(Where) default lies
December 2, 2013 § 83 Comments
My understanding of liberalism has been criticized over the years on what amounts to “no true Scotsman” grounds. The idea here seems to be that because most liberals – especially the right-liberals that in America we call “conservatives” – make unprincipled exceptions to their liberalism, relatively few people out on the extreme left wing of politics are liberal in a sense that falls under my critique. Everyone else – usually meaning “conservatives” – who supports political freedom and equality is simply being sensible and loyal to his heritage, as long as his liberalism doesn’t become ideological and trump common sense.
There are several problems with this view, but here I will just point out one.
Most human beings only have so much room in their personas for political policies that they care about passionately. One faction might care deeply about (say) abortion and sodomite parodies of marriage, while in the economic domain simply defaulting to the classical liberal view of property. Another group might care deeply about different things. In those areas where they are passionate, default liberalism does not trump common sense. But in all other areas they will default to supporting whatever cursorily seems to them to be most coherent with democratic values, equal rights, freedom, and other liberal slogans.
When this process is extrapolated to society as a whole, what happens is that liberalism – the default political doctrine for both right and left liberals – trumps whatever opposes liberalism. Illiberal values are isolated and steamrolled by the combination of leftist ideology with the great mass of liberal default.
So the enemies of the good, the true, and the beautiful aren’t just vehemently ideological liberals. The enemies of the good, the true, and the beautiful include everyone who will reflexively default to political freedom and equal rights in areas about which he is otherwise indifferent.
And that is almost everyone in modern Western societies.