Political Liberalism (Against Radicalism)

 

Shawn’s and Ethan’s posts on radicals and liberals pointed out to me a dynamic that extends to political philosophy. Even in the alleged purity of the ivory tower, liberals occupy a similarly centrist position. To recap, the sort of dynamic I observed in their posts was that radicals accused liberals of pursuing courses of action that inadequately served various lefty* concerns.

While I would grant that liberalism as political philosophy does not map exactly onto liberal as a grouping in contemporary American discourse, I cannot help but note the parallels.

I will like to give a rough outline of what liberalism looks like in academia. This is not to give a normative or linguistic criterion of liberalism, but just to try as best as I can to give a brief survey of the field. Liberalism refers to a range of views ranging from a more right of centre libertarianism and classical liberalism to a more left of centre high or sometimes called left liberalism. These ranges of views all share some central features

They all provide some kind of priority, though not necessarily a strict or lexical priority to some traditional list of basic liberties such as conscience, association, speech as well as freedom of occupation and to some limited private property rights in so far as they concern personal possessions. With very few exceptions, academic liberal theorists are sceptical of group rights, though they do not necessarily subscribe to any substantive underlying individualism. Liberalism also makes a distinction between private and public where it is the latter which is appropriately governed by justice. As a whole, liberalism is only weakly paternalistic.  Not all liberalisms are paternalistic, but those that are do not consider it acceptable to coerce people in order to benefit them in ways that they would not count themselves benefited. Thus liberal paternalism limits itself to coercively helping people achieve goals that they themselves acknowledge as worth pursuing, but does not treat coercion of people to achieve goals that they do not accept as being any kind of paternalism at all. Liberalism in general also tends to have a stronger commitment to the rule of law.

The Radicals

This scepticism of group rights and the maintenance of the public private distinction have elicited criticism from both the left and the right. Today, the latter does not really concern us. I will just focus on the former.

For example,

One common feminist criticism of liberalism is that it fails to provide a critique of the family. Liberal views tend to give patriarchal norms in the family a pass. Feminists contend that one of the things that prevent women from achieving parity with men is that girls are often socialised to occupy traditional gender roles. Thus, patriarchal family structures are unjust. Yet, liberalism seems to tacitly accept those structures as permissible.

One communitarian complaint is that the liberal insistence on strict separation between state and substantive values undermines the pre-conditions of meaningful choice. The communitarian argues that choices are only meaningful given particular background conditions. For example, if a person is raised being taught that the he or she ought to acquiesce to parental choice over their future spouse, the fact that they are not subsequently coerced does not mean that they meaningfully chose such a way of life. Only if that person has encountered different ways of living and has had to opportunity to adequately deliberate over all options in an informed manner is the choice meaningful. Thus the state should counter-indoctrinate children in ways that makes them conscious of the choices available to them. (Note: philosophical liberalism usually is leery of such state endorsement of conceptions of the good)

The multicultural critique of liberalism argues that a liberal order insufficiently provides for the continued maintenance and support of minority groups. While there are liberal versions of multiculturalism, they do not require enforcement of group rights. Any valid multiculturalist claims are usually subsets of individualist rights claims which everyone shares. Those claims merely take on different a different form due to particular contexts. More radical multiculturalists suppose that there are valid rights claims that people have in virtue of belonging to a minority group which are not necessarily reducible to rights claims that everyone has. Since liberalism does not acknowledge such claims, liberalism is insufficiently multiculturalist.

Some kinds of perfectionist critiques of liberalism charge that liberalism tolerates too much vice among persons. Rights to speech and association permit racist and sexist associations to persist. Perfectionists argue that suppressing hate speech is different from the suppression of anti-racist speech. The latter is liberating whereas the former perpetuates oppressive social structures. This follows from the basic fact that there has been an entrenched history of discrimination and oppression of women and minorities. Thus, permitting such speech as liberal regimes do perpetuates and contributes to injustice.

The argument between civic republicanism and liberalism has to do with their definition of liberty. Civic republicanism traditionally conceived of liberty as non-domination while liberalism conceived of it as non-interference. More importantly, civic republicanism developed their idea of liberty in such a way that coercing someone for their own good was not really coercion. To whit, republicanism sees the political relationships between persons and groups as primary. To illustrate, suppose a slave owner had many slaves whom he could abuse but didn’t. In fact, he pretty much let them do whatever they wanted including own property. Civic republicanism alleges that liberalism which conceives of liberty as non-interference should see the slaves’ situation as very nearly unproblematic. I.e. they are much freer than slaves whose master constantly interferes with them. To extend this to the political realm imagine that a colony that is benignly neglected by its colonial masters. The laws are such that important (non-interference) liberties are protected. Suppose, however, there is a rebellion and the colony attains self rule, but it chooses to institute laws which interfere with people’s rights to speech and association or with their personal liberties. The civic republican wishes to argue that the liberal is obligated to see this as a worse state of affairs than before. However, according to the republican this is counterintuitive. To be clear, the civic republican says that the political liberties are not only intrinsically important, they are more important than the personal liberties. The tendency for liberals to treat political liberties as at most just as important as personal and other civic liberties is seen as a mistake. In addition, civic republicanism does tend towards a kind of paternalism in which coercion is justified if it is in the service of the coerced genuine interests (as opposed to his merely apparent ones) i.e. illiberal paternalism is justified at least some of the time.

Similar to many of the above critiques, egalitarians may see liberalism as insufficiently egalitarian. Because liberalism eschews consciously cultivating and promulgating a social ethos, larger inequalities are needed to provide the kinds of incentives necessary to improve the wellbeing of the worst off. Socialists like Jerry Cohen argue that it is selfish of people to insist on developing their talent only when they can expect outsized rewards. They should be willing to do difficult and complicated work out of fellow feeling of fraternity with their fellow citizens. If the state cultivated such an egalitarian ethos, a lot less in the way of incentives would be necessary to get people to do the required work. This means that the same social product can be distributed in a more egalitarian way.

Why liberalism?

This gives us a rough picture of where liberalism situates itself with respect to these other doctrines. Thus, we can roughly see why liberalism, even in ideal circumstances is not going be maximally feminist or egalitarian, multiculturalist, republican or for that matter anti-racist.

At this point, many of you may be tempted to say “so much the worse for liberalism”. However, this is mistaken. Even if these are accurate criticisms of liberalism, this fails to understand what liberalism really is about. Of course, what liberalism is really about is itself disputed. The liberalisms of Locke, Kant and Mill were comprehensive liberalisms. They rested on deep philosophical views about the nature of persons or of autonomy or of what were people’s genuine obligations. They didn’t just argue for political autonomy (as in the securing of various rights and liberties in the public sphere) they argued that people should embrace these ideals in their personal lives as well. They thought that over time, free discussion and public deliberation would get everyone to see that those ideals were worth embracing on a personal level as well.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case. The actual practice of human reasoning unconstrained by social and political obstacles does not lead to agreement about such matters, but an even greater and more extensive disagreement. Increased state indoctrination and coercion is required to maintain agreement about conceptions of the good (and for that matter, justice as well) It is this post-modern insight that fuels what I shall call the political turn.

The basic question that political liberals ask is how everyone in a pluralistic society can minimally endorse a conception of justice in spite of their fundamental differences in outlook. The importance of the question becomes clearer once we note that our basic political problems can all be broken down into people advancing mutually incompatible claims on one another and thereby also advancing claims on our basic social institutions. To illustrate, when I advance a claim on what my neighbour is to do, I am simultaneously advancing a claim on the basic structure to have a rule that requires my neighbour’s actions to comply with my wishes. Similarly when my neighbour makes a counter claim over what he is to do, he is making a claim on the basic structure for a rule that prevents me from having control over his actions. But, the rule cannot be both ways simultaneously. The question of what social rules (especially the formal ones) should be like is precisely what theories of justice over at least the past three hundred years are aimed at answering.

The crucial problem here is that it is extremely unlikely that people will agree on fundamental moral values. Telling people to do the right thing is also insufficient as they disagree on what the right thing to do is. As a purely practical problem, we cannot invoke the idea that my conception of the good is correct and true and that yours is wrong and that therefore the rules that favour my conception should be the ones we all follow. Simply by symmetry, the other party may claim the converse: that his conception of the good is correct and that the rules should reflect that. How do we break such a deadlock? To find rules that are second or third best, but still good enough for everyone. One further consideration in favour of rules acceptable to everyone is that these are more stable. If a certain kind of society will not persist indefinitely** even under favourable but realistic conditions, then it is not a possible society at all. If ought implies can, then societies which cannot persist are not the kind which we should strive towards. But what kinds of rules are acceptable to everyone?

The answer (which I will not argue for because the derivation is long and complex) that is given is that there is some set of liberal orders which will be acceptable to everyone regardless of their conceptions of the good and of justice so long as they are willing to accept regimes which do not maximally accord with their values. So long as everyone is willing to settle for “good enough” this set of liberal regimes is jointly a Nash equilibrium. While society may move between different liberal regimes, it will not, absent some external invasion and occupation, become illiberal.

We can even intuitively see why a liberal regime would be good enough for everyone. Firstly, the priority liberal regimes give to the basic liberties ensures that everyone (or almost) is free to pursue their conceptions of the good to some adequate extent. There are few formal limits except on the more murderous and rapine conceptions. At the same time, a liberal regime should be able to offer most people, over their lifetimes, an adequate chunk of resources and opportunities to fulfil a significant amount of their life-plans. In addition, while liberal regimes do not coerce people into following some vision of collective life, it does not prevent people from convincing others to join in such collective endeavours. Feminists for example can convince other people to structure their families in a more gender egalitarian fashion and they can themselves structure their own families in any way they like.

That a basic structure is liberal is a necessary but not necessarily sufficient condition for knowing that it is stable under realistic but favourable conditions. What this means is that illiberal societies don’t even make the cut.

There are a number of implications for politics.

First, of course, we note that those who occupy the centre do not always propose policies that accord with any principled version of liberalism. Clearly holding their feet to the fire is permissible and even obligatory. But this of course requires recognising where the hard limits are and what kinds of regimes are unacceptable and what kind are merely imperfect according to our own view. I don’t have the space to explore further here, but this is not an insurmountable theoretical task.

The second point is that it is going to be the case that some liberal regimes are more suited for some societies while other kinds of liberal regimes are more suited for others. Certainly it is not necessarily wrong to move within the space of acceptable liberal regimes to search for the one that the best suits the society, but not at the cost of an illiberal regime winning out.

The third point is that this search for a widely acceptable regime is a kind of public justification. When radicals are unable to publicly justify their favoured rules, they should perhaps think twice about their goals. If they are impracticable, their moral force disappears. i.e. the automatic assumption that it is the radicals who have the moral high ground is not sustainable.

*I mean this in the most non-pejorative sense. Honest!

**excepting the sun blowing up on us, sudden extinction events, or the heat death of the universe

[edited to correct a typo that made what I was saying the opposite of what I meant to say]

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
TwitterFacebookRedditEmailPrintFriendlyMore options

30 thoughts on “Political Liberalism (Against Radicalism)

      • A radical feminist would give a completely different critique of liberalism, and a more broad-spectrumed one than the one you pose.

        I’m not saying what you’re writing is wrong in any way, just that it surprised me to look at feminism being addressed under “The Radicals”… and for it not to be about radical feminism.

        Report

      • I’m sure there are more radical feminist criticisms. But if liberalism fails according to even not so radical standards, mentioning the radical criticisms would be superfluous right? But point taken

        Report

  1. Good post. Of course, if you adopt the strictly Euro/non-American understanding of the term liberalism, then it doesn’t quite go to quite the same issues that the moderate/center-left and the more uncompromising (or aspirational) left have with each other, both here and in Britain Europe (I think) – it more just compares classical liberalism with Leftism. I actually can’t quite tell which you are adopting here, or whether it might be inclusive of such variants (which is a conception of liberalism I wholeheartedly endorse, though, as I say, it moves the discussion slightly away from what Ethan and Shawn are getting to, which is really more of an intra-Left tactical/strategic discussion). But it’s still a fine post.

    Report

    • Sorry; I skimmed.

      This is very good on the point:

      I will like to give a rough outline of what liberalism looks like in academia. This is not to give a normative or linguistic criterion of liberalism, but just to try as best as I can to give a brief survey of the field. Liberalism refers to a range of views ranging from a more right of centre libertarianism and classical liberalism to a more left of centre high or sometimes called left liberalism. These ranges of views all share some central features

      They all provide some kind of priority, though not necessarily a strict or lexical priority to some traditional list of basic liberties such as conscience, association, speech as well as freedom of occupation and to some limited private property rights in so far as they concern personal possessions. With very few exceptions, academic liberal theorists are sceptical of group rights, though they do not necessarily subscribe to any substantive underlying individualism. Liberalism also makes a distinction between private and public where it is the latter which is appropriately governed by justice. As a whole, liberalism is only weakly paternalistic. Not all liberalisms are paternalistic, but those that are do not consider it acceptable to coerce people in order to benefit them in ways that they would not count themselves benefited. Thus liberal paternalism limits itself to coercively helping people achieve goals that they themselves acknowledge as worth pursuing, but does not treat coercion of people to achieve goals that they do not accept as being any kind of paternalism at all. Liberalism in general also tends to have a stronger commitment to the rule of law.

      Much of leftism is liberal in these regards, but some of it is radical and not liberal.

      I would say, though, that most leftism, even what I would say is a liberal leftism, does not eschew coercion for paternalistic ends if the goals of a policy in question are rejected by any individual in a group at all. At the level of nations, this functionally would make illegitimate any coercive policy at all. For liberal leftists, this kind of acceptance or rejection is done at the democratic level, by majorities and supermajorities. And for someone who is serious about the meaning of liberalism and not steeped in the American shift in the meaning of that term, that might be a problem.

      This is where, ultimately, philosophical liberalism and Leftism/American liberalism may not work out together on paper the way they seem to do pretty well in practice. Some fudging has to – and does – get done somewhere along the way.

      Report

    • I generally think that the issues the center-left and the aspirational (I prefer traditional) left have with each other are more about economic justice issues than social issues. At least in the United States and Britain.

      It is the difference between Clinton centrism and New Labor vs people who are more sympathetic to Old Labor and pre-Clinton liberalism. Or the difference between neo-liberals and traditional liberals. Hence my frequent annoyance at Josh Baro and Matt Y.

      Here I tend to be a kind of split the difference type of person that ends up annoying both sides of the camp:

      http://grist.org/cities/the-dark-side-of-startup-city/

      The traditional liberal in me is certainly concerned about people being priced out of their neighborhoods especially if they have been living in the city for decades. I think housing is a basic human right and so is being able to stay in an area that you think of as home. Cities should be for everyone, not just the upper class or young rich. Ellis Actions concern me and I find it to be piss-poor legislation. And I am skeptical of neo-liberal and libertarian claims that build, build, build will eventually making housing stock more affordable for non-techies. The only thing that is being build are condos for the Silicon Valley tech crowd.
      Landlords seem willing to let their buildings be fallow for up to decade in order to term them into TICs or Condos.

      On the other hand, I think that the comments about San Francisco being a permanent radical enclave and stuck in a 1970s and 80s Amber are naive at best. Kind of like rich old bohos who wax nostalgic for the old Times Square. The old Times Square was a very dangerous place.

      I can’t be the only person who thinks you can have something that is not Disney or a playground for the rich and also not a super-violent hellhole. Why does our city development seem stuck between these two choices?

      Report

      • Not to snark or anything too harsh but don’t landlords let their buildings fallow for up to a decade -because- of rent controls and other such schemes?
        I mean at least neo-liberals try and get affordable housing included and promoted (usually through subsidies) even as they allow the builders to build build build. In a non-rent controlled market there’s usually more housing stock to turn into affordable housing. In rent controlled markets the liberals and students talk to each other about their virtue to the poor while the poor sleep under boxes/overpasses (or commute for two hours in from affordable non-rent controlled areas) and the well connected who have scored one of the rent controlled properties sublet them out and become a weird new rentier class of aristocracy.

        Report

  2. I’m trying to work out what’s implied by Liberal in all this. Look, Liberal is an adjective. Adjectives modify nouns. Liberal economic policy, liberal foreign policy, liberal ethics.

    Let’s put some names on this concept of Liberalism. John Stuart Mill. The Liberal. The liberal isn’t anything in particular, he demands an explanation from anyone who wants to restrict him from doing what he wants. He’s not against such restrictions, he might advocate for restrictions himself. But he’s not a Conservative, arguing from the sense of the axiomatic past. Nor is he a Libertarian, against restrictions per-se as some tyrannous offence, preferring that people should voluntarily accept restrictions. The Liberal wants an explanation.

    I strongly disagree with your assessment that Liberals have few formal limits. Liberals accept the most byzantine and corrugated sorts of limits, again provided it may be demonstrated such limits solve a problem. We Liberals believe the better a problem is defined to everyone’s satisfaction, the closer we shall all come to its solution.

    Liberalism isn’t collectivist. It simply views the Individual in the context of Society. This we share with the Conservatives, who are guided by the axioms of Society in preference to those of the Individual, though they’d loudly denounce anyone who said that’s how they think. But actions speak louder than words: the Conservative will not question axioms where the Liberal will.

    Centrism is just a shibboleth. If the centrist can be damned for his lack of principles, a theory never fed a child a hot meal or paid for a diabetic girl’s insulin. Given half a loaf, the centrist is grateful enough and his opponent does not think him a complete idiot.

    Liberalism works where societies are either small or uniform. As a crowd approaches a certain size, the individual in that crowd become detached from the whole and will look to his own interests rather than the whole. But within his own family, the very idea that everyone must make tea in his own pot is absurd. The individual drinks from his own cup from a common pot, yet every family has a teapot.

    The Conservative is much-given to the concept of Family, but only on his terms, his definition of Family. Where his own family is a sacred thing, other families must fend for themselves — unless they’re part of his Church Family. They deserve the benefits of mutual aid. They damn Liberals for their Socialistic Predilections but they understand this socialist sentiment very well indeed and are practitioners of it, to a fault. Just on their terms.

    In political terms, in the USA, it’s hard to find a genuine Liberal in the spirit of JS Mill in elected office. Americans grow ever more alienated from each other.

    Report

      • In political terms, I don’t see it. In every large, pluralistic society, there’s a dominant guiding ethos. The larger a society becomes, the more conservative it becomes to preserve that ethos. The USA, surely the world’s largest and most pluralistic society, is increasingly conservative where other, more homogeneous societies are not. Observe the Nordic countries, long held up as exemplars of socialist liberalism. As they’ve become more diverse, they’ve become more reactionary in defence of that dominant guiding ethos. That’s a conservative response.

        Report

      • There may be a conservative impulse, but that conservative impulse can be ultimately mistaken* and futile. Futile because one may as well try to stop the tide as slow the burgeoning pluralism. Mistaken because if the conservatives had their way, they would enact social structures that would be unacceptable to some, and their efforts to impose homogeneiety could involve terrible subjugation and tyranny of others. Only a liberal order can cope with the pluralism because only a liberal order has something significant for everyone. Thus everyone has buy-in. Once they have a functioning liberal order, then since the rules are not unacceptable to anyone, and rocking the boat would be dangerously risky for everyone, the chance of such happening would be smaller under a liberal order than in a non-liberal one.

        *Of course, when society reaches a point where it has a long history of liberalism, that conservative impulse can be harnessed to further stabilise the liberal regime.

        Report

      • Whatever conservatism is not, it is not futile. The tide doesn’t have to be stopped. The conservatives think in geologically-long time frames. Tide tables mean nothing to them. In the USA, they’re hell bent on attacking abortion and they’ve been at it since Roe v Wade. They’re winning, if you haven’t been keeping score.

        Report

      • Murali,

        My general view is that the far-left and far-right have more in common than they want to think or believe. I tend to see politics as a circle more than a line.

        The far-left and far-right both tend to be distrustful of big things. Big cities, big corporations, big solutions, etc. They both seem to have a pastoral and utopian streak but the utopias might be different. The far-right seems to think of their pastroal-utopia in something that resembles Tolkien’s Shire. The Far left as in an America that is pre-European colonization or a hippie commune. The Far Right is likely to fear the sinfulness of cities like NYC, SF, and Portland. The Far Left has conspiracies that go against Big Pharma and embraces things like anti-Vaxx or non-chemical medication*

        TLDR: Some of my far-left friends can sound an awful lot like Rod Dreher sometimes.

        *I remember one internet meme that said Big Pharma does not want you to know that most illnesses can be cured with cinnamon and honey. My innate response to this was an eyeroll. I’m all about better living through chemistry. My other heresy is not to really care about the end of the family farm.

        Report

      • ” I tend to see politics as a circle more than a line.” I’m with you here. I’m at least socially liberal or libertine but I find many of the paleocon arguments very compelling. I also like Dreher. I think I went far enough left to peek out the other side.

        Report

      • Political ideas are neither on a line nor a circle, nor like a sphere. You can’t getting more and more eastward and then suddenly find yourself in the far west. Simple geometric analogies fail, often and repeatedly.

        I think Blaise and some others would agree that a fractal would be a far more likely representation, with self-similarity and repeating themes and patterns showing up again and again.

        They would better describe why, as you venture to the extreme left (say in the Soviet Union), you might find severe laws against treason and disloyalty that were similar, yet worse than, the most conservative royalists. Why a liberal institution like academia would set itself up as a protected ruling class, vote itself continuous pay raises and perks, while enslaving the student population to a lifetime of debt bondage – and thinking that’s the natural order of things and the kids are better off for it.

        Why on some issues like bike trails, frisbee parks, or golf cart rentals, or nature preserves, liberals might spawn a bunch of conservative positions, or conservatives might spawn liberal positions.

        You could argue that one of the basins of attraction of modern liberalism was its prior flirtation with and often acceptance of Marxism, a black hole of lunacy that pulled many liberals into advocating for self-defeating policies and banished many others into irrelevance, often hijacking what would otherwise be broad social movements with wide acceptance and turning them into divisive proxy battlefields in the culture wars.

        A fractal representation would also do a better job of explaining why a pattern over there shows up over here, where it wouldn’t seem to make any sense, like when left-wing radical feminists go out and essentially march for sharia in the name of cultural diversity.

        Report

      • Marxism? That’s a joke, yes? Those who would discuss Marx ought first to read him. It’s been my observation most people who try to scare the rubes with talk of Marxism have not read Marx, as most Libertarians have not read Hayek. If they had, they would be singing very different tunes. Marxism is not a liberal sentiment. The unlettered, uneducated American conservative prides himself on not knowing such things, preferring simplistic tropes to the study of history. Mankind changeth not.

        Marxism has only thrived as a weed in the field of feudalism. Where feudalism appeared in American society, it quickly produced fruit exactly as Marx had described. But Rousseau and Adam Smith had predicted the exact same phenomenon long before. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.

        Marxism will make a resurgence in the USA when we’ve come to the terminus of the GOP’s vision for America, aided and abetted by the same Useful Idiots who have been pulling out the tent poles since the 1970s. The GOP simply cannot see the future — for they never saw the past. When Marxism appears again, and I predict it will within 20 years, a firebrand ideologue will seize the reins of American populism and he will do what Huey Long could not, engender enough fear and hatred in ordinary people for the federal government to lose credence. Won’t take much, really. American faith in Congress approaches the zero asymptote. Confronted by some tectonic shift in American politics, my guess it will be yet another pointless war, Americans will revolt, as they did in the later years of the Vietnam War.

        There will probably be two of them, these ideologues. One will stand in for Trotsky, the other will be a Lenin. It will all play out as in Russia all those years ago.

        Report

  3. Based on the various things you label as “lefty” critiques of liberalism, I think American liberals tend to fall under weird categories.

    I certainly support non-Patriarchial family structures. At least to the extent that I don’t think it is important for their to be a “man in the house”. Children probably benefit from having two parents or parent-like figures (the parents probably benefit for the support structure as well) but I think two women or two men can do a good to excellent job at raising kids. They could also do a really horrible job. It all depends on who they are and the circumstances.

    Though I do roll my eyes a bit at Gaia-types who believe that there was some kind of pre-history utopia built upon Matriarchial tribes and groups. Any appeal to “pre-history” is just making stuff up in my mind. It is too convenient to appeal to pre-history.

    I suppose where American liberals (or at least many American liberals) differ from the radicals is on the hate speech issue. I’m a rather strong free speech advocate and will firmly argue that most prohibitions of speech do more harm than good. There are exceptions I think it is important to have non-discriminatory workplaces and educational structures. A public school teacher who makes racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic comments has no place in a classroom. Nor should those comments be tolerated when students inflict them on other students. A person cannot learn in an discriminatory environment. The same goes for workplaces. However when it comes to the private and public sphere in other places, free speech steps in. Plus my general view is that people do more damage to themselves than any government censorship could.

    My general view of the First Amendment is that it allows idiots to shoot themselves in the foot.

    However discussions with members of the Canadian and European left make me think that this is a bit unique to the American view of liberalism. Many of them have the communitarian view and they are not super-radical necessarily. Free speech in Europe and Canada seems to be associated with the nativist and anti-immigrant right-wing for some reason.

    Report

    • Its more than mere support of non-patriarchal family structures. Do you think public schools should socialise people to accept such structures as the proper way to do things and patriarchal structures as some atavistic rapine throwback?

      Report

      • Neither. I think public schools should teach that there are all sorts of families. Mom-Dad and kids, Single Moms, Single Dads, Two Moms, Two Dads, sometimes people without kids, or not related communal groups. All are just choices that people make.

        Report


      • Imagine that you are a public school teacher and you say the following:

        there are all sorts of families. Mom-Dad and kids, Single Moms, Single Dads, Two Moms, Two Dads, sometimes people without kids, or not related communal groups. All are just choices that people make

        And then little Timmy comes raises his hand and says:

        “Pastor John said that homosexuality is sinful. Is he wrong?”

        What are you going to say?

        I would say something along the lines of this: “it’s not for me to say whether Pastor John is right or wrong, but since we live in a society where people have different views on right or worng, we’re often going to have to tolerate these differences and live and let live so long as they live and let live too.

        Report

      • Heh. Pastor John says everyone’s a sinner, including Pastor John himself. Actually, that’s what a Christian pastor or priest would say. And Jesus was a friend of sinners, at least that’s what his enemies called him. So it doesn’t matter what Pastor John says behind the pulpit of his church. Jesus loved homosexuals and many people other people hated.

        This is a public school, where everyone’s welcome. That means even Pastor John and his kids, too. Jesus told us to love each other and that seems like pretty good advice for anyone. Pastor John would tell you that, too. It’s hard to love people who aren’t quite like us but it’s hard for them to love us too. Perfect love casts out fear. Fear is why people can’t love each other. When people say terrible things about homosexuals, they’re fearful. You must be brave and think for yourself. Homosexuals are no different than anyone else but nobody’s quite the same as anyone else. They love each other as we love the people we love.

        Report

      • Pastor John says everyone’s a sinner, including Pastor John himself. Actually, that’s what a Christian pastor or priest would say. And Jesus was a friend of sinners, at least that’s what his enemies called him. So it doesn’t matter what Pastor John says behind the pulpit of his church. Jesus loved homosexuals and many people other people hated.

        Jesus told us to love each other and that seems like pretty good advice for anyone. Pastor John would tell you that, too. It’s hard to love people who aren’t quite like us but it’s hard for them to love us too. Perfect love casts out fear. Fear is why people can’t love each other. When people say terrible things about homosexuals, they’re fearful. You must be brave and think for yourself. Homosexuals are no different than anyone else but nobody’s quite the same as anyone else. They love each other as we love the people we love

        Blaise, these are precisely the wrong kinds of things to say. Because this sounds like the state is getting involved in the proper interpretation of the Bible. And that is just as bad as the state dissing the Bible.

        Blaise,that’s

        Report

    • “Though I do roll my eyes a bit at Gaia-types who believe that there was some kind of pre-history utopia built upon Matriarchial tribes and groups. Any appeal to “pre-history” is just making stuff up in my mind. It is too convenient to appeal to pre-history.”

      I agree, and even if they are not making it up (and not romanticizing what may have actually been a society marked by brutality and/or scarcity, however matrarchal it was), the proposition that “pre-history” was as it was is not really an argument for how we ought to do things today.

      Report

Comments are closed.