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The soul of man under liberalism

In my last post I suggested that liberalism intrinsically causes crime, because the strong impulses, weak intelligence and spotty human attachments that make a man criminal are supported by basic liberal principles (making preference the standard of the good, reducing reason to the service of desire, turning autonomy into an ultimate standard). I then suggested that in practice a liberal society can choose between treating criminals with respect and consideration, as the Europeans do, and ignoring crime, or stomping on them, and ignoring the illiberality of the resulting social order.

Naturally, people look for other ways. One might also try to smother crime by endless multiplication of milder social controls, and perhaps reconstruct the human soul so that crime becomes impossible. Advanced liberal societies undertake to do such things in a variety of ways:

  • Nonstop propaganda from childhood to the effect that we should accept what experts tell us, give up definite ties to others (that’s what “tolerance” means), stick to strictly personal pleasures and ambitions, think about things the way impersonal rational bureaucrats think about them, and not interfere with what we’re told is not our business.
  • Making it difficult or impossible for people to harm each other, through surveillance, gun control, knife control, various “zero tolerance” policies, threatening to arrest people if they make jokes in airports, etc.
  • Suppressing masculinity. Women on the whole try to make nice within settings defined for them by others. When they act badly they generally choose petty deceit over violence and rarely act on a grand scale or go to extremes. They’re basically not a threat. So why can’t men be more like that?
  • Postmodern rejection of word and reason. It’s supposed to be anti-authoritarian, but decisions have to be made somehow, so however obfuscated there’s always going to be authority. As a practical matter, talking about how impossibly complicated and relative and perspective-bound everything is abolishes all limits on the authorities’ power and discretion. Only they have the expert knowledge needed to deal with impossibly subtle and complicated issues, in contrast to ordinary people whose views are social constructions without cognitive or rational significance. When the people don’t like something the authorities are doing, that shows there’s something wrong with the people, and they have to be reformed.

Such are the alternatives in liberal society to the “nuke ‘em” theory of dealing with social disorder, The basic problem with them is that they are mostly effective with those who are already well-behaved, making them still less troublesome to those in control. They don’t take hold with nonsocialized underclass and immigrant types, who become still more alienated from a society evidently dedicated to wiping out whatever fragments of traditional order—and therefore personal and social identity—they retain. They offer in its place a sort of cautious mild individual hedonism that may be OK for those habituated to its limits but is not likely to attract anyone actually tempted by more violent pursuits. The result is that there’s still lots of crime, but the authorities put most of their effort into regulating the law-abiding, and any efforts at self-help by the people are resolutely squashed.