January 23, 2010
The Latitudes of a Liberal
In pondering the opposite of the set of characteristic traits of conservatives, I realized I was by and large describing liberals. In other words, contrary to what some libertarians, "moderates," and assorted third parties believe, conservatives and liberals really are nearly 180° apart from each other.
Again, other groups may share some of these traits; they are not exclusive to liberals. For example, socialists share many but not all.
As you can see, I have only one of these "liberal" traits (in bold italics); and even that one is conditional: I do believe the United States is the greatest country that has ever existed... but I still have a preference for governance below the level of the modern nation-state (with some doubts about its feasibility).
I would consider anyone with 13 of the 17 traits (about 75%) firmly in the "liberal" camp.
So here are the liberal traits; never let it be said I was not even-handed in my high-handedness.
- Deep belief in utopia and the perfectability (via deconstruction and reconstruction) of humanity
- Anger, bitterness, and pessimism, possibly because their belief in utopia and perfectability constantly leaves them disappointed (as commenter BigLeeH suggested)
- Quasi-internationalism: They believe there is a place for nationalism, just as there is for state and local government; but some international standards should trump provincial nationalism (e.g., the "World Court of Justice")
- Allergy to American exceptionalism, which they consider provincial
- Rejection of "kneejerk" patriotism, which they consider chauvinist, but not to the point of hatred of America
- Rejection any large or adventurous role for America on the world stage -- unless we have no national interest whatsoever, our intervention is purely altruistic
- Preference for collectivist solutions, whenever possible
- Preference for "highly regulated capitalism;" in particular, they have it in for small business. Strong support for huge corporations, especially multinational corporations -- perhaps because multinationals are (a) internationalist and (b) always willing to play "Let's Make a Deal" with governments
- Belief in as large a government as possible, while still retaining the mixed and regulated form of Capitalism
- Preference for top-down decision-making, especially by unelected judges, due to a lack of trust in mere voters; but without the complete rejection of democracy (in theory, it's perfectable!)
- Belief in extreme version of Darwinian biological evolution -- which they believe proves the nonexistence of God
- Belief that all religion is just community consciousness and social control (which can be good or bad, depending on how it's directed)
- Denial that personhood begins at conception; some seem reluctant to admit that personhood begins even at birth; passionate support for abortion, including late-term abortion, as a "woman's right to choose"
- Passionate belief in the legislating of good health habits
- Strong distrust of the American military, security, and intelligence apparatuses as "agents of oppression"
- Preference for minorities over the majority -- on the basis of race, sex (women are honorary minorities), sexual preference, and ethnicity
- Love of non-Americans over Americans
Again, your definition of a liberal may differ from mine; this is just my inductively reasoned extraction of characteristic liberal traits as I see them. Comment is welcome!
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 23, 2010, at the time of 2:04 PM
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The following hissed in response by: Fritz
Dafydd, the above described traits describe progressives, or far left Democrats as it now stands. To use the word liberal in much associated with them only corrupts its meaning. Any who subscribe to those tenets are certainly not liberal as liberal is defined in dictionaries, and I would submit not much in favor of democracy.
The following hissed in response by: Goyo Marquez
With respect to 12 Belief that all religion is just… I would add, with the exception of their religion which they know to be true and therefore not really a religion.
The above hissed in response by: Goyo Marquez at January 23, 2010 3:49 PM
The following hissed in response by: snochasr
IMHO you have overlooked the two most fundamental characteristics of modern liberals, and those that explain most of the rest. First, they believe in their own moral and intellectual superiority as an absolute, and second, they believe there are no moral absolutes. Therefore, that which is good is whatever they say it is, when they say it, and the truth is whatever they are saying at the moment they say it, regardless of what they may say moments later, or moments prior. Some of them actually believe they can say something and it becomes reality, but of course Americans would never, ever, elect such a grand fool to the Presidency.
The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh
Dafydd, the above described traits describe progressives, or far left Democrats as it now stands.
I was actually at some pains to distinguish between the two. Traits 3, 6, 8, and 9 are opposite to the basic tenets of the hard Left; while 13, 14, 16, and 17 would be as mystifying to "Progressives" as they are to conservatives and libertarians.
And I doubt that the hard Left despises the military, security, and intelligence regimes; rather, they would be perfectly happy with them just as they are now, so long as the Left were in charge of the government. It's liberals who simply don't like them, period.
I think liberals do believe in moral absolutes, but they don't match those of any other faction. For example, bad health habits (like smoking and eating trans-fats) are morally wrong; discrimination of any kind (even discrimination between the talented and the untalented) is morally wrong, and so forth.
They're just hypocritically forgiving of their own inability to live up to the standard of perfection they demand everyone else strictly meet.
The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh at January 23, 2010 9:43 PM
The following hissed in response by: BigLeeH
Fritz and Dafydd,
I'm not that interested in trying to make distinctions between the characteristics of "liberals" vs. "progressives." In current American usage the terms have so merged that it is difficult to slip a greased pinky between them at any point. One can say that this aspect of modern American liberalism comes from historical progressivism, or that that aspect is a modern perversion of a classical liberal tenet but one will always be discussing history, not the current state of things. Most of the self-styled "progressives" I know are just trying to escape the opprobrium linked to the word "liberal" and they sometimes remind me of the Gene Wilder character in Young Frankenstein who insists that his name is pronounced FrankenSTEEN.
As for the list it seems pretty accurate otherwise. You have once again larded it with invidious terminology with the result that liberals will not tend to recognize themselves in it. And beyond the negative terminology, there are several points where you challenge some of the enabling self-deceptions of modern American liberalism. No liberal, for instance, is going to buy into the second half of trait number 8 -- "strong support for big corporations." When they hear "big corporations" they will tend to think "big oil" or "big banks" or "big pharma" -- all "official" enemies of progress; the fact that the gravitational attraction of big government and big corporations tends to make them merge into a corporatist black hole is never considered, much less admitted.
The following hissed in response by: snochasr
I think liberals do believe in moral absolutes, but they don't match those of any other faction. ... They're just hypocritically forgiving of their own inability to live up to the standard of perfection they demand everyone else strictly meet.
You may be correct, but there is a simpler explanation. That is, that liberals believe in their own moral superiority over and above any moral absolutes, thus allowing "morality" to be defined as whatever they happen to believe (or do) at the time. In other words, they can NEVER be hypocrites because they believe in no fixed moral standards against which their behavior, whatever it is, could be weighed. And because they are superior to you, you are not entitled to charge hypocrisy in any event.
The following hissed in response by: Fritz
After thinking about this for a day I understand your point Dafydd, but I would argue that the "Liberals' in the Democrat party are now so invested with much of the Progressives agenda that they are almost impossible to separate, hence I think my original comment stands. It is not that I don't agree that politics makes for strange bedfellows, but after a while they are no longer strange, and in fact have become so inseparable that they are indistinguishable from each other. While they may have started from different points they have ended up the same in action. As the old saying goes, if it quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck.
I would be more inclined to accept the distinction if there was more evidence of a rift in the Democrat party over some of those points. And while you can point to rifts in that party, I'm not convinced that "liberals" in it are standing up for their beliefs against Progressives rather than simply fearing that their constituents will not elect them. Of course politicians are not noted for their courage so perhaps I'm placing too much emphasis on that concept and it is skewing my perceptions of all of them.
You can make the argument that Joe Lieberman is a liberal, but one outlier does not a body of evidence make. In short, I have no confidence that any of the rest of them are liberals rather than progressives.
Lastly, as I see it none of them are actually liberals. Liberalism is a belief in the freedom of the individual and I don't see that from the Democrats. What I do see is them trying to impose their ideas of what we should do, say, eat, drink, and so on. To me that makes them Progressives rather than liberals. Liberalism would certainly never advocate a mandate on everyone to buy health insurance. Liberalism would encourage the exchange of ideas freely and would never try to stifle them. As it stands, today's liberals are now the independents and part of the Republicans. There may be some liberals still registered as Democrats, but they have long since ceased to be mainstream Democrats and should probably change their voter's registration.
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