something—other than the name of liberalism—that unifies these diverse phenomena?
We cannot, of course, give a complete description of the problem. Only God could do that. Since man is limited, he must guard against the conceit that he knows all. But we can understand an important part of the disorder of our society. There is a phenomenon that unifies much of the disorder, 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 other Western nations. To understand the times, we must understand liberalism.
And, of course, we must also understand the truths that correct the errors of liberalism.
It must be noted that there is a valid distinction between liberal and leftist, but the distinction is of degree rather than kind. Leftists are consistent liberals, and liberals temper the principles of the left with common sense and common decency, making themselves inconsistent, but relatively sane. Nevertheless, and in keeping with common usage, we shall generally use the word “liberalism” to denote the basic way of thinking that is common to the two camps.
The first point to establish is that there even is such a thing as liberalism. Since liberal thinking is ubiquitous, one is tempted 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 the liberalism that surrounds us all until it is pointed out to him.
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 bureaucrats, the news media, and entertainment), it is the position that requires the least thought. Many people are unaware that liberalism is a system of thought that could possibly be wrong, depending on the evidence. For them, liberalism is simply the way things obviously are. This serves liberalism as a useful defensive strategy: If we cannot identify it and locate it, we cannot fight liberalism.
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:
1) Promoting 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, now 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. There exists a comprehensive system of thought commonly called “liberalism.” And this worldview (the common term for a comprehensive system) has integrity. It is not just a random collection of unrelated assertions. Therefore 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 clear which side is liberal, although you can usually find at least a few liberals who oppose the liberal position. So examine as many specific liberal beliefs as you can, and look for the basic principles 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, that non-whites should be raised up at the expense of whites, and so on.
What then can we conclude about liberalism? We will presume that the reader has enough experience to recognize the essential truth of the following analysis 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 conclusions listed below follow simply from listening to the language liberals use when speaking of their liberal convictions, and then taking these words at face value.
It is indeed important to take liberals at their word. Conservatives often make the mistake of thinking that liberals think like conservatives but somehow add a few liberal elements to otherwise-sound thinking. This is an understandable mistake (for it is tempting to believe that other people must be basically like us) and therefore many conservatives refuse to believe that the liberal really believes the crazy things he says. But this is a major mistake. Unless they are speaking ironically or 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 no better than a Nazi.
Liberalism is not just a randomly-chosen collection of unrelated beliefs.
Instead, liberalism is a comprehensive system that describes reality, answers the big questions, and prescribes a code of conduct for individuals and societies. And liberalism has an intellectual 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.
At the most basic level, and also at the level of day-to operation, liberalism emphasizes freedom, equality, openness to the outsider (i.e., multiculturalism) and nonjudgmentalism. This can be taken as a fundamental definition of liberalism although, of course, one could spend a lifetime unpacking the definition.
Let us consider these basic elements of Liberalism. “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 the traditional forms of thought and life that it hates, such as the traditional truths that men and women have a duty to marry and have children, and that homosexuality is a sin. In these cases, liberals use the promise of freedom as a means of destroying traditional morality to clear the way for the utopia that they aim for. They also use it to attract immature and disordered persons to their movement.
But freedom cannot be the ultimate good, because it is only a negative condition: the absence of restraint. More important to the contemporary liberal is equality, both as a moral imperative (“we need to treat all people equally”) 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 of all people come the imperatives to be open to the outsider and to be nonjudgmental.
For example, even most conservatives take the position that America has no right simply to declare a halt to 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 any foreigners to immigrate to America is inherently wrong, and that’s just all there is to it.
As for the imperative to be nonjudgmental, it follows from the belief in equality, and from the imperative to be open to the outsider. When we judge people, we observe that they were unequal in nature and ability: Some are smarter, some are more diligent, and some are more violent and antisocial than others, for example. And if we judge societies we notice that some are more compatible than others with our American 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 to liberalism. Therefore, says the liberal, we must not judge.
[But yes, liberals do judge. This apparent contradiction is explained below.]
The Basic Principles of Liberalism
What basic beliefs are necessary to justify the liberal emphases of freedom, equality, multiculturalism and nonjudgmentalism? Here are some of the most important principles of liberalism:
- 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 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, perhaps, they are spectacularly wicked), and so on.
Liberalism, then, denies and opposes Christianity, although it approves of those parts of Christian ethics that call on us to have concern for the physical well being of our neighbor. Liberalism has to oppose Christianity, for the system of liberalism cannot be valid if Christianity is true. If Christianity is true then freedom and equality are not the highest goods. The highest good are instead honoring the God revealed in the Bible, especially by having faith in His Son Jesus Christ, and by upholding the traditional social order that honors Him. Since Christianity contradicts liberalism, liberals deny and oppose Christianity.
True, many liberals call themselves Christians. But they have redefined the faith, retaining the words but redefining the meanings when they conflict with liberalism. Real Christianity opposes liberalism.
Let us note that liberalism is fundamentally and disastrously wrong about the God of the Bible. He exists. [The reasons why you can know God exists will be discussed in subsequent essays in this series.] And since God is the cause of all being, false beliefs about God produce false beliefs about almost everything important. We say “almost” because even the atheist retains enough intuition (the faculty of knowing without engaging in a conscious process of reasoning) to acknowledge many important truths, even if he denies their source, which is God.
- Liberalism leads to nominalism.
With God unknowable there is, for the liberal, no transcendent realm, at least no transcendent realm about which we can know anything. The physically tangible and the contents of man’s mind are all that exist, and there is therefore no authority higher than man. Therefore, in liberalism, things mean whatever we say they do. And since societies are diverse, and since man constantly changes his mind, there are no truths that are objective (the same for all people) and absolute (the same at all times and in all places.) There are consequently no objective or absolute limits, standards, rules, categories, etc. We may call this belief “practical” nominalism, in contrast to the philosophical kind that appeals only to a tiny minority of intellectuals.
The liberal, being a human being of course, cannot live without limits, standards, rules, categories, and so on. But being liberal, he denies that they are objective, that is, constant. The liberal’s rules change whenever the Masters of Society decide that they must.
Therefore, according to liberalism, we have permission to remake ourselves or our society. 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.
Nominalism is like liberalism itself: it promises freedom but produces only the chaos that naturally leads to tyranny. Normal people want authoritative truths, that is, truths that are claimed really to be true and not just a convention. If authoritative truths are not taught by society’s legitimate rulers, then the people will seek these truths elsewhere. This produces a chaos of competing and mutually contradictory pseudo-authorities, setting the stage for the Balkanization that eventually produces tyranny.
[It is also true that man does not want always to be constrained by a truth he cannot manipulate, and therefore he is prone to believe those charlatans who teach practical nominalism. This is one of man’s sinful desires. The desire for authoritative truth is a healthy desire, one which competes with his sinful desires.]
But liberalism is wrong about nominalism. Since the God of the Bible exists, a transcendent realm does exist, and man is not the measure of all things. There are truths that do not change, and man decides whether or not to participate in the God-created truths that he acknowledges and receives, but does not create or define.
- Since it believes there is no God to establish an objective order, liberalism holds that we must all be free, equal, and nonjudgmental.
If there is no God then any constraint on freedom is unjust unless it serves a purpose we approve of. With no God in existence all men are on the same level, no being is higher than man, and nobody has the right to impose his opinions on others. Therefore “freedom” to the liberal means the absolute and sacred right of all people to express and define themselves in any way they want and to live their lives without being constrained by custom, authority or even reality. This is the freedom that matters most to the liberal.
With (allegedly) no God in existence, hierarchy is seen to be invalid, and liberalism accordingly believes in the natural equality of all men. “Equality” for the contemporary liberal is not just (as it was for the “classical” liberalism of our ancestors) the equality of opportunity and treatment. It is the actual equality of results. Thus liberalism creates, inter alia, affirmative action, designed to force equality. [Affirmative action has also morphed into a campaign to drag whites down. This is a separate—though related—issue.]
And “nonjudgmentalism,” for the liberal, is highly selective, for it only refuses to judge whatever is condemned in traditional societies: sexual sin, indolence, unbelief, criminality, ugliness, and so on. The contemporary liberal is harshly judgmental of traditional thought and ways of life.
And this, of course, appears to be a contradiction: The liberal says he does not believe in judgment but is harshly judgmental of certain things.
On a superficial level it is a contradiction, one frequently criticized by conservatives. But on a deeper level it is not a contradiction. If freedom and equality are his highest goods, the liberal must oppose anything that prevents freedom or equality. Traditional morality and religion oppose the idea that freedom is the highest good, and they express inequality: sin and sanctity, virtue and vice, citizen and foreigner, and so on. Therefore the liberal must judge, and oppose, traditional morality and religion.
In short, under liberalism anything goes, except saying that it’s not true that anything goes.
The social ideal of liberalism may thus be described as “equal freedom for all,” with freedom from judgment by others as an essential prerequisite for individuals to be free.
We see the liberal principle of freedom in the demands for so-called same-sex marriage, in the demands that the state pay for contraception, in the legitimization of trangenderism, and so on. No matter how harmful, bizarre or repulsive the act or condition, the liberal authorities demand that we grant our approval and support. And since man does not naturally grant approval to that which is harmful, bizarre or repulsive, liberals must exercise increasing control over individuals in order to ensure that they will not stifle the freedom of others.
We see the demand for equality in, to take only the most obvious example, the ever-increasing forced affirmative action. According to the Masters of Society, there are not enough women in science, not enough blacks graduating from college, not enough Hispanic engineers, not enough Asian judges, not enough homosexual physicians, not enough Moslem truck drivers, and so on, ad infinitum.
To the liberal, all people groups are naturally statistically equal, and any observed inequality is seen, not as proof that radical inequality is a false idea, but instead that discrimination is occurring. Primitive man allegedly thought natural disasters were caused by evil spirits rather than the ordinary operations of the material world. In the same way, the contemporary liberal thinks that group inequalities are the result of evil agents, and never simply the natural condition of mankind.
These unending shortages of minority accomplishment are blamed on prejudice (generally prejudiced white people) and on society’s failure to provide all people groups with the means necessary for success. Therefore the promotion of equality requires ever more intervention and manipulation by experts and bureaucrats, and ever more campaigns of inclusion, in which the patriotic general public is expected to participate. Once again, liberalism must exercise increasing control of individuals in order to ensure that they do not stifle equality.
The liberal also takes personal offense at inequality. With no God and no objective standards or limits, the world is a flat place where things have no great significance, and any claim that one individual or group stands above another seems bizarre and offensive. In the liberal world things can only be given rank order in the crudest ways: by weight, age, price, and so on. Any sense of intellectual, moral, spiritual or social ranking seems to the liberal to be unjust ego assertion rather than a statement of the order of reality.
So liberalism is increasing its control over our day-to-day activities. How then can we say that liberalism demands radical freedom?
Because the freedom that liberalism demands is principally the freedom of the individual to define himself. It is not the traditional concept of freedom as the absence of tyranny and the ability to do what is right because of the possession of personal virtue. And if the individual is to have the freedom to define himself in any way he desires, then others must not be free to criticize him as failing to uphold an objective standard. Objective standards must be discredited, and people must not be permitted to appeal to them.
Thus the increasing volume of laws, regulations and standards, which are necessary to ensure that everyone has equal freedom. Unless the state and its bureaucrats intervene, some individuals will not have the means of being free and equal. Some will fail to achieve equal freedom because they lack natural ability; for example, some students do not have the natural intelligence or diligence to have equal academic accomplishments. Others will fail to achieve equal freedom because they lack external means; for example, some individuals do not have enough money to gain what they need. And some individuals will fail to achieve equal freedom because they are prevented from doing so by others; for example, some individuals are victims of racism, sexism, or homophobia.
For these reasons, equal freedom requires that society be tightly controlled by experts and bureaucrats. Freedom and equality, rightly defined, are naturally contradictory, and therefore the liberal “equal freedom” must be a tightly-managed affair, with experts and bureaucrats working hard to ensure that people simultaneously have maximal freedom to define themselves and maximal equality with others.
So liberalism demands radical, equal, nonjudgmental freedom for all. But this is all premised on the nonexistence of God. Since God exists, this liberal premise is also false. Man is not free to sin, to shirk his duty, to deny what he is (e.g., “sex-change” operations), or to avoid the judgments of others. Nor is man free to regard all things as equal, in denial of the order established by God. And since reality contains truth and falsehood, good and bad, beauty and ugliness, man is not free to avoid passing or receiving judgment.
- Liberalism opposes Christian, Western and American tradition, and all traditional forms of authority such as God, Scripture, fathers, clergymen and aristocrats.
In its desire for freedom and equality, liberalism must oppose tradition, for tradition restricts man’s freedom by prescribing what he ought to believe and do. And tradition also provides a social order that by its very nature causes inequalities among men. And since tradition is the sum total of what we receive from those who went before us, liberalism necessarily rejects the wisdom of the ages. Since traditional authorities generally uphold the traditional order, liberalism must also reject traditional authorities.
Observe how liberals constantly rail against God, Scripture, clergymen, fathers, and aristocrats (or, now that aristocracy has been abolished, “the rich.”) Liberals describe these as the impediments (along with white people in general) to the establishment of the ideal society of which they dream. Liberals also denounce tradition, holding it to be the discredited and disproved ways of the past, ways which unjustly prevent individuals from freely choosing to be who they really are.
But liberalism is wrong. Every society needs authority, for every order must be maintained. Liberalism has not abolished authority; it has replaced the traditional authorities with others. The liberal authorities include university professors, bureaucratic “experts,” journalists, advertisers and other setters of trends, and artists and other popularizers of ideas. But observe that these authorities are not acknowledged to have authority. Officially, at least in America, the people are still sovereign. And so the liberal authorities must often lead by deception or force, for their right to lead is not acknowledged by the population.
And tradition is not an evil force that must be overcome. Instead, it is the sum total of what we have received from those who have gone before us. Those who reject tradition cut themselves off from the wisdom of the ages and from all the goods that man needs in order to live, such as God, true religion, knowledge of philosophically first things, objective morality, beauty, higher culture, family, nation, honor, and so on.
- Since it opposes tradition and traditional authorities, liberalism holds that contemporary man is the Supreme Being.
There must always be a highest authority, and with God and tradition invalidated this leaves man as the only possible Supreme Being. This Supreme Being could be either man the 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 reality itself, vary from person to person.
Why must there always be a highest authority, a Supreme Being? Partly for logical reasons. A chain must always terminate somewhere and since authority is a hierarchy, it must have a highest element or else the entire chain is invalid. But there are also psychological reasons. Nobody respects a command given “because I said so!” and therefore man needs to believe there is a trustworthy (or at least adequate) authority at the top. For homo liberalis, that “trustworthy authority” cannot be God, tradition or traditional authorities: God is unknown or nonexistent, tradition is flawed because Progress has rendered it invalid, and traditional authorities are wicked. That leaves only two alternatives for the top liberal authority: It could be the group operating as a democratically-evolving collective, or else it could be the individual, marching to the beat of his own drummer.
This highest authority is also to be worshipped, because man has a natural need to identify the Supreme Being and then to ascribe supreme worth to him. Man has a natural need to know ultimate reality and the supreme good, for in no other way can he orient his life and feel secure. And the ultimate reality and the highest good must be worshipped, for worship is the ascription of supreme good to the one worshipped, and man has a natural need to affirm the goodness of the highest good. Observe, for example, how prominent atheists such as Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins speak of their feelings of reverence when contemplating the grandeur of the physical cosmos or the mighty force of evolution. But for most people, the impersonal is not worthy of worship. With God disqualified, man becomes the natural object of worship.
The man who is worshipped could be either man the group, or man the individual. Worship of the group generally consists of superlative attributes ascribed to the human race as a whole, as it allegedly evolves to ever greater heights of knowledge and virtue, or else worship of one’s tribe or clan. Worship of the individual is generally self-worship, as a man regards his own welfare as the highest good, and his own thoughts as reflecting ultimate reality. We may presume that few people are so egotistical as to regard their thoughts as literally reflecting ultimate reality, but those who take no thought of things higher than themselves are implicitly taking this position. With no God in sight, there is no good reason not to worship yourself.
But liberalism fails. Since God exists, Man is obviously not the Supreme Being. Man is obviously finite and fallible, both morally and intellectually. When man is held to be the Supreme Being, perceptive people draw the logical conclusion that our situation is hopeless, and they fall into despair.
- Liberalism must believe that man is naturally good, for otherwise, without a God to set things right, we have no hope.
Liberals generally do not believe that human beings automatically turn out good. Instead, the liberal believes that with the right environment, man will be virtuous.
How do we know liberals think this way? Observe how, when they speak of correcting the problems of the world, liberals never speak about restraining man’s sinful nature, unless they speak of restraining Christians, the rich, or the racism of whites. Nor do they speak about submitting to God. Instead, they speak of more education, or more welfare payments, or more affirmative action, or more diversity, and so on. In other words, they always speak of changing the external circumstances of society. With the possible exception of white people (who are regarded by liberals as naturally wicked), man is never assumed to be naturally sinful, but only to be naturally good, or at least naturally adequate, if the right external circumstances obtain.
If man is naturally good, why is there so much evil? For the liberal, it must be society that makes people bad. People are forced to become bad by their environment. Therefore, concludes the liberal, we must remake society, so that it will always exert the right influence on all people. 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: its laws, rules, customs, traditions, schools of thought, etc. All must be changed in order to remove from society the false ways of thinking that have allegedly produced so much misery.
This thinking reinforces the liberal’s belief that men can only be equally free if the Masters of Society control our behavior, so that we don’t pollute, discriminate, sexually harass, religiously discriminate, and so on.
But is man naturally good? If he were, then the external circumstances that allegedly make man bad would never have arisen. Good cannot produce bad. The belief in a naturally good man made bad only by external circumstances is another contemporary analogue of the alleged belief of the ancients that earthquakes and volcanoes are caused by the intervention of evil spirits rather than simply being part of physical reality. Christianity, with its doctrine of the natural sinfulness of men (a sinfulness that is often restrained by God, and that is overcome in some by Jesus Christ), corrects liberalism’s erroneous description of man.
- Liberalism holds that traditional societies are radically unjust and must be radically changed so as to be brought into accord with liberal principles.
Since traditional societies are unjust, they must be changed. And this imperative to change society leads to totalitarianism. Since the imperative to promote equality and make men virtuous and happy 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 are 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 duties.
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.
Again, liberalism fails. A society is only unjust if a valid authority declares it to be so, but liberalism, denying God, does not have this authority. And traditional America was not “unjust” as a blanket statement just because liberals say so. Injustices sometimes did occur in the old America, but injustices (often of a different nature) also occur now, under the rule of liberalism.
- Liberalism exalts the outsider, the weak and the dishonored, and it denigrates and seeks to drag down the traditional peoples and leaders of America, chiefly whites, Christians, and men
The main evidences that this is an essential feature liberalism are affirmative action policies and the way liberals speak of whites, Christians and men.
Affirmative action, whatever it may be called, is consciously and expressly designed to raise up former outsiders (chiefly nonwhites, women and non-Christians) while at the same time dragging down—not simply passing by—those not in the favored groups. Classical liberalism at least claimed only to aim for procedural equality, but today’s left demands equality of outcomes and, in deed if not always in word, it demands the punishment of the formerly honored.
And observe how liberals speak with obvious malice about whites, Christians, and men, and with obvious admiration about nonwhites, non-Christians, and women. This preference for outsiders (or, in the case of women, preference for the allegedly weak) sometimes drives liberals even to sympathize with and favor criminals, perverts, and other outcasts. Think of the campaign to abolish the death penalty even for those who obviously deserve it, and, more generally, the fawning over the bizarre and the repulsive.
[We observe that in contemporary America, nonwhites, non-Christians and women have most of the formal advantages of the law, and many of the informal advantages of popular sentiment, at least when they are in opposition to whites, Christians and men. They may therefore be fairly described as “insiders, strong and honored,” rather than outsiders, weak and dishonored. But liberals continue to regard these groups as being disadvantaged, a disadvantage that they wish to reverse by an emphasis in the opposite direction.]
Why does liberalism act this way? Because of its basic desire not to discriminate and to treat all equally. The average person wishes to execute murderers, to shun perverts, to keep most foreigners in their own countries, and to associate mostly with those of his own race and religion. But to do any of these is to “discriminate” or to be “judgmental.” And since these acts are the primal sins against which liberalism fights, the liberal must fight his natural tendency by going in the opposite direction. The more depraved the perversion, the more evil the crime, the more foreign and non-assimilable the alien, the more the liberal sympathizes with the person and the harder he fights to make the outsider feel at home. This principle seems hard to believe when articulated this way, but we observe this behavior among liberals every day.
And it is only natural for a focus on raising up the alleged victims of whites, Christians and men to change into a campaign also to punish the formerly advantaged. For the liberal, equality is a moral imperative, and any inequality must therefore be due to the perfidy of some evil agent. As the former masters of America, men, Christians and whites become the natural scapegoats. Officially, of course, affirmative action is only intended to raise up the former underlings. But unofficially, when speaking to their constituents, liberals affirm the malice they hold for the formerly advantaged.
But is it right and good to favor outsiders and drag down one’s own people? To prefer the alien and the disreputable? To ask these questions is to answer them. Perhaps this liberal impulse stems from a primitive feeling of personal inadequacy leading to the jealous desire to drag others down. Since no good can come of it we must reject this liberal perversion, while acknowledging that sympathy, the emotion of which it is a perversion, can be a noble sentiment if properly controlled.
Finally, we must identify an important liberal meta-principle or, more accurately, anti-principle:
- The principles of liberalism are not fixed. They continually change as liberal society evolves.
Under liberalism there is no God to provide unchanging principles. Man is the Supreme Being of liberalism, but the man who does not honor God constantly changes his mind, for he admits no absolute and unchanging principles. An unchanging principle would be an intolerable infringement of his freedom. Liberalism therefore constantly changes. Anything goes, as long as it is endorsed by the community of liberalism.
It is true that there are persistent themes running through the history of liberalism. And not even liberals will tolerate constant radical change. But given enough time liberalism could evolve into almost anything.
This leads to an obvious problem: If liberalism is so malleable how can we study it? How can we understand something that may change at any time into something radically different?
Two answers spring to mind, a lesser and a greater. The lesser answer is that liberalism changes so slowly that for all practical purposes it can be known, at least at a given point of time.
But the greater answer is that liberalism results from man’s sinful nature as a rebel against God. Liberalism is constant in one respect: it always denies the God of the Bible. The exact form that denial takes varies, but the denial is a constant.
Liberalism may be called a religion
Since liberalism is a comprehensive system of thought that describes reality, answers the big questions of life, and provides a code of conduct for both individuals and societies, it qualifies as a religion. A perverted and ultimately impotent religion to be sure, but still 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 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 for which they would be willing to die.
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 way of thinking 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, this is to take it seriously. 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? Ask yourself, What system do most teachers, 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. You may use another name than liberalism, but the substance is the same.
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 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.
And since liberalism is both totally dominant and largely false, we must expect dire consequences for both individuals and our nation from liberalism being our way of life. God is not mocked, and a people that refuses to acknowledge reality will pay a dreadful price. We are already witnessing the self-Balkanization of America, a major decline in the average competence of students, workers, and leaders, the mass proliferation and approval of sin and ugliness, and widespread demoralization among the young, to cite only the most alarming symptom.
The Unprincipled Exception
A big question arises: If liberalism is as false as we have said, and as dominant, how is it that America continues to function as well as it does? If a largely false way of thinking is the basis for most of our important decisions our nation ought to have committed collective suicide long ago. Yet America is still relatively healthy, albeit headed in a bad direction. How is this possible?
The answer is provided by what blogger Lawrence Auster has dubbed the “unprincipled exception.” When faced with 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 almost always 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 fundamental rejection 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.
The Futility of Liberalism and the True Hope of Traditionalism
Liberalism promises man a just society and personal freedom. Instead, it delivers a disordered society and personal slavery.
Liberalism promises man freedom from superstition and ignorance, from tyranny and injustice, from pain and want, if only we join its crusade to create a new world of hope and change. But in pursuit of its utopia, liberalism robs man of everything he needs to live like a man and not like an animal or a demon: God, true religion, objective morality, knowledge of philosophically first things, higher culture, family, nation, honor, beauty, and so on. Robbed of all that makes his life meaningful, man becomes a slave: Of the latest fads, of his transient and often sinful desires, of the petty tyrants who manipulate him for their gain.
Consider: Without (knowledge of) God a man believes that the world has no originating and organizing force, and that reality is just a random collection of meaningless stuff to which we arbitrarily assign meaning in a futile attempt to maintain our spirits. Without true religion a man is cut off from God even if he believes, in some sense, that God exists. Without knowledge of objective morality a man has no assurance that he is doing the right thing and he becomes demoralized. Without some knowledge of philosophically first things a man does not know the basic operating principles of the world he inhabits. Without a strong organic connection with family and nation a man has no reason to aspire to anything great and noble. Without participation in higher culture a man never nourishes his spirit by temporarily leaving the mundane for the world of refinement and beauty.
It is helpful to give a name to the system that includes and makes intelligible these good things—these goods—that man needs and that liberalism denies. We can name them individually, but a collective name emphasizes their reality and their unity in proceeding from a single source, God Himself.
So call this system the order of being. It is an order because reality is not haphazard, random and unknowable. Things exist in an ordered way. And it is the order of being because it is the order, the arrangement, of the most fundamental things that really exist. The order of being originates with and includes God Himself, and it includes, inter alia, true religion, objective morality, knowledge of philosophically first things, higher culture, family, nation, honor, and beauty. The goods that man needs most do exist, and they can be known.
(For a fuller discussion of the order of being, see here.)
Although man participates in the order of being, and although he modifies some aspects of it, he neither creates nor controls it. His most fundamental choices are whether to acknowledge this order and, if he acknowledges it, whether to live in accord with it or to rebel against it.
By rebelling against the order of being, liberalism robs you of all the goods you need most. Therefore you must oppose liberalism. And to oppose it, you need all the goods mentioned above, the goods that man needs in order to live. You must seek them, and hold fast to them when you find them. Your very life depends on it.
The key to obtaining the goods you need is Jesus Christ. Your ultimate enemy is not liberalism, but sin, and the Devil who encourages your sin. Liberalism is just the organized expression and administration of man’s sinful nature.
To defeat your ultimate enemy, you must repent of your sins, know Jesus Christ, and trust Him to forgive your sins. Only in this way can you obtain the full measure of the God-ordained and God-given goods that you need.
But religious repentance is not enough. You must also acknowledge—confess—your participation in the false and evil secular system of liberalism. Since liberalism is taught by virtually all American authorities, we have all internalized liberal thought, and we have all acted in accord with liberalism to a greater or lesser extent. We must all therefore repent from liberalism.
Repentance from liberalism is necessary because without it, we will desire to vindicate our past words and deeds by continuing in liberalism. Man is a creature of habit, and repentance is necessary to break his worst habits.
What exactly is repentance from liberalism? It is not instantly to reject all your liberal tendencies. Since man is a creature of habit this sudden and complete reversal is impossible to carry out, and the attempt to do so only leads to discouragement.
Instead, repentance from liberalism is the beginning of a life-long process of detecting and rejecting the bad ideas and practices that have been officially institutionalize. It begins when we realize that the liberal system to which we have become accustomed is fundamentally false, even if we do not yet know its full extend and the full measure of its falsehood. Repentance from liberalism is the decision no longer to trust the liberal system that surrounds us, and to seek out the truth about reality and the order of being.
We may use the word “traditionalism” to denote the system that corrects the errors of liberalism. Just what is this traditionalism, and where can it be found?
To live well, a man must have a basic understanding of and respect for the order of being and its proper expression. We can give a more detailed description of the more important elements of this order:
- The physical world, with its scientific laws of matter and energy.
- The biological world, with plants and animals (including man in his animal dimensions), with life and death, birth and growth, classifications and species.
- Human society, with its moral, psychological, political and economic laws, with individuals, families, clans, associations, nations, rulers and governments.
- The spiritual world with God, angels and demons, Heaven and Hell, creation and miracles.
- The religious world, with priests and pastors, Scripture, religious acts, sin and repentance, salvation and damnation.
- The intellectual world, with axioms and laws of logic, metaphysical principles, schools of thought, study, disputation and proof.
- The esthetic world, with beauty in all its varied manifestations that extend into all areas of life.
“Traditionalism,” then, starts with the basic understanding of, and respect for, the order of being. Whereas liberalism systematically denies or misunderstands this order, traditionalism has proper respect for reality.
Traditionalism also contains tradition in the ordinary sense of the word. Tradition in this sense is the sum total of what we have been, as received from those who went before us. It is a source of wisdom and order that transcends the individual person and the current time and place.
Traditionalism thus may be defined as the basic understanding of, and respect for, the order of being, coupled with a love of the traditions of our people as unique expressions of this order.
And where is this life-giving traditionalism to be found? At one time this knowledge of and respect for the important truths suffused society, although it was generally unspoken (being generally taken for granted), and was sometimes denied or opposed. But nowadays, in official discourse, traditionalism is usually only mentioned in order to be distorted and denigrated.
To be sure, some current knowledge of the order of being is relatively adequate. The physical and life sciences, for example, have a basically sound grasp of their subject matter, although (as when they posit Darwinian-style atheistic evolution) they generally deny God and therefore cut themselves off from the ultimate Source of wisdom. But when it comes to non-physical subjects such as religion, morality and philosophy, liberalism is hopelessly lost in deliberately-cultivated ignorance. Therefore you will not be able to gain the goods you need by heeding the counsel of the establishment.
Allow us to quote from a previous essay of ours:
Where can these goods be found? There is no simple answer to this question but some general comments are in order.
Since God is the ultimate reality, as well as the ultimate determiner of non-ultimate reality, religion is the most important spiritual and intellectual discipline. And since the only God who exists is the God of the Bible, Christianity is the true religion. It is the belief of the author that God and Christianity can best be found in a confessional Protestant church, for these churches teach the things of God most accurately.
What about other goods such as objective morality, knowledge of philosophically first things, beauty, higher culture, family, nation and honor? It is a general rule that in order to get something valuable you must find the people who have it and spend time with them. If the good you seek is knowledge, then the people who have it could be authors—long dead—of classical literature, or teachers, or clergy, even editors of blogs. Look for the people who seem to know, study their teachings, put them to the test, and hold fast to the good.
If the good you seek is not knowledge—higher culture, nation, family or honor, for example—then you must seek it in people rather than through them. Realize that you have been taught—falsely and wickedly—to hate these goods. Acknowledge your false patterns of thought and oppose them with the recognition that these goods are good. Understand that you are connected in body and soul to your people and their (your) civilization, and that one ought to love one’s own. Acknowledge that through history, until the great liberal jihad began to succeed in the second half of the Twentieth Century, all men everywhere have always loved their own, as they love themselves. Join them, and claim your birthright.
As of this writing, there does not exist a reasonably compact introduction to “traditionalist conservatism,” that is, the wisdom of the ages and a true description of the goods that man needs to live well. The necessary knowledge is scattered. But the way of traditionalist conservatism is embodied most accessibly in a group of related weblogs, the best of which are (in the author’s opinion): View from the Right, The Orthosphere, The Thinking Housewife, Oz Conservative, What’s Wrong With the World, Bruce Charlton’s Miscellany, and Turnabout (which is more than a blog; its blog is here.). At a good blog the editors and contributors speak of passing topics, as well as the permanent things, from the standpoint of a proper worldview and way of life. In this way the sympathetic reader may begin to reorient his thinking toward the true, the good and the beautiful.
This is the futility of liberalism and the hope of the traditionalism that, though hidden, exists perennially. Seek it, and you will find it.