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Old 10-09-2013, 03:45 PM   #1
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"Push forward."

Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Trumpville (like Potterville, but stupider)
Posts: 74,802
Default Liberalism: Boogeyman to the Right

If you're going to attack a boogeyman, you should at least know what you're talking about. Here's a good write up:

Liberalism is notoriously difficult to define. the term
has been used to describe a sprawling profusion of ideas, practices,
movements, and parties in different societies and historical
periods. Often emerging as a philosophy of opposition,
whether to feudal privilege, absolute monarchy, colonialism,
theocracy, communism, or fascism, liberalism has served, as
the word suggests, as a force for liberation, or at least liberalization—
for the opening up of channels of free initiative.


Modern democratic liberalism developed out of the more
egalitarian aspects of the tradition and serves as the basis of
contemporary liberal politics. The relationship between liberalism
in these two phases has been predominantly cumulative: While rejecting laissez-faire economic policy, modern liberalism
continues to take the broader tradition of constitutional
liberalism as its foundation. That is why it is possible to speak
not only of the two separately but also of an overarching set of
ideas that unites them.


In describing these changes, I do not mean to suggest that
liberals from the start had a clearly developed theory guiding
reforms, much less all the right answers. Rather than formulating
policy from speculative axioms, reformers beginning in
the mid-19th century increasingly devoted themselves to the
gathering and analysis of socioeconomic data. In America, the measures adopted during the Progressive era, New Deal, and
Great Society were often ad hoc and experimental, and many
failed. But partly through better knowledge, partly by trial and
error, liberal governments discovered that certain forms of limited
state intervention could help bring the promise of a free
and just society closer to fulfillment while reducing the waste
of human and physical resources and improving economic
performance. Modern liberalism has never been ruled by a
theory in the way that free-market conservatism and Marxian
socialism have been. A pragmatic emphasis on experience and
evidence—on how things work in practice—has been critical in
making liberalism work.


Conservatives and liberals have also responded differently
to a phenomenon that did not exist in the 18th century when
constitutional liberalism took shape: the modern corporation.
While conservatives have treated private corporations as
analogous to individuals and deserving of the same liberties,
liberals have regarded corporations as a phenomenon of power,
needing control like government itself.
The discipline of power that constitutional
liberalism imposes upon the state modern
liberalism attempts to impose on the corporation,
albeit not in the same way.


Against all these reasons for redistribution, the liberal project
has to weigh other values. Liberalism is egalitarian in the sense
that it seeks to achieve a more equal distribution of income and
well-being than would otherwise be generated in the marketplace.
But it is not committed to achieving a perfect equality in the distribution
of goods. Equity requires that those who work harder,
take greater risks, or develop their talents to a higher degree be
able to recoup a return from their efforts. This incentive is critical
to innovation and prosperity, which redound to wider benefit.
Liberalism regards the well-being of the least well-off as a central
criterion for a just society, and it seeks to provide individuals with
some degree of protection against risks beyond their control; but
it accepts inequalities insofar as they are to everyone’s long-run
advantage, and therefore aims for sustainable growth with widely
shared gains. The pragmatic disposition of liberalism also implies
that policies cannot be derived from moral principles alone, without
regard to empirical realities. Experience shows that governments
can bring about some results more readily than others.


Shrewd as they were in achieving political power, the
Republicans of the Bush era have shown little of that genius
in using it. A conservatism that does not want to hear about
inequality or the sinking fortunes of the middle class, or about
dangers to the global environment, or about unsustainable
fiscal policies, or about gaping flaws in plans for war, may prevail
in the short run, but the realities will sooner or later make
themselves felt, as they did in 2006. A great nation cannot long
be governed by wishful and simplistic thinking, denial, obfuscation,
and deceit. Costs mount, grievances accumulate, and
there comes a reckoning.

And so on...

We've had thirty years of conservatism. Look around. See the smoking ruin?
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