20 January 2014

Liberalism is dead. Long live Liberalism.

Several high quality points to draw out here:

The point being that too many “liberals” are really conservative apologists for the status quo political order, just as too many “libertarians” are really conservative apologists for the status quo economic order. 

- I am no fan of either status quo order, but the "popular" label of libertarian is often a proxy for the latter, agreed. Very few libertarians take up something like a classical liberalism approach (Adam Smith-Friedman) with simple and transparent features to the state just as few modern liberals place many limitations on where that state should justly be operating. Most libertarians take up a defence of meritocracy, which might be fine if we had a system that allowed for it in the first place rather than a structure that is inherently rigged by the current political status quo by powerful agents. 

“Liberal” apologists for the actually-existing criminal state spook actual liberals from the practice actual liberalism by insinuating darkly that any doubts about the liberal legitimacy of the security state probably makes you a loathsome, possibly racist Paultard.

- This is ridiculously common. Greenwald is frequently dismissed as insufficiently liberal by various "liberal" commentators. The guy is practically a socialist on some issues and certainly holds "liberal" social politics, he's just really against the state's use of power too, something which used to be a liberal/leftist ideal and seems to have vanished upon election of one of their own. I have a hard time understanding how that doesn't make him "of the left" myself too. Because occasionally agreeing with Ron/Rand Paul is a cardinal sin apparently? There's a persistent strain of liberal argument that decries any deviation to admit that a "libertarian" has a point, a possibly valid point, and thus a point of argument and even agreement with a traditional "liberal" viewpoint as though there's someone running around saying black is white and up is down and must be cast out as a traitor to the cause, making a previously valid point of agreement over say, the fundamentally illiberal security state, or the enormously outsized size and scope of American military power, impossible to advance publicly without scorn and disdain heaped upon ye. 

It suggests that liberalism is effectively a corrupt form of statist institutional conservatism, and that the democratic justificatory ethos of mundane liberalism has somehow survived within the ethos of “libertarianism,” even if, as an explicit doctrinal matter, libertarians are generally hostile to the ideas of democracy and the legitimate liberal state. It’s nice that libertarians have kept liberalism alive, but it would be even nicer if it were possible for liberals to espouse liberalism without therefore being confused for libertarians.

This would be fun, but I think it places a bit too much importance on the tribal labeling. The major crux of that issue is that it should not be difficult for libertarians to find issues of agreement with the left, advancing those causes by deconstructing the state in places that it need not be operating, or at least not operating in the way that it does. That can be possible in places where the state's power is inefficient and insufficiently useful to any appropriate policy, where the state is propping up existing status quo economic powers, where the state is unjustly limiting individual freedom or liberty without cause (say, most drug laws), where the state is imposing rather than abolishing discriminatory practices, and so on. 

Libertarians often get too little credit for being near or at the forefront of many civil rights issues like racial voting laws or interracial marriage, or same-sex marriage in our time (perhaps because there are libertarians who are spending a lot of time lingering at the rear of those issues and throwing bombs out themselves, though this is not unusual of liberals either). It is not impossible to conceive that these are or were vital and vibrant issues that can be advanced by a seemingly strange coalition of people without the individual pieces of that coalition becoming somehow "corrupted" and worthy of scorn by sharing a cause once in a while. 

But apparently this is so. 
Post a Comment