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Friday, 22 May 2015

Thoughts on Liberalism.

Liberalism.
Much maligned and often misrepresented (even by it's staunch proponents) it is without doubt one of the most important political ideologies in human history.

First, to nail down my definition.
A liberal portion is generous, a liberal attitude is tolerant or moderate.
As a political principle liberalism has always placed personal liberty, freedom of expression and secular society highly.
If you believe in freedom of speech (no matter how offensive), the free market and freedom of (or from) religion, you are practising Liberal attitudes. (note: Liberalism as a movement or ideology does not have a monopoly on these things, but the point remains)

In the UK, Liberalism has maintained it's definition.
It is the middle ground between conservatives and socialists.
Now, in some ways this is immensely positive as all mainstream parties have adopted some measure of liberalism, as have the core political ideologies behind them.
In others it has come to reflect a lack of conviction, fence sitting indecision and conflicting policies.
Small L liberalism has won throughout the Western world, and no amount of pretending the word is a curse word will change that reality.

Sadly, American Liberalism (and the political left internationally) has been somewhat coopted by groups and individuals that are not liberal at all.

Anything that undermines individual freedom is against liberalism.
This is a hard line, but difficult to describe.
Personal liberty must have some limit, or I could just walk into your house and take your shit.
I think it's fairly obvious when we are limited so that others may be extended their rights, but there is plenty of ambiguity to argue over the specifics.
Anyone suggesting that individual rights are somehow subordinate to the needs of society is not a liberal.

Free Markets.
Liberalism does not promote state capitalism or socialism.
One of the core tenets of liberalism are property rights, which are the basis of capitalist economies; flawed though I find our modern standards they're a damn sight better than history can provide. Capitalism is not perfect. Anyone saying it is needs to be taken into a padded room, but much like democracy itself; it's an horrendous way of doing things, the only virtue being that it's superior to all alternatives.
Anyone opposing capitalism (even as much as I do, which is to focus on the criticisms) is not a liberal.

Secular society.
Religious tolerance is the cornerstone of liberalism.
Sadly, this is often taken to ridiculous extremes lately with much "progressive" media desperate to defend intolerable religious practices and preach moral relativism.
This can only end in division and intolerance reciprocated from both sides of the divide created.
Anybody suggesting that the religious rights of one person or ideology should be afforded extra protection or reverence is not a liberal.

Now "Social Liberalism" as an ideology complicates matters, but honestly I see it as entirely unrelated to liberalism as an economic or political philosophy.
This laudable set of values grew from classical liberalism, but is such a diverse and divisive concept that it should be placed firmly in it's own category.
For one, I believe that almost the entire Western world is socially liberal.
The trouble comes when zealous ideologues use people's altruistic desires for a tolerant and inclusive culture to promote attitudes of intolerance, bigotry and blame.
This has been a growing problem amongst liberals and the political left, as "call out culture" reaches new heights, all in the name of "inclusion"
The dichotomy and hypocrisy of the practice disturbs me more because so many people refuse to condemn it.

Liberalism might have sown the seeds of social liberalism, and the ubiquity of social liberalism might have allowed the authoritarian "progressives" we should rightly and ironically label "social justice warriors" to flourish, but they are none of them synonymous.
I for one hope that Libertarians will reach a moderate consensus and appreciate just how much they share with Liberals they so often vilify.
Only by unifying reasonable people across political divides can we hope to combat the identity politics endemic on the extreme ends of all ideologies.
Iidentity politics are as inimical to liberalism as they are to libertarians.