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
- 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. )
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?"