Some honest definitions of liberal slogans

June 9, 2014 § 38 Comments

The lie at the center of liberalism is its claim to metaphysical neutrality within some political scope, when in fact metaphysical neutrality is always impossible. Politics just is authoritative discrimination in support of some particular conception of the good.

With that in mind, I propose the following honest definitions of liberal slogans:

freedom: Comprehensively enforced societal approval of a particular permutation space of preferences, along with the claim that this particular set of preferences is metaphysically neutral

equality: The reconstruction of the world by politics to make it as if a certain set of facts were not true, along with the claim that the selection of the set of facts to be suppressed is metaphysically neutral

rights: The set of non-negotiable preferences which must be forced on everyone, along with the claim that doing so does not favor certain preferences over others

Any alternatives/others/thoughts?

§ 38 Responses to Some honest definitions of liberal slogans

  • Mike T says:

    The set of non-negotiable preferences which must be forced on everyone, along with the claim that doing so does not favor certain preferences over others

    I think this is true of liberals, but not libertarians. Libertarians will by and large tell you that they don’t give a flying f#$% what your preferences are if they perceive their actions as harmless and you want to enforce your preferences without a clear and powerful argument for why their actions will lead to meaningful harm to others’ lives, liberty and property.

  • Zippy says:

    Libertarians use words like “force”, “fraud”, and “harm” to obscure the fact that they are doing the exact same thing as other liberals: claiming neutrality while forcing their particular conception of the good on everyone.

  • Mike T says:

    I don’t know what libertarians you’ve met, but the ones I’ve met (including myself when I was one) were never under the impession that they were doing something other than that. Libertarians tend to be a lot more clear-eyed on this than liberals, which is why libertarians tend to be hated more vehemently than conservatives by liberals.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    Libertarians in my experience never admit that they are initiating force in favor of their particular conception of the good without ceasing to be libertarian.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    By the way your first objection misses the mark too: the preferences that libertarians give all kinds of flying f***s about are the preferences of (their conception of) property owners. The point of the post is honest liberal slogans, not comfortable constructions of liberal slogans that affirm libertarians in their okayness.

  • Mike T says:

    The point of the post is honest liberal slogans, not comfortable constructions of liberal slogans that affirm libertarians in their okayness.

    You opened the door to that when you kept insisting throughout many posts that libertarians are just another flavor of liberalism. In fact, many libertarians would probably agree with your take on liberals here since most libertarians tend to despise the liberal conceptions of equality, freedom and rights.

    (I would define libertarians as modern day, more secular classical liberalism fundamentalists)

  • Zippy says:

    Libertarians actually are just another flavor of liberal though, and the definitions above apply to them as much as to (say) a modern secular welfare-state leftist.

  • There’s many others:

    Acceptance
    Bigot
    Racism
    Misogynist
    Nice / mean

    Perhaps the best one from a pseudo-Christian point of view is “love”

  • Zippy says:

    Deep Strength:
    Do you have suggestions for honest definitions of those terms as liberal slogans?

  • donalgraeme says:

    A Misogynist is anyone who holds a non-negotiable preference that clashes with the preference of any individual woman, or an individual claiming to be a woman or to identify as a woman or to identify with women.

    That work?

  • libertarians are either liberals or liars. Sometimes people are stuck lying about their beliefs in order not to get punished.

  • CJ says:

    Tolerance: Claiming the moral high ground by demanding societal affirmation of one set of non-negotiable preferences while refusing to tolerate incompatible preferences.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    @ CJ:

    Append “along with the claim that doing so does not favor certain preferences over others” and you’ve got it.

  • CJ says:

    @JustSomeGuy:

    Thanks for the addendum. You’re absolutely right.

  • […] the previous post I proposed a definition of the liberal slogan […]

  • Peter Blood says:

    Kalb’s description of liberalism as “ruling while pretending not to rule” is pretty good. The words you’re looking at attest to it. Along with that voting is not ruling, but affirming subjection to the rulers.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Liberalism may be defined as the denial of the political nature of man whereby mankind is organized into particular self-ruling morally authoritative communities that are called Nations.

    Libertarians deny moral authority to the community.
    Progressives deny particularity.

    Both seek to erase the neighbor-stranger distinction.
    Libertarian would make everybody a stranger to everybody else.
    While Progressive would make everybody a neighbor to everybody else.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    The existence of moral authority of a community presupposes Equality, Liberty and Solidarity, understood properly.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    Liberalism may be defined as the denial of the political nature of man whereby mankind is organized into particular self-ruling morally authoritative communities that are called Nations.

    May I direct you to this Zippy post?

    The existence of moral authority of a community presupposes Equality, Liberty and Solidarity, understood properly.

    And what, precisely, are equality and liberty “understood properly”? If they mean the only legitimate thing they can mean – that is, “people (and, by extension, the governments which they make up) should do good and avoid evil” – then there’s no point in even having seperate words which correspond to that essence. People should just do good and avoid evil.

    Additionally, trying to redefine liberalism’s buzzwords to mean something legitimate (like the all too often “freedom really means the right to do what I should, as opposed to the right to do what I want”) is just buying into a counterproductive word-game. It’s an attempt to save a self-contradictory political doctrine from itself, rather than abandoning it, as we should.

    The only standard by which I judge a government is “Does this government promote the good and prevent the evil?”

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Govt exists to further Common Good (and not just any good). Common Good exists when there is actually something in Common and that requires a certain solidarity.

    As man is a rational animal, govt futhers common good through deliberation on the common good. The deliberation absolutely requires Liberty.

    Equality is a mystical doctrine but the definition of justice absolutely depends upon a recognition of a certain equality of men.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    “Liberalism is the political doctrine that securing individual freedom and equal rights is the primary legitimate purpose of government”

    This definition is problematic since “freedom” needs to be defined and distinguished from license.

    Conservatives value economic freedom but not so much freedom from sexual morality.
    Progressives are otherwise.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    However, I fully agree with Zippy that
    “Liberalism is an attempt to produce a priori by universal fiat that which can only be emergent and particular, and without the pesky constraint of requiring good behaviour.”

  • Ita Scripta Est says:

    “rule of law”

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    govt futhers common good through deliberation on the common good. The deliberation absolutely requires Liberty.

    By “Liberty” you seem to mean “the right to speak truth”, which is another way of saying, “the right to not lie”. I’d like to point out that it is, in fact, morally obligatory to not lie. A just government promotes the good and prevents the evil – meaning it’s A-OK with moral behavior.

    It seems to me that you’re trying to redefine a liberal buzzword to make it consistent with moral behavior, instead of just abandoning it.

    Equality is a mystical doctrine but the definition of justice absolutely depends upon a recognition of a certain equality of men.

    Are you referring to the vast and incommensurable human dignity shared by us all? Because all that means in regards to our behavior is that every human is obligated to behave morally towards themselves and others out of respect for said dignity.

    I’d alter your statement to “the definition of justice absolutely depends upon a recognition of the vast and incommensurable human dignity of men.”

    Again, it seems to me that you’re trying to redefine a liberal buzzword to make it consistent with moral behavior, instead of just abandoning it.

    “freedom” needs to be defined and distinguished from license.

    They’re essentially the same thing. The word “freedom” is an attempt to add a false connotation of equality to “license”. Everybody knows that if I have the license to do X that is naturally restrictive on someone else. It’s the same thing with a freedom, but somehow the “restrictive on someone else” bit is obfuscated.

    Conservatives and Progressives simply want differing sets of freedoms (aka licenses, aka authorities, aka rights) to be enforced by the government.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    JustSomeGuy,
    “the right to speak truth”, which is another way of saying, “the right to not lie”.
    It is not the same thing at all. IN USSR, you could have been arrested for speaking truth about the Party.

    And liberty is no liberal buzzword but an ancient word used to denote a certain type of society, beginning with the Greeks.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    IN USSR, you could have been arrested for speaking truth about the Party.

    And that’s one of the reasons why that was a bad society (as opposed to an unfree society).

    And liberty is no liberal buzzword but an ancient word used to denote a certain type of society

    Seems to me that “liberty” has always meant precisely what it’s used to mean today: a bunch of liberal hooey.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    “Bad society” is very vague. Which society can be called not bad?
    USA may be called a bad society. It allows abortion upto birth. But it is broadly free, in sense of political freedom, religious freedom etc.

    Old India was a bad society. It had rigid caste repression and yet the castes were self-ruling (political freedom), substantial religious freedom and little state encroachment on family.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Isn’t it problematic for Zippy that usually liberty and equality are held to be mutually exclusive?

  • Zippy says:

    vishmehr24:

    Isn’t it problematic for Zippy that usually liberty and equality are held to be mutually exclusive?

    You are wrong about “usually”, and they aren’t actually separable concepts, but in any case it doesn’t matter. I’ve shown any number of times that politics for the purpose of (e.g.) “freedom”, independent of a particular discriminatory choice-constraining conception of the good, is incoherent. Politics – governance – is the constraint of choices and the treatment of certain preferences as superior to other preferences: superior to the point of initiating violence when necessary to restrict the freedom of those who disagree.

    So taking either freedom or equal rights to be a primary purpose of governance is incoherent, even if one (also incoherently) thinks of them as entirely distinct things to be traded off or “balanced”.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    Which society can be called not bad?

    One that promotes goods and prevents evils.

    That being said, it’s impossible for an earthly government to perfectly promote all that is good and prevent all that is evil.

    Judging whether a society overall falls into the category of “good” or into the category of “bad” is a prudential judgement. Note that prudential judgement =/= subjective.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Zippy,
    Belloc claims that political freedom, in the sense of power of citizens to act upon the State, is an end of State itself.
    Your comment?
    And isn’t in Aristotle that common deliberation on good is one of the end of the City itself?

  • Roger says:

    Nicely put.

    But of course it is futile to argue with those who lie whenever convenient.

  • […] At the end of the day, libertarianism is just another intrinsically dishonest form of liberalism. […]

  • […] is already a group of people who think they can ‘agree and amplify’ liberalism’s revolutionary slogans and invest them via nominalist fiat with tradition and common sense to keep them nice and […]

  • CJ says:

    Wow. I’d never heard of Nicolas Gomez Davila before, but this sounds like something Zippy would write: “Liberalism proclaims the right of the individual to degrade oneself, provided one’s degradation does not impede the degradation of one’s neighbor”

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/don-colachos-epitaphs/

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