Mar 22, 2004: A Liberal Manifesto, Part II

If, from the negative side, liberalism is struggling against social democracy, from the positive side, it is struggling for consensual democracy, or what might be called “pure democracy” or “absolute democracy” or “true democracy”. It insists on the rule of each and all, instead of the rule of the few or of the many. While this is the logical conclusion of the principles espoused by social democracy itself, for example the aforementioned principle of self-determination, in the case of liberalism, it is no mere speculative exercise. Rather, it is a necessary condition of the spirit of man in its absoluteness. It is but the mere, although important, political expression of that sovereignty that, again, extends across all aspects of life and that, like the Old Testament god, is utterly jealous of those who would dispossess it, whether God, or History, or Idea, or Nation, or Justice, or Spirit, or Matter, or any other Abstraction that can be conjured by that selfsame spirit.

Insofar as that spirit is absolutely individualized and in a state of becoming, it is not and cannot be subject to programs or platforms or plans, nor can it be consciously predetermined in its course. If we are not ignorant of the spirit, nor are we omnipotent. Although liberalism is religion, it is the very diversity and infiniteness of the spirit that prevents one from producing a universally binding set of rules or laws or mode of conduct, except to insist on action and thought which enrich the spirit, which is, we acknowledge, not only vague but nearly redundant. And, it is this very indefiniteness of the course of the spirit and its vastness that necessitates the freedom and consensual government insisted upon by liberalism.

Over the last two centuries, social democracy and liberalism have undermined and destroyed countless tyrannies of varying degrees of horror. And, in doing so, they have on occasion paved the way for newer and more sinister horrors before replacing those. If these two humanistic religions (humanistic in relation to the transcendental religions) destroyed the Czar and the Kaiser, they made room for the Party Secretary and the Fuhrer before destroying them, too, in favor of the President, the Cabinet, and Parliament. But, in a civilization now effectively free from slavery and political inequality and in some significant ways more liberal than even a few decades ago, one arrives at two conclusions. First, the rise of humanism, for all of its attendant misery, was inevitable and fortunate. Second, that the old alliance and friendly competition between social democracy and liberalism is no longer possible.

Indeed, the war is under way. Social democracy today reigns supreme and liberalism has been reduced to little more than a tendency, a reflex, and a label. Liberalism lacks self-consciousness now, but social democracy’s excesses and consequent ultimate failure point to the reemergence of liberalism as a declaration of independence of the human spirit. Proto-liberal resistance to social democracy is already underway. The quiet rumblings emanating from libertarian-anarchists on the internet are merely the first weak wave of a liberal reawakening. Their opposition to “statism” is effectively rooted in principles of political economy and is only secondarily (at best) informed by humanistic principles. Social democracy’s aggression is felt most immediately, if somewhat superficially, in the realm of economic rights, so it is not surprising that the first liberal shots should be fired from this quarter. However, social democracy’s dearest offense is its assault on the human spirit, of which the libertarian-anarchist critique can only partially address.

As liberalism, as a movement, recognizes that it cannot endure the claim of any authority or power over and above the human spirit, including that claimed by the nation-state, it will be on the sure path to revolution and ultimate victory. When it can no longer tolerate the constraints of social democracy, it will revolt. It will strike its democratic banner and strike the state, spiritually and materially. It will deny the social democratic state its mythical claim to be founded on the consent of the governed. It will truly withdraw its consent from the state of coercion and replace it with the state of consensus. It will abandon electoral politics, disobey unjust laws, and refrain from funding the social democratic state.

But, the negation of social democracy does not and cannot define liberalism. Liberalism is ultimately the opening of the way to the freedom of the spirit and not merely the rejection of statism in general or social democratism in particular. We now know that liberalism implies a free, consensual order, a society that does not impinge upon the human spirit. In sociopolitical terms, this specifically implies consensual democratism, social freedom, free markets, and non-violence. In terms of religion, this implies the supremacy of art, philosophy, and work (moral, political, and economic), as they are bound up within the life of the restless spirit.

March 22, 2004


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