Friday, July 24, 2009

More on liberal and illiberal revolutions

In response to my previous posting on liberal and illiberal revolutions I received this comment from Jim Bennett, the guru, if I may put it that way though he will probably hate the word, of Anglospherism and author of "The Anglosphere Challenge":
What is complicating the issue of liberal versus illiberal revolutions is that the English-speaking world has creatd a hybrid liberalism (what Americans now call "liberalism") that preserves the theoretical goal of a world in which individuals are free to pursue their interests as they see fit, but argues that 1) modern circumstanceshave created conditions -- monopolies, "hidden
persuaders", corporate abuse -- that constitute de facto constraints on personal freedom, and 2) the task of government is therefore to create structures that help individuals avoid these constraints -- government intervention to create true free markets. The regulatory philosophies that created anti-trust law, the Interstate Commerce commission, and the Securities and
Exchange Commission are examples. Buried deep within its assumptions, like an insect in amber, is the abstract goal of freemarkets and personal freedom. In practice, of course, it mostly operates illiberally, like socialism.

This began in England in the late nineteenth century, with the leftwing of the Liberal Party. It got picked up in America as part of the Progressive package, and was implemented by Wilson, Hoover, and F D Roosevelt. It was partly eclipsed by Labour social democracy and democratic socialism -- sometimes sectors of the British economy, like the financial sector, were less regulated under Labour than America's,because the Labourites tended to assume they would
just nationalize it soon enough, so why bother creating a regulatory system for it. It was Blair, I think, who really re-imported this strand of liberalism back into British politics.

This situation has many problems, but one is that these illiberal liberals take up the political space in which a genuine liberalism might be flourishing. And all the while they claim to be working forpersonal freedom and true "modern" capitalism.
Jim agrees with me that true liberalism has been almost completely sidelined in Britain and British politics. Bringing it back to the centre will be a very difficult task.

What the above brief analysis leaves out is the role of the EU in the creation of that illiberal liberalism, of which the clearest example is the single market which is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a free market even if it is presented as such.

Far from being some foreign invention imposed on British business, it is, to an astonishing extent a creation of the British negotiators and representatives. This, naturally, leads us to the problem of the Conservative party and government, as guilty as Blair's NuLab of creating the illiberal liberal structure of a supposed free economy run by government regulations.


  1. That is a great problem... illiberal liberalism.

    I'd put it down to the Cult of Man which, as the Enlightenment progressed, replaced a Christian world view among elites.

    This was about the same time Jewish intellectuals were permitted to do philosophy, but I'm not claiming they lit the touch-paper.

    What we call the US Revolution and the Glorious Revolution were limited because they were done under the authority of God, not Man.

    As such the elite was under no pressure to create the conditions of freedom themselves. They were ultimately servants of God, not Men.

    So what is missing from liberalism... Christianity.

  2. Therewaslight said "So what is missing from liberalism... Christianity." But Christianity assumes that people take personal responsibility for looking after each other and for their actions. We live in a God rejecting world where people are out for themselves.

    We can try to show people that life would be much better if they lived kindly and justly, as Micah said, "and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" However, when that is rejected by the majority, we have to work with that fact.

    What then do we do? Total freedom will not work in a self seeking world so regulation is required to stop us going back to the satanic mills and mill owner type of society. So the question is not that we should have liberty, but it is about how much we should constrain the powerful from abusing the weak. I don't pretend to know the answer, but a totally free society, in this atmosphere of self, self would destroy itself, IMO.

  3. Although political leaders are Christian, modern political systems are designed with an atheist, not Christian, world view in mind.

    This view is that it is Man's duty, and Man's responsibility, to spread virtue, on Earth. They believe they can construct most virtuous society is possible - this is the root of ideology.

    The US "Revolution" was incredible because rather than, like the French revolution, enshrining in law man's infinite perfection it recognised Man's limits, and imposed constraints on him.

    Jesus died in the ultimate act of altruism so we don't have to. The message of Christianity was asking for forgiveness, not selling the barn or being taxed to the eyebrows to expunge your guilt.

  4. I fear that using the term liberal in any shape (even preceded with an-il- ) will confuse and trick the large body of voters who are liberal by nature. By definition it must be impossable to be a genuine liberal and socialist at the same time as all left wing policies are authortarian, the diametric opposite of libertarian.Any Liberal politician who spouts tax and spend is a fraud-and a socialist. Only a certified lunatic would describe todays democratic party as liberal.This fraud is bad for the future of liberal politics because when the backlash arrives liberal will become a dirty word (and the control freaks will slide across to the convinience flag of popular choice) I would hope to see people take the liberal standard back from the fascists who stole it.