Thursday, August 30, 2007

"Liberalism," as Seen by Liberals

This is from a book review in The Washington Post. The book attempts to rehabilitate "liberalism" in the United States. The book seems unwittingly to disclose the truth about the modern version of liberalism, which is not liberal all:
...The revolutions in 17th-century England that limited monarchical power, for example, left English subjects paying higher taxes [emphasis added] than any other people in Europe.

By opening up power to progressively broader participation, liberal constitutions have subjected government to scrutiny, criticism and even resistance, and thus have helped to protect citizens against overweening bureaucracies. At the same time, they have made democratic states more legitimate and have enabled them to borrow, tax and, until recently, conscript more and more. Paradoxically, then, constitutionally limited states [i.e., "liberal" states] historically have wielded more power than despotic ones [emphasis added]....

Although [the author] recognizes that those who rebelled against liberalism in the United States felt disrespected by the liberal elite, he pays too little attention to this emotional side of the debate. In an alarmingly colossal understatement, he says of the 1960s, "The experience of that time did give rise to some legitimate concerns about what liberalism stands for and whether it works." Liberalism's revival now depends not just on reaffirming its core values and achievements, as Starr does so insightfully, but also on repairing relations with lower-middle-class voters whose religiosity, anxieties about globalization and fears of rapid social change were often dismissed by liberal leaders. To be right is never enough in politics; to appear condescending is fatal.
An enlightened liberal (newsman Frank Mele) sees it this way:
[C]onsidering that I was raised as a good Democrat and a proud liberal, it pains me to have to admit such distaste for the current state of liberalism....

Week after week, I endeavor to write columns which raise questions and propose answers. Week after week I am told by my liberal friends that my questions are foolish and my answers are stupid. Yet I wait in vain for anyone to read my last two columns on global warming and show me where I went wrong. What I hear instead is that “all” the climate scientists in the world agree that global warming is man-made and ruinous, with the implication left hanging or spoken aloud that I am supposed to shut up, get in line and do what I am told.

Sorry, but I don’t work that way.

What I believe in is looking at the evidence for myself, weighing it with the scales of logic and reason, and then making up my own mind. I have been studying the evidence on global warming for more than two years, and for all the reasons already listed the past two weeks I am convinced that this is a manufactured crisis....

It is almost as though liberals are at war with liberalism itself — with the spirit of freedom. Consider, for instance, what liberals themselves say they believe in. Geoffrey Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago, wrote an interesting essay on “What it means to be a liberal” in which he lists 10 fundamental principals that encapsulate the liberal position. [For my analysis of Stone's essay, go here: ED.] Here are the first three:

“1. Liberals believe individuals should doubt their own truths and consider fairly and open-mindedly the truths of others.

“2. Liberals believe individuals should be tolerant and respectful of difference.

“3. Liberals believe individuals have a right and a responsibility to participate in public debate....”

Say what?

I just need to look at my mail bag to know that some liberals have gone seriously astray in their efforts to “doubt their own truths” and “be tolerant and respectful of difference.” And as for rights, the only one I know for sure that liberals apportion to me is “the right to remain silent.”

Here are a few examples of liberals “doubting their own truth” in response to my last two columns on global warming (note: grammatical and spelling errors have been corrected):

• “Those who claim that research has been falsified have not been able to demonstrate that to legitimate climatologists. It’s easy to make claims. It’s not so easy to back them up. But I’m not surprised that those on the right don’t understand how science works. Those facts are cleverly hidden in books.”

• “The way Frank Miele cherry-picks factoids to match his Rush Limbaugh opinions right down the line every week is absolutely irresponsible. He says there is no ‘scientific certitude about a long-range trend’ but he doesn’t seem to realize the simple fact that there is no such thing as scientific certitude. There is however something called ‘likelihood.’ The overwhelming evidence is that this warming trend is most likely to be due to human activity. But Frank and his right-wing cronies only like things to be black or white.”

• “Another right-wing rant... Frank does not appear to understand science.”

• “With all your latent scientific knowledge you should be the USA’s leading climate scientist. The problem is not that you’re a schmuck, which you are, or that you’re an a--hole, which you are, but that you’re a damned FOOL.”

Nor is this kind of ambush mentality limited to liberals who read my column, and want to shut me up. It appears to be part and parcel of the liberal agenda to bring all humanity into compliance with — well — the liberal agenda.

An example of this mentality was exhibited by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. during the “Live Earth” concert last month, when he jumped into the vanguard of global warming fanatics by denouncing skeptics as “corporate toadies” for “villainous” enemies. Remarkably, he declared that holding a scientific view counter to his own was “treason,” and said, “we need to start treating them now as traitors.”

“Off with their heads,” as the equally emphatic Queen told Alice in Wonderland.

Fortunately, RFK Jr. does not control public policy yet, but he speaks for a large group of people in this country who want to silence or besmirch the opposition. In a sense, the Global Warming Movement is the framework for a liberals’ version of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, although presumably without the bloodshed. Today’s “corporate toadies” would have been called “capitalist roaders” back in 1966 when Mao launched his attack on the culture, history and freedom of his own people — but aren’t they really the same thing? Isn’t the name-calling just an effort to stifle debate?

The Cultural Revolution was an effort to institutionalize Communist Party thinking as the mechanism of massive social change under the guise of inevitable progress. Similarly, the Global Warming Movement is intent on institutionalizing environmental thinking that will lead to massive social change under the guise of indisputable science. Mao used the Cultural Revolution to empower the masses to crush intellectual debate and the free exchange of ideas in the service of the “higher calling” of “class struggle.” The Global Warming Movement is empowering the mass media to crush intellectual debate in the service of the “higher calling” of “saving the planet.”...

Liberal or not, it is up to all of us to listen to opposing ideas, expose ourselves to challenges, and engage in Socratic dialogue. Otherwise we will be no more than stagnant, unevolving, politically correct lumps of mud that will never experience the pleasure of walking upright, unafraid and unbowed.

It is time to live the life of free thought that we espouse.
(Thanks to John Ray for the pointer to Mele's column.)