Thursday, January 9, 2020

Abandoning the liberal ideal

As I follow instances of the public discussion these days, I, like many, am alarmed (more than usual) by its tone. I refer mostly to the move away from the embrace of equal individual liberty as the highest universal value. It is usual to find people maintaining such a position but not understanding (or fully understanding) its implications in terms of policy or economics and thus supporting policies that greatly compromise that ideal. This is the long-standing problem with what is known traditionally as "liberalism" in America. But, lately, this has changed. Now it is not so much that people misunderstand the implications of the liberal ideal as that they have abandoned it!! They have abandoned it for a vague consequentialist agenda, a shopping lists of outcomes whose worth justifies the illiberal means to their attainment. This is a dramatic authoritarian turn, no longer paying even lip service to the sanctity of individual liberty.
A dead giveaway for detecting this are, for example, in relation to the oppressive treatment of women and gays in other countries and the extent to which these "new liberals" (progressives) will make excuses for this (based on a cultural relativist criterion) carefully avoiding any kind of condemnation. Another of course is the extent to which they advocate trammeling the rights of "rich people".