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Author Topic: Why I am not a liberal  (Read 9121 times)
Sibboleth Bist
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« on: December 06, 2009, 08:46:02 pm »
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I wrote this about two months ago. It was its problems and isn't a proper essay, but we don't use this board enough. The original context is easy enough to work out; I was originally going to edit it a little, but I think I'll let it stand as written. I'm happy to defend most of it, so long as criticism is substantial.

---

Anti-Liberalism

Given that I do not like to call myself a Marxist*, given the popularity of liberalism and related ideologies on the internet and given the increasing (and disturbing) tendency imported from America to equate "left-wing" and "liberal",a quick explanation of why there is an the anti-liberal aspect to this blog (presuming that it gets off the ground) is probably necessary. This post will, regrettably, deal in generalisation and simplification. But as this is a theme that I shall return to (repeatedly) I don't think this is a serious concern.

1. On one level I'm not actually anti-liberal at all; that is, to the extent that democracy, freedom of speech and other such basic rights can be considered as being "liberal". They sometimes are and, to an extent, with good reason. This is an important caveat, I think. My anti-liberalism lies elsewhere.

2. But one of my major problems with liberalism is actually its (fundamental and foundational) emphasis on rights and on liberty. Ultimately, liberalism holds that something is "good" if it maximises "freedom" and "bad" if it reduces or restricts it. Divisions within liberalism are largely concerned with the definition of "freedom" of "rights" and of "liberties" rather than anything more complex: compare New Liberalism (and its grandchildren), with its emphasis on "positive liberties" with the crazy world of American internet "libertarianism". They have apparently little in common (and in terms of public policy are often diametrically opposite - you only have to observe much of the opposition to the current administration in America to see that) but share common foundational assumptions and make judgements based on the same sort of critera). Liberalism does not, cannot, consider the possibility that restrictions on certain human behavior might sometimes be appropriate. Inevitably, liberal attempts to deal with this "problem" often reek of the worst sort of paternalism and double standards.

3. Which brings me to another issue I have with liberalism - its insufferable elitism. Liberalism is hardly alone in this respect (what was early Fabianism if not elitist? Are delusions of a "vanguard party" anything other than profoundly elitist ?) but of all ideologies with a universalist bent, it is clearly the worst offender historically (liberal opposition to universal sufferage was not exactly rare) and currently. Given that liberalism is an ideology of the Enlightenment (even to the extent of being an ideology of supposed enlightenment - there's a reason for the traditional liberal emphasis on the importance of education beyond altruism and the needs of capitalism) this is perhaps inevitable. I find this objectionable not just for the predictable issues that the son of a manual worker might have with elitism, but because contempt for ordinary people is, in my opinion, anathema to Socialism.

4. It must also (and finally for now) be recognised that liberalism is, above all, an individualist ideology and individualism is ultimately opposed to collectivism**. This may seem like an obvious point, but it's one that seems to be increasingly forgotten by much of the intellectual Left these days. It matters because there is no way that society can be significantly changed in a positive direction as a result of policies designed by an individualist thought process (another basic and totally obvious point, I hope) and because collective rights are ultimately incompatible with an ideology that places the rights and the liberty of the individual before everything else.

There is more to say, of course. But that can be left for later.

*Which isn't to deny being influenced by Marx and Marxism to an extent - though often as a reaction against it. Also, given the lack of knowledge of Marxism possessed by the average professed "Marxist ", "I do not like to call myself a Marxist" made more sense to write than "I am not a Marxist" as many, probably a majority, of self-identified Marxists cannot seriously be considered as such.

**Which isn't to say that collectivism must always deny the existence and rights of an individual. Still, individualistic ideologies seem to be as prone to do that as collectivist ones these days...
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Sibboleth Bist
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« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2009, 08:51:28 pm »
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I actually manged to attract some abusive responses when I first wrote and posted this. Highlights:
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If you read Hayek, you gormless twat, you will discover that you are in fact a fascist but haven't realised it yet.

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...execrable hymn to totalitarianism...

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Vepres
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« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2009, 09:14:06 pm »
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Interesting perspective, though very subjective (obviously)

2. What's wrong with America's definition of liberal? We can call them what we want.

3. Sweeping generalization fallacy (though there are elitists who are liberals)

4. So you'd rather everybody be a drone of the state? Most of society's greatest advancements in any area were caused by individuals who thought independently and differently of others.
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Sibboleth Bist
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« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2009, 09:48:28 pm »
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2. What's wrong with America's definition of liberal? We can call them what we want.

You can call people whatever you want, but then you can also call a tree a rock, if you want. Regardless, my main problem is a) with the tendency to assume that liberal = left wing and that left wing = liberal and b) that this is increasingly common outside the U.S.

Quote
3. Sweeping generalization fallacy (though there are elitists who are liberals)

My point is not to say that 'some liberals are elitist, therefore...' but to argue that liberalism is an inherently elitist ideology. I think I will now go further and argue that elitism is a critical element to liberalism and that it is impossible to have a non-elitist form of liberalism.

Quote
4. So you'd rather everybody be a drone of the state? Most of society's greatest advancements in any area were caused by individuals who thought independently and differently of others.

At no point did I argue in favour of turning people into drones of the state. At no point did I argue against the achievements of individuals*. I am opposed to individualism, not to the existence of the individual. I actually think there are serious problems in drawing a strict line between the individual and the collective, but this is about isms.

*Though I would tend to downplay their historical significance for reasons that would bore most people here to tears.
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Vepres
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« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2009, 09:52:21 pm »
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2. What's wrong with America's definition of liberal? We can call them what we want.

You can call people whatever you want, but then you can also call a tree a rock, if you want. Regardless, my main problem is a) with the tendency to assume that liberal = left wing and that left wing = liberal and b) that this is increasingly common outside the U.S.

Languages evolve, not a big deal.

Quote
Quote
4. So you'd rather everybody be a drone of the state? Most of society's greatest advancements in any area were caused by individuals who thought independently and differently of others.

At no point did I argue in favour of turning people into drones of the state. At no point did I argue against the achievements of individuals*. I am opposed to individualism, not to the existence of the individual. I actually think there are serious problems in drawing a strict line between the individual and the collective, but this is about isms.[/quote]

Oh sure, but many would argue that, for the most part, individualism benefits the collective. Look at ancient Athens, a hub of culture, philosophy, and science in its time. They began to prosper when they instituted a very liberal (for the time) system of government.
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« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2009, 10:01:49 pm »
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I'm not on the same page as you ideologically, but I certainly am on a terminological level.  I'm not afraid of the State, and I do honestly believe that the State can be a strong positive force in society, something that is increasingly unpopular to say.  (Perhaps because I know quite a few government workers, I have a good deal more sympathy with them than your average hater of a faceless "bureaucracy")  As you well know, I am no socialist, but I do not see socialism as a dirty word.

I have far more in common with Al than I do with the deranged, growing movement of modern libertarianism, one of the most ly frustrating ideologies in existence.  The sheer arrogance of libertarians, coupled with the unfailing smugness and the circular logic, makes them the Marxists of the 21st century (in terms of being dogmatic, impossible to communicate with brick walls).
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« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2009, 09:23:42 pm »
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I recall reading this in its original location. It certainly made me think.

What exactly is a "gormless twat"?
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Sibboleth Bist
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« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2009, 09:36:39 pm »
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I recall reading this in its original location. It certainly made me think.

What exactly is a "gormless twat"?

A vagina lacking in gorm.
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Mint
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« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2009, 11:00:39 pm »
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Sadly I agree with all your criticisms pretty much, at least on a philosophical level.
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Alexander Hamilton
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« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2009, 11:02:53 pm »
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I'm a liberal nationalist.
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« Reply #10 on: December 07, 2009, 11:18:30 pm »
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I'm a liberal nationalist.

Yuck to the max.
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Alexander Hamilton
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« Reply #11 on: December 07, 2009, 11:32:36 pm »
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You support interventionism and warmongering?
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Mint
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« Reply #12 on: December 08, 2009, 12:34:45 am »
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You support interventionism and warmongering?

People have a fundamental misunderstanding what the term 'nationalist' means, especially in a traditional american context. All nationalism means is establishing or protecting your homeland, guys - pretty much indistinguishable from 'patriotism.' It's not inherently chauvinist or whatever unless taken to an extreme.
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Хahar
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« Reply #13 on: December 08, 2009, 12:51:14 am »
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I recall reading this in its original location. It certainly made me think.

What exactly is a "gormless twat"?

A vagina lacking in gorm.

What is gorm?
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Beet
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« Reply #14 on: December 08, 2009, 01:03:24 am »

I recall reading this in its original location. It certainly made me think.

What exactly is a "gormless twat"?

A vagina lacking in gorm.

What is gorm?

Something that no one expects from vaginas.

Mint: Correct. The term for that is jingoism.
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« Reply #15 on: December 08, 2009, 05:46:07 am »
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Nationalism is just another form of collectivism.
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Alexander Hamilton
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« Reply #16 on: December 08, 2009, 05:48:28 am »
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You support interventionism and warmongering?

People have a fundamental misunderstanding what the term 'nationalist' means, especially in a traditional american context. All nationalism means is establishing or protecting your homeland, guys - pretty much indistinguishable from 'patriotism.' It's not inherently chauvinist or whatever unless taken to an extreme.

Patriotism isn't even required... simple social contract theory tells us that the government is here to protect the people, therefore, our government should be serving our interests. Lindbergh and Bob Taft were nationalists.
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« Reply #17 on: December 08, 2009, 06:32:49 am »
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Nationalism is just another form of collectivism.

Wrong.

See? I can do one liners too.
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Хahar
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« Reply #18 on: December 08, 2009, 09:59:19 pm »
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Until you can use the big words you just learned, keep them out of this board.
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« Reply #19 on: December 09, 2009, 01:32:05 am »
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Interesting post, Al.

From my (admittedly not that great) understand of Marxism, isn't the end goal, after the proletarian revolution and the establishment of a communist state, the emergence of free and autonomous individuals and the "emancipation of the proletariat"? Admittedly, the Marxist definition of freedom is different from the libertarian/conservative definition, but the end goal is still a free society of free human beings, free of the obstacles of class division and unequal opportunity and with the freedom to pursue human needs.
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Sibboleth Bist
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« Reply #20 on: December 09, 2009, 03:02:06 pm »
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Interesting post, Al.

From my (admittedly not that great) understand of Marxism, isn't the end goal, after the proletarian revolution and the establishment of a communist state, the emergence of free and autonomous individuals and the "emancipation of the proletariat"? Admittedly, the Marxist definition of freedom is different from the libertarian/conservative definition, but the end goal is still a free society of free human beings, free of the obstacles of class division and unequal opportunity and with the freedom to pursue human needs.

I'm not a Marxist, so why should that matter to me? Smiley

Seriously though, Marx himself was extremely vague about what his end-state would look like and doesn't seem to have devoted much attention to it - what he wrote on the subject reads like a fairly standard utopia, not really worth much in its own right (contrast with, say, News From Nowhere or numerous stuff by French writers). But my point wasn't about the utopia at the end of the rainbow of historical materialism or of any liberal visions of a better world, but the practical side of ideology. Marxism does not rely on the freedom = good principle that is at the heart of liberalism (and which also explains the popularity of liberalism (in all its forms) on the internets), even if orthodox Marxism holds that the fight for basic liberal freedoms was/is something that Marxists should be involved in and even if an idea of freedom (though a radically different one, based on collective, rather than individual, rights) is the ultimate goal of orthodox Marxism.
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« Reply #21 on: December 09, 2009, 03:12:55 pm »
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'Kay, before going to the original post let me first say I'm still rocking with suppressed laughter over "a vagina lacking in gorm", and shoot off this little one:

All nationalism means is establishing or protecting your homeland, guys - pretty much indistinguishable from 'patriotism.' It's not inherently chauvinist or whatever unless taken to an extreme.
Not really, though that is indeed what it may look like to a nationalist - it also means taking for granted that there is such a thing as a more or less clearly definable homeland that is not in large part a social construction. It's that fallacy that created all the evil and bloodshed, you see...
And also that there aren't any social layers of similar relevance between the nation/state and the individual. Which ties in with what I'll try to say in my next post, which will be about the original post.
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Sibboleth Bist
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« Reply #22 on: December 09, 2009, 03:16:16 pm »
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'Kay, before going to the original post

In my pre-emptive defense, I was still on heavy doses of tramadol at the time. A lot towards the end (especially) is kinda problematic. I know what I meant, but don't think it comes off quite as intended.
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« Reply #23 on: December 09, 2009, 03:35:24 pm »
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I just abandoned my own post because it got too long and rambling and lost sight of the main point.

It was going to be about the negation (by liberalism, by nationalism, by Marxism though I hadn't gotten to writing anything about that) of rights held by any unit - any collective - larger than the individual and smaller than the state. Which is rather a huge deviation from historic human experience built around such collectives.

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Lewis Trondheim
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« Reply #24 on: December 09, 2009, 03:36:20 pm »
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Quote
3. Sweeping generalization fallacy (though there are elitists who are liberals)

My point is not to say that 'some liberals are elitist, therefore...' but to argue that liberalism is an inherently elitist ideology. I think I will now go further and argue that elitism is a critical element to liberalism and that it is impossible to have a non-elitist form of liberalism.
Yeah, I'd like that bit explained, actually. I can see where you may have been coming from, but...
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"The secret to having a rewarding work-life balance is to have no life. Then it's easy to keep things balanced by doing no work." Wally



"Our party do not have any ideology... Our main aim is to grab power ... Every one is doing so but I say it openly." Keshav Dev Maurya
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