Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

On Liberalism

Seeing "Amazing Grace" reminded me that every good idea of modern times (and probably before that) was someone's liberal idea at first. The founding of this country was perhaps the greatest liberal experiment in history. Abolition of slavery, "universal" sufferage (followed by female sufferage), prevention of cruelty to animals, wage and hour laws, workplace safety laws, food and drug regulation, Social Security, and any number of other effective, helpful social welfare programs first came to light as a gleam in some Liberal reformer's eye. Of course there have been bad and unsuccessful ideas as well--Prohibition for one. I would like to be able to say that all these things are taken for granted these days, but it is not so. There are those, who call themselves "Conservatives" who attempt to argue that in effect, we should be going back to the days of laissez-faire capitalism when robber barons did as they liked weilding the untrammled power of their fortunes, oppressive social control ruled everything else from the pulpits, and foreign policy would be a mixture of Isolationism when it came to anyone else meddling in our affairs, and jingoism when we wished to meddle in anyone else's. One of the chief tactics of these Reactionaries, these false Conservatives, has been to try to make "Liberal" a dirty word cognate to "traitor," and, unfortunately, Liberals have been letting them get away with it all too much.

The fact is that both liberal and conservative forces have a place in a healthy political system. It is the task of Liberals to bring new ideas to the table; to ask, "is there a better way?"; and to devise new systems and institutions for the good of all. It is the legimate task of the Conservatives to protect those institutions that are working well, and to challenge and test ideas to see if they are worthy. it is no part of honest dealing on either side either to propose change just for the sake of change, or to oppose change just because it is new. This is what we must teach.

The Liberals have been guilty of being too nice; we have been willing to follow rules of civil debate, to acknowlege points when made, and to fairly weigh the substance of arguements. This has put the Liberal side at a disadvantage against a foe that admits of no compromise (this has also become a bad word--), refuses to acknowlege virtue in anything from a liberal source, and espouses a scorched earth style of debate. We must accept that there are some ideas which are just plain bad, dangerous, and actively harmful to civilized life, and, that, without supressing free speech, or stooping to the politics of "personal destruction," these pernicious ideas must be opposed as strongly as possible whenever and whereever they appear. Among these are any that promote or accept racial inequality or sexual inequality; "junk science", including anti-Evolution and other 'faith-based' alternatives to well-established scientific knowlege; and those tending to promote dicatorial powers of government, whether in wartime or otherwise. And, most of all, the idea that any one who does not agree with you is against you, that they are the enemy, and they and their ideas are to be driven out.

I admit it is a somewhat paradoxical crusade; however, part of the essence of liberalism is some tolerance for ambiguity--.
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