It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.

Please white-list or disable in your ad-blocking tool.

Thank you.


Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.


The decline and fall of the Liberal ideal?

page: 1

log in


posted on Jul, 26 2006 @ 09:01 PM
Let me be clear, when I'm saying "liberalism" here, I mean the Enlightenment principles listed below, and not a specific political stance:

-Parliamentary rules and procedures governing the process of collective decision-making.

-The assumption that people are of morally equal worth, and that any reasonable person is capable of understanding important political questions, and should be allowed to vote on them.

-The belief that "enlightened self-interest" is the best safeguard of public life. In other words, free markets are more efficient than command economies.

- The belief that individual liberty is the end, or goal, of collective efforts of government

- A belief in equal rights and equal opportunity for all.

The question I'm asking is this: Can the enlightenment ideals of Liberalism continue to galvanize the world's people in the new millennium, or is Liberalism merely a passing historical trend that is slowly receding into history?

My answer is that I think Liberalism, as a philosophy, is losing the grip it once had on the western imagination. I don't believe this erosion of the ideal to be limited to any one nation or political party.

Even the Liberals themselves are hastening the decay.


Modern American presidents, of both parties, have powers undreamt of, a century ago. The opposition party may question the limits of the President's powers, but not his inherent right to wage war, and sue for peace--powers specifically relegated to Congress by the U.S. Constitution.

While all major political parties across the spectrum, in developed western nations, espouse some form of globalism, there is a rising tide of nationalism world-wide. American ATS'ers, of every political stripe rail against illegal immigration. European ATS posters have commented on what they see as an increase in racial tensions in France and England, which were thought to have "solved" their racial issues decades ago.

(Let me explain this. I see nationalism as inherently opposed the egalitarian ideals of the enlightenment, whenever nationalism goes beyond pure self-defense. Likewise, globalism is merely democracy on an international scale, according to its proponents. I'm not saying that illegal immigration is necessarily a component of liberalism; I'm pointing out how the public, which was unconcerned for more than 50 years of an ethnic influx, have ONLY NOW decided that illegal immigration is totally wrong. In other words, something has changed in the American psyche. )

More evidence:

When President Bush proclaims his intent to set up a democracy in Iraq, citizens of western nations question whether the Iraqi people are capable of democratic self-rule. Less than an expression of racial elitism (which is how the sentiment would have been meant 100 years ago), the idea that non-westerners are not capable of democracy shows that even westerners themselves believe liberalism to be rooted in the history and philosophy of the European Enlightenment. The assumption in today's world is that Liberalism is merely an expression of European culture, rather than being an inherently practical philosophy of government.

Even Liberal institutions like the IMF believe that when nations prosper, it's because of economic models and stable interest rates, rather than because the citizens are governing themselves.

In my experience, proponents of the EU are less concerned about its lack of transparency and popular representation, that they are about how effectively it can unite its members to create a stronger economic power. The focus is on the results, rather than the means.

In the US, there seems to be little popular opposition to either the Patriot Act, or the President's circumvention of Congress' will. Instead, people I've spoken to are more concerned with whether DHS and the NSA/CIA are competent, rather than whether they are moral. This may seem trivial, but it represents a sea-change from the past 40 years of American distrust of it's own police apparatus. Personally, I think this change began BEFORE 2001; the aftermath of 9-11 was basically an expression of a change that began in the early 1990's. In many respects, Clinton, a democrat, had more in common with Bush than he did with Jimmy Carter, the previous Democrat President.

The developing world, particularly the Middle East, seems to be searching for a path to modernization that specifically rejects Liberalism. Even tyrants like Attaturk believed that democratization, or at least egalitarianism, was part and parcel of economic progress. But no longer. From China to Iran, national planners believe they can achieve economic advances without resorting to Liberalism.

So, is ebb of the Liberal ideal simply an effect of the storm clouds of global that are gathering, or is it a long-term trend?

Is post-modernism paralleled in politics by "post-liberalism?"

posted on Jul, 27 2006 @ 03:17 AM
As a trained political scientist, I take the view that today's downturn in the prevelance of classical Liberalism is due, in part, to the cyclical shift in many contemporary societies.

In the case of the United States, Liberal dominace has been challenged largely because the Democrat part held majority power for so long that its leadership got sloppy. As they veered away from espousing their core principles and sticking to them, they fell in to the trap of making any deal necessary to stay in power.

Today, we see the modern Democrat party as being ruderless. They don't know what they believe in any more. It may very well be that the essence of what you defined may not be seen again under the flag of this political party. When the right combination of social events take place, we will most certainly see a rebirth of the ideals and agenda that you defined.

As a writer of political fiction, I think we may see those events culminate after we fight the next global war. The aftermath of that conflict is likely to inspire some form of idealism that will rekindle a youth based movement to embrace a nostalgic view of our past. As they learn about "the good old days," the leaders of this hypotheized movement may recite the names and events most closely associated with our historically acknowleged liberal period.

Until then, we are faced with several decades of increasingly authoritarian leadership and social movements which will be sympathetic that that style of leadership. The aspects of your terms, as you defined them, will be cited as their own best reasons for escewing them.

That's my 2.135 cents.

posted on Jul, 27 2006 @ 08:14 AM
I've been reading about the aftermath of the Roman Empire, which was really a culture as well as a political organization.

After the fall in the West, the Germanic tribes copied the forms of Roman culture, but not the values. In the church especially, the trappings of imperial power (the priestly stole, episcopal mitre and crozier, latin, etc.) were copied, but not the political organizations like the tribunate, the consulate, senate, etc.

While leaders like Charlemagne were happy to dress themselves in the trappings of power as defined by the vanished Roman empire, they had no intention of organizing political power along Imperial lines.

Partly, this was due to changing technology, that rendered Roman military power obsolete (the chariot), while bringing new forms to prominence. (The Roman equestria had dismounted to fight; but knights were training their horses for mounted combat).

Sometimes I wonder wether parliamentary procedure is a product of a rural, agrarian culture, where people told time with a calendar, instead of a digital watch. In the modern age, when military decisions require instantaneous response, the parliamentary system seems more like a liability. . . .


posted on Jul, 27 2006 @ 02:07 PM
In regard to your observations about Rome, I would point out that all contemporary civilizations embrace the symbols of power left behind by earlier civilizations. Totems of office are employed in similarly because they are portable, and much more direct reminders of tradition.

As a person who lives in a country with a bicameral legislative system, I can tell you that members of the U.S. House and Senate are not known for their speed of action. The procedural and ceremonial differences between this form of government and a Parliamentary style system aren't so very significant that one is afforded an obvious temporal advantage over the other.

As a political sientist, I suggest that any government's willingness to act is not always related to its sense of urgency. In recent weeks, the U.S. House and Senate sent a bill to the Presidetn's desk for signing that relatd to human stem cell research. Senators and Representatives were in general agreement on the issue, and it sped through committee like it was on rollers. Even so, the President vetoed it for ethical reasons. By comparison, these two bodies have been fighting like gladiators over a prize for the last five years over a compromise law that would deal with the issue of illegal immigration.

How many times did the peole of rome think something was imortant? How many times did the Senate ignore that issue? Even Hitler slept late on D-day. the real issue that you may be trying to get at couldbe the willingness of the people who staff Parliamentary systems to actually do something.

posted on Jul, 27 2006 @ 03:25 PM
Point taken.

On the other hand, there is a definite disconnect between the popular media calling an election at the close of voting, and the electoral college, which has often taken weeks to convene, and declare its own (legally binding) winner.

Early on in US history, the media of that time couldn't have accurately called an election much faster than the electoral college could assemble, and send their various writs to the proper authorities.

Other legal apparatuses have been improved, during the same period. When an arrest warrant is issued, not every agency in the entire state must wait to receive written confirmation of the warrant's existence. The issuing court of record files a notice, and it is disseminated electronically, saving hours over telephone networks, or days and weeks over the postal system.

But again, there is a ceremonial side to a "sitting" congress. So perhaps speed is the enemy of deliberation.

So, do you think there's anything to my original post, or is it just a passing moment of zeitgeist, that people are more aware in 2006, of how the enemies of democracy are not fettered by the same moral constraints?


posted on Jul, 27 2006 @ 05:00 PM
I think the word you're looking for is "frustration." All societies in all centuries get fat and lazy when they don't have an enemy at their gates. Now that we do actually have hostile forces in the wrold that look upon us as fat, weak, and lazy, we're having a hard time waking up to it. Imagine what the people of Rome must have thought when they read about the approaching Vandals. "Who are those guys, and what do they want? Man, but they are loud. Why doesn't somebody call out the army?"

posted on Jul, 27 2006 @ 11:39 PM
Liberalism in the context of this thread is alive in kicking in the Republican party Bushs middle/east Iraq policy is proof this. The Democrats may be lost but the only differnce between LBJs " Liberalism " and Bush " Liberalism " is where the policys are being applyed.

The reason that it may seem like Liberalism is in decay is because people have realized that ideals dont always stand up in reality. However people only work this out on a single issue/policy basis.

Liberalism has moved to the American right and the American left may be asking where do we go from here ?

Excellent Thread dr_strangecraft.

You have voted dr_strangecraft for the Way Above Top Secret award. You have used all of your votes for this month.

[edit on 27-7-2006 by xpert11]

top topics


log in