Sunday, October 26, 2008

What is liberalism?

Here's a good post on a subject near and dear to some of us, and which we've discussed numerous times before here and elsewhere:

In this post, Zippy Catholic decries the lack of an "anchor political conservatism" which would be an effective counter to the dominant core worldview of the liberal.

The first commenter on the thread asks for a definition of liberalism, and then asks "What is the antithesis of liberalism?"

I've read the existing comments, and there are several, but it seems no one has come up with a solid definition as requested. We've covered similar territory on this blog, as my longtime readers will remember. So I won't attempt to re-plow that same ground, but any of you who can offer a good definition of liberalism are welcome to do so.

A good definition of liberalism. hmmm.

I also read Zippy's entry yesterday and thought I'd try to keep up with the discussion as it unfolded. Here is W-4 contributor, Lydia McGrew's latest comment to the entry, followed by my response to Lydia:

Lydia writes:

But people are always noting how ethical liberalism really is. For example, racism is a sin. Or I have just been debating a bit with two rather extreme liberals who obviously believe that not agreeing to be an organ donor is a sin. Not that they use the word "sin," but they definitely believe it is wrong, to the point that your wishes should be ignored. Racists should be punished. And so forth.

I think the contradictions inherent in liberalism as we are discussing it here are so rampant that there may be no _consistent_ picture of liberalism understood on its own terms, because it just isn't internally consistent.

TM to Lydia:


Liberalism is consistently inconsistent; therein does its internal consistency lie. If it weren't internally consistent in some way it would instantly destroy itself.

You are right, though, that liberalism founds its specious claims on ethics and morality, always. Here again it is found consistent. The whole idea that "you can't legislate morality" is founded on the idea that it is wrong, unethical -- IMMORAL -- to legislate morality, that is, a morality that is inconsistent with the doctrine of liberalism, thus the claim is self-defeating because it's good, right -- MORAL -- to legislate that which is consistent with the doctrine of liberalism. Liberals love to legislate morality, and indeed cannot avoid doing so -- liberal morality -- while in the same breath insisting that we can't, or shouldn't.

Virtually all, if not all (I tend to believe the latter), laws are founded on a moral perspective, someone's moral perspective. Even the most immoral piece of legislation (abortion legalization as an example) is founded on a moral perspective, i.e., that it is wrong (immoral) to deny a woman's right to choose.

It is quite literally impossible for moral beings to be or act otherwise.

Speaking of which, I've always denied the legitimacy of the term amoral. To my way of thinking (yeah; it's pretty black and white) moral and immoral exhaust the options when we're talking about moral beings, therefore the term amoral, as applied to moral beings in whatever capacity, is illegitimate. To say our society is "amoral" (an argument I've heard used several times before), in my opinion, is a misdiagnosis. If I'm right that it is a misdiagnosis, then what does this portend for the results of the treatments that we prescribe on the basis of this misdiagnosis? Well, that's a subject for another post, I guess.

The main thrust of this post is this -- can we lay down a good, solid, concise definition of liberalism? I think I have a pretty good one if anyone should care to see it, but I will caution you that it is not sophisticated, nuanced, or otherwise intellectually driven. It is, to the contrary, very simple and very concise, and strikes at the heart of what I personally believe liberalism boils down to at bottom, notwithstanding the claims of some of its adherents...


Call Me Mom said...

American Heritage Dictionary-

1.) Generous in amount or in giving.
2.) Approximate; loose.
3.) Of or relating to the cultivation of general knowledge and the humanities: the liberal arts.
4.) Broad-minded; tolerant.
5.) Favoring civil liberties, democratic reforms, and the use of public resources to to promote social progress.
-n. One holding liberal political or cultural views.

How's that for a base line starting point?

Evil Style Queen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Evil Style Queen said...

I note that laissez-faire politics, what we call "liberal economic politics" are not included here. Is that a purely linguistic matter? Don't you use the word "liberal" in that specific context?

It's me, The Editrix. I was again too lazy to switch IDs.