Modern Liberalism’s Central Flaw
Tibor R. Machan
On many issues I am actually in agreement with modern liberalism but I reject its central contention. For example, I fully agree that racism is vile; I agree there is no justification for criticizing homosexuality per se; nor do I think there is much to reject when it comes to the concern many modern liberals show for the environment—green is a nice color (almost as nice as red orange, my own favorite). I am also convinced that many of the people modern liberals wish to protect from ostracism by others deserve that protection—in the work place, at schools, in clubs, and so forth. I also share the care they profess for the poor among us and support remedying poverty as much as possible.
These are areas where I strongly differ from conservatives who often border on being racists (as when they refuse to accept that, yes, what blacks have experienced as a rule throughout much of American history is really quite intolerable and should still be looked upon with sympathy and understanding). Conservatives are also really out to lunch on the homosexuality issue—treating homosexuals as some sort of lepers rather than as folks with different orientation, a little like left-handed or color blind people. I could go on but that’s not my main point.
Modern liberals sadly cling to their most grievous flaw and that is what makes them, even if at times only inadvertently, fundamentally misanthropic. They believe that advancing their objectives, even those that are perfectly valid, ought to be done by using coercion against those whose cooperation they seek. This major, colossal error on their part makes it even difficult to join them in their various campaigns to help those they wish to help, to argue against those whom they rightly oppose.
As a recent example, consider the war in Iraq. Most modern liberals oppose this war but do so on grounds that are frankly blatantly hypocritical. They claim to oppose it because it involved preemption. Yet, of course, modern liberals are notoriously preemptive concerning every other hazards they suspect surrounds us—their notorious precautionary principles in the area of environmental and other regulatory law are perfect examples. Forget due process, forget individual rights, forget that no one has done any harm to anyone—we need to be careful to the point of totalitarian regimentation because something might go wrong! This is outrageously disrespectful of individual human rights, due process, the very liberal idea of live and let live.
In short, modern liberals are congenital bullies. Despite their attempt to smear the religious Right and other conservatives with the charge that they are moralizers and intolerant, modern liberals are the most intolerant of them all. Instead of deploying persuasion, ostracism, and other peaceful means by which to further their own moral objectives—and don’t please make any mistake about this, they are full of very black and white moralism, these supposedly open-minded people—they resort mostly to legislation and coercion. They have no compunction about imposing their values, family or otherwise, on everyone around them—just watch their eager support of such laws as the Americans for Disability Act, which coerces us all to care for those with impediments, unhesitatingly enslaves us to them rather than do the hard work of convincing us all that it is right to be generous to folks in special need.
With this stubborn belief in using coercive force to get things otherwise worthwhile done, modern liberals—social or economic democrats or whatever term one uses to designate them—even create enemies for their very causes they claim to champion. If you use coercion to promote a valuable goal, what a great many people will focus on is your barbaric, uncivilized method, never mind the worthy objective. If you support environmental care and prudence but use a gun to impose it on others, those others rightfully will condemn you and often your goals as well. Even if you had something of a chance to bring them around to see things your correct way, the use of coercion will have killed it in too many cases.
Modern liberals don’t get it—it is a sign of colossal lack of civility to deal with those with whom one disagrees as if they were beasts, mindless brutes to be caged and tamed by force. But that is exactly what most of them do as they confront adversaries. And that is worse than most of what those adversaries wrongfully champion.