Either the West ceases to be liberal, or it ceases to exist
That, in a nutshell, is the traditionalist view this website represents. Objections arise immediately: “But liberalism is responsible for many good things that you wouldn’t want to get rid of! Are you against freedom of inquiry? Against freedom of speech? Women’s equality?”
Of course the statement requires qualification, but in order for its essential truth to get through to the mind, it must first be stated in bald, unqualified form. Now I’ll qualify and explain it.
What is liberalism? In all its incarnations, whether classical, Progressive/New Deal, or modern, liberalism means the redefinition of society in terms of abstract principles, values, and procedures understood as applying equally to all persons, and the elevation of those principles, values, and procedures into a ruling ideology. In the classical liberalism of Locke, it means the definition of society in terms of the fundamental natural rights of life, liberty, and, property, and the formation by compact of a government to secure those rights. In the liberalism of the Progressive Era and the New Deal, it means action by government to prevent the powerful from having too much power over the powerless, and to protect people’s basic economic security. In the modern or postmodern liberalism of today, it means the elimination of all discrimination against, which in practice means the active approval of, all individuals and groups that are not of the majority culture. What the three types of liberalism have in common is that some aspect of equality—whether pertaining to natural rights, or to a minimum standard of economic security, or to freedom from any kind of discrimination or exclusion (if one belongs to a designated minority, that is)—formally becomes the highest principle of society. What all three types of liberalism lack is any principled adherence to non-liberal values. According to liberalism, all the non-liberal, concrete realities that have constituted our shared existence—religion, history, tradition, culture, nationhood, peoplehood, a way of life, a way of being—are ultimately as nothing. While lip service may be paid to those things from time to time, they lack any firm or honored place in the liberal philosophy, and in any conflict with liberal values they are increasingly cast aside. To liberalism, the highest thing, the only real thing, is the universalist liberal values. For example, the liberal ideal of tolerance and openness cannot articulate any limit to tolerance and openness.
Thus, even at its best, liberalism is unable, in a whole-hearted and confident way, to uphold the values of culture and nation, or to defend our culture against alien cultures. In a world of six billion people, the great majority of whom are non-Western, non-Christian, non-white, and unassimilable to our culture, and who moreover are vastly disadvantaged economically in relation to the West and desire the greater material goods and opportunities the West offers, the nations of the West cannot secure their own existence so long as they define themselves in terms of universal liberal values instead of in terms of their distinctive nationhood, culture, and civilization.
This does not mean that all liberal values must be rejected. The Classical liberalism of the American Founding is still true and vital, but it must be understood within the context of an actually existing people and culture, not turned into a freewheeling dynamic to transform humanity. Society’s concern for human welfare is a valid concern, but it must be limited (as Franklin Roosevelt in some of his speeches limited it) to the welfare of the people of this nation, not turned into a quasi-religious mandate to satisfy all human needs everywhere. At the same time, some types of liberalism are wholly destructive and must be wholly rejected, namely the modern liberalism that says that any act of discrimination (if it is committed by ourselves) is evil, for that liberalism is truly antithetical to our survival as a society.
So, when I say that the West must either cease to be liberal or cease to exist, I do not mean that all aspects of liberalism must be rejected. I mean that liberalism must be constrained within sane limits, and cease to be the ruling philosophy of the West.
Mark D. writes:
As you say, either liberalism ceases to be the ruling philosophy of the West or the West ceases to exist.My reply:
Yes. Liberalism is a monster that has been created by the society, and now has turned against it and is consuming it, even as it still carries the imprimatur of representing the society’s highest ideals.Jeff writes from England:
Based on the last paragraph of your recent well written “qualifying” blog about liberalism and its role in a conservative society, I feel we have a lot of common ground between us. Your conservatism with the best of liberalism thrown in (if I understand you correctly and am not simplifying too much) is a lot different from many other conservative agendas which dismiss liberalism totally. In addition, the so called “crunchy conservatism” movement includes part of what might be called a green countercultural agenda . That is a good thing, because as I’ve said, the hippie derived counterculture (not the New Left) is in many ways “traditionalist.” This “inclusiveness” of aspects of liberalism and counterculture greenism is the best way for conservatism to move forward. Your “qualifications” were very important to make, as there are so many definitions of liberalism and conservatism (and greenism) floating about.LA to Jeff:
Remember, this article is not about an ideal conservative society; such an article might be harder on liberalism. This article is about the minimum requirements for civilizational survival.Jeff replies:
Uh oh, we better not get to a totally ideal conservative society, I might be eliminated. I’m safe in the run up, right? Ha!… The relatively huge support for illegal immigrants over the weekend was disturbing. I’m glad Rahman was freed but whether he is hunted down remains to be seen and of course the Islamic “problem” remains. Just watched a very moving “liberal” pro-gay film, “The Children’s Hour” about the danger of being labeled lesbian (let alone being lesbian) in 1961 America. It starred Shirley McLaine (the very repressed lesbian), Audrey Hepburn (if I was a woman around her beauty I’d be lesbian too) and James Garner as the lover of Hepburn who has doubts) plus some great child actors (spreading rumours about McLaine and Hepburn etc.). Man, we forget how even an innuendo of being lesbian in 1961 could ruin one’s career. It reminds me of why I “joined” the American sixties radical movement (ironically that movement was to attack “liberalism” and “liberals” in quite a strong way). In addition one can debate the correctness of labeling a pro-gay film, “liberal.” Progressive may be a more accurate term as one could argue that being pro-gay is neither liberal or conservative. Again, it depends on how you use the terms. For me, the gay issue is a very mixed bag. While I believe that homosexuality is a distortion (I don’t use the words sickness or illness) of a higher spiritual state of things (sounds profound!) I strongly support people’s right to love in any manner they want as long as its consensual and of a reasonable age. I may not approve of it but if people are gay (and I believe most if not all of all homosexuality is genetic), they should have the right to practice it without persecution. I don’t approve of what’s called gay marriage but it’s still better than rampant gay male sexual promiscuity. I am strongly against gay adoption, especially gay male adoption.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 26, 2006 11:59 PM | Send