Mar 15, 2004: A Liberal Manifesto, Part I

Liberalism is fundamentally opposed to mass society and anything that would reduce the human spirit to an exclusively or even predominantly religious, social, political, or economic unit. It asserts that each of these dimensions are inextricably bound up within the spirit of man and that the struggle of life alone gives them life and significance. It moreover asserts that the spirit is not a component of any “essence” or “substance”, that it is, rather, absolute. It is the fount of justice, truth, beauty, and love. As such, liberalism can be said to be a “religion”, insofar as it lays claim to the absolute and implies a corresponding form of conduct.

Negatively, this necessitates a hostility to mass society as it is manifested in mass culture, the mass market, and the mass state. Any social form that would reduce man to a particular function or set of functions to be carried out for a “greater” good must be an intolerable burden upon the spirit. There can be but little doubt that the current social structure, social democracy, is such a burden. It has stripped man of all real political power, reduced him to a cog in the economic machinery, pushed his religion into the realm of more or less laudable past-times, and made him duty-bound to his nation.

Social democratism, a hodgepodge of Judeo-Christian ethics, nationalism, socialism, capitalism, and classical liberalism, is the ideology of mass society. It is the greatest ideological-religious system yet devised by mankind, but it simply cannot live up to the promises it has made in its rise to power.

It promises self-determination. And with imperialistic glee, it liberates the barbaric nations of the world from dictatorship and authoritarianism. But, self-determination is nothing if it is not the right to do what one wants with one’s own, a right that encompasses the rights to property and free expression and countless others. It is fundamentally the right to shape one’s own life and, with the cooperation of his neighbors, that of his community. Social democracy, however, has substituted majoritarianism for self-determination and called it “democracy”. Certainly, one may become the master of his own destiny in such an order–so long as he can convince tens of millions of his “fellow” voting citizens to follow him.

Likewise, social democracy promises economic opportunity, a more or less free market padded with social security and welfarism, and it has pushed the rest of the world, although in characteristically self-serving fashion, to open the doors to “free trade”. “Opportunity” is generally construed to mean the economic dimension of a still rather individualistic conception of self-determination. But, social democracy has increasingly turned to artificial stability and efficiency and away from genuine individual opportunity. The parameters of free enterprise (which again is a spiritual and not a material question) are being ever narrowed by the continuous growth of economic regulation and taxation on one side and the division of labor on the other. The former trend is one often attributed to and claimed by the left, the latter the right.

But, we would suggest that the two trends actually represent a vicious cycle of a single process necessitated by social democracy. Economic dislocation is created and sustained by both, and they, in fact, feed off one another. The division of labor generates socioeconomic dislocation, which the social democratic state then emerges to reverse. While the state may prevent the social dislocation from deteriorating into social chaos, it must be a drain on economic productivity, and will, somewhat ironically, cause greater economic (and therefore social) dislocation. This is met with a round of economic “liberalization” and a suitably modest and temporary “reform” of the state, which, while intended as a solution to or respite from the emerging crisis, is in fact merely another step along the way to doom. Left and right equally decry the unprecedented growth of capitalism and socialism, respectively, and with equal justification, for they complement each other.

Social democracy’s cocktail of regulation, taxation, trade liberalization, and majoritarianism may be raising the country to unimagined heights of economic, political, and social power, but the price of such power is the liberty and growth of the spirit. The spirit is constrained by the power of the state to tax and regulate, by the economy’s exaggerated division of labor, and by the nation’s claim to the self-determination that can only be properly found in the individual. If the spirit is the fount of all that is good, it is also the fount of all that is evil. And, if it is grossly deformed by a social system (even of its own creating), it will likely react in the most devilish of ways. The devil is indeed Legion, and in different times and places, that reaction will manifest itself under various guises. Here, it will be communism, there, anarcho-capitalism. Over there, fundamentalism. And, racism, fascism, nationalism, and perhaps yet undreamed of tyrannies.

But, if the future is not so bright as the social democratic progressives imagine, nor is it as dark as we have threatened. Social democracy is sewing the seeds of its own destruction and its days are numbered, as its extravagant promises ring increasingly hollow in the West and around the world, but the end of one epoch is equally the beginning of another. The collapse of theocracy brought religious wars and the rise of the monarchy, and the collapse of monarchy in turn brought the ideological wars and the victory of social democracy. Social democracy’s fall is likely to be violent in a time when the art of violence is about as near to perfection as one can tolerate. But, the great impetus is and always has been for the liberty of the spirit, and the spirit will not rest until that liberty has been found.

March 15, 2004

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