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Zen and the art of antiliberalism

Liberalism can be understood as a view that evolved and triumphed in a contentious political environment through a sort of philosophical jiu-jitsu. It wins all arguments by not arguing but rather using its opponents’ own force against them. Liberalism claims it has no points of its own to make, it accepts all your points just as they are, and all it wants is to be able to do so, which requires you to agree to the general principle that all points everyone makes get accepted just as they are. Thereafter, of course, it turns out that for all points to be accepted equally everything has to be run by experts who claim to be neutral facilitators but nonetheless end up deciding everything important—in other words, by intrusive liberals. By then it’s too late. You’ve already in effect agreed than none of your points can have practical consequences, because that would deny equality to other inconsistent points and oppress their proponents.

Liberals, naturally, believe in their own strategy. It’s worked wonderfully well for them, so why not? One consequence of that is that it’s generally impossible for them to believe that fundamental principled objections to their views are possible. If you disagree with them and they’re genteel they’ll say you don’t understand John Rawls or whatever. If they’re not genteel they’ll just say you’re ignorant, malicious or psychologically disordered. After all, what kind of person would complain when everything he says gets accepted to the extent possible? Nonetheless, liberals do in fact have a comprehensive vision of what human relations should be like, together with the will to back their vision by force and insist it be followed in all aspects of human life. To say they’re not pushing views of their own is patently absurd.

What’s needed is something to break the spell that makes the absurd seem real. No doubt the best counter to liberal jiu-jitsu would be a collection of illiberal koans to break up frozen schemes of thought and bring one face to face with reality. I’m not the master who can put something like that together. Here’s the best I can do: a collection of pointed questions designed to dramatize the gap between what liberalism claims to be and what of necessity it is. Comments, additional questions, and other ideas are welcome.

  1. Government is needed when discussion and voluntary arrangements don’t work. So how can liberalism claim it’s based on discussion and voluntary arrangements when it’s a system of government?
  2. If liberalism is based on the deliberate consent of the people how come it tries to put as much as possible beyond popular influence, as shown by constitutional law and “international human rights”?
  3. Liberalism says it doesn’t force values on people. Why isn’t telling people they have to treat all values as equally valuable, but suppress values that claim to be better than other values, forcing values on people?
  4. What’s the difference between saying everyone has to treat other beliefs about God, morality and whatever as equally worthy, and saying everyone has to treat his own beliefs about God, morality and whatever as personal tastes and so not beliefs about those things at all?
  5. How can liberalism be tolerant when it’s always insisting on reforming things? If someone is tolerant doesn’t he leave things alone? Why all the rules, bureaucracies and re-education programs?
  6. How can “diversity” (recognizing and respecting real differences) be the same as “inclusiveness” (making things comprehensively the same for everybody)?
  7. Liberalism claims to free the human spirit and allow 100 flowers to bloom and flourish. If so, how come everything is becoming the same everywhere? Why do all educational and cultural institutions in advanced liberal societies adhere to the same orthodoxy? Where are the great monuments of the human spirit advanced liberal society has produced?
  8. Liberalism says the restrictions it imposes are OK because they only apply to public life, and you’re still entirely free in your private life. What can “private life” possibly mean when reform of attitudes and practices regarding sex and gender, and the re-education of children, are basic to the contemporary liberal project?
  9. To summarize: isn’t it obvious liberalism is very different from what’s advertised?
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“[Liberalism] wins all arguments by not arguing but rather using its opponents’ own force against them. Liberalism claims it has no points of its own to make, it accepts all your points just as they are, and all it wants is to be able to do so, which requires you to agree to the general principle that all points everyone makes get accepted just as they are. Thereafter, of course, it turns out that for all points to be accepted equally the liberals have to run anything. By then, of course, it’s too late — […]”

But there’s something else liberals also do, and it’s very hard to combat because it requires that their opponents be philosophers while not obliging liberals themselves to be (in case anyone hasn’t noticed, it’s not easy to come up with new ground-breaking philosophy “on demand” each time one argues with a liberal). They put their opponents in this situation by the tactic of simply bold-facedly denying everything that’s not been endorsed by a liberal “expert” spouting his liberal “data” or his liberal “studies on that” subsequent to the year 1970 or so (liberal “data” and “studies” that are always discovered to be superficial and gravely flawed about ten race-riots, fourteen unnecessary wars, and nine extremely destructive major societal upheavals later, after most of the damage has been done). The most trusted, time-tested knowledge and wisdom, knowledge and wisdom that ten thousand years before the writing of the Bible was already ancient and venerated as absolutely basic, infallible, and a sure guide in the eyes of every person that lived and every civilization that throve on the face of the earth, just gets summarily dismissed by liberals with a wave of the hand and a smart-aleck crack like “race-schmace, there’s no such thing as race” (which some liberal actually wrote to the Poe Forum once), or “men and women are exactly the same, there’s no difference.” The most fundamental things—the difference between the sexes, the existence of different human races, the superiority of women over men (or of the child’s own mom over the local daycare, for that matter) as nurturers of infants and toddlers, and so forth—are all simply denied in one fell swoop with the most jaw-dropping brazenness as the liberal demands your “data on that” or your “studies on that” to back up statements you’ve made which are as speculative as, let’s say, “Two plus two equals four,” “The sky is blue,” or “The sun will rise tomorrow.” “You claim the sky is blue? Do you have any data on that? I don’t recall seeing any studies on that—do you have studies on that?…” is what one always hears from them.

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Good point about the demand for “studies” etc. That’s not just a maneuver. The strength of liberalism comes from the way it seems wholly and transparently justified to its adherents. Because it believes in modernism liberalism insists that only things that are completely explicit and subject to man’s control can count as knowledge. That means that only studies performed by experts count.

Also, the things the experts look at are things that fit into their understanding of how the world works and the possibilities of expert control — after all, from the modern standpoint the point of knowledge is effective action and not contemplation. So for example for a long time studyies of the well-being of children in different domestic arrangements didn’t pay much attention to whether the parents were married. Unlike say household income or the presence of more than one adult that didn’t make sense to technocratic experts as something likely to have an effect. Also, it wasn’t something a bureaucrat could do much about so it didn’t seem relevant to social policy. So quite naturally the studies didn’t show that marriage matters.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

Liberals are so deluded that, I sometimes think, God has given them over to their delusions.

(Of course, often enough nowadays it IS through actual fines and imprisonment…)

— From the log entry:

“How can liberalism be tolerant when it’s always insisting on reforming things? If someone is tolerant doesn’t he leave things alone? Why all the rules and bureaucracies and re-education programs?”

— From Steve Sailer’s blog at www.iSteve.com (scroll down—Steve’s individual entries don’t have their own permalinks):

Crimethink in Finland: Thank God and James Madison for the First Amendment here in America that allows us to discuss important issues like the above [respectful, scientific log entry about racial differences] without fear of arrest. In contrast, Professor Tatu Vanhanen, co-author of IQ and the Wealth of Nations with Richard Lynn, has come under police investigation for … giving an interview outlining the contents of their highly interesting 2002 book, which lists the estimated IQs of 81 countries based on 168 published IQ studies and shows there is a quite high correlation (r=0.73) between national IQ and per capita income. Professor Vanhanen is the father of Finland’s Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen. Likewise, [Professor] Rushton spent nine months under investigation by police in Ontario [for scientific research into racial differences].”

And the left has the unmitigated nerve to remind everyone, every chance they get, of the governmental intimidation said to have been faced by Copernicus and Galileo!

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