The Attack On Liberalism

The Empire continues to collapse and the ruling class is getting ever more nervous. The masses may start asking questions. “Western democracies are in trouble, grappling with rising inequality, lost confidence in government, fraying social fabrics, and intense political divides. What has brought on this crisis?” asks G. John Ikenberry in a Foreign Affairs review of Why Liberalism Failed by Patrick J. Deneen (which was review in the Times in January). As a result someone or something must be blamed, and you can bet your bottom dollar it won’t be the ruling class, capitalism or its modern core principle of unlimited private profit for the select few.

Per Ikenberry, according to Deneen Enlightenment precursors, identified as Machiavelli, Bacon, Hobbes, Descartes and John Locke

rejected classical and Christian efforts to foster virtue and instead premised their secular visions of politics on a less lofty view of the individual as motivated by pride, selfishness, greed, and the quest for glory. On this basis, Western liberal democracies have grown powerful and wealthy but have also experienced the corrosive effects of untrammeled self-interest. Social bonds and traditional values have disappeared, and citizens feel threatened by the growing power of a distant state. Deneen argues for a retreat into smaller units: family, church, and local communities.

Does that mean feudalism is preferable? Hindsight is 20/20 of course. Trading one ruling class system for another has its pros and cons. Does it take a “scholar” to understand that this “untrammeled self-interest” of wealth is the primary object of the system to which common Liberalism and all else must bow?

For the Preservation Society Liberalism is by far the best system of social control. It is flexible, and this ruling class leniency helps said ruling class slip into the background, making it difficult for the masses to come together into a unified opposition, and making it easier to herd the masses into groups that oppose each other rather than their overlords. We don’t need powerful symbols around which the masses can focus their displeasure.

The intensity of the assault on Liberalism has greatly increased around the dying political system as represented by the 2016 “election” cycle. This editorial, Democracy in retreat, from the Washington PostMarch 13, 2016 says

AFTER THE Cold War it seemed that democracy was spreading, dictatorships were tumbling and capitalism ascendant. Today, democracy is in retreat. Liberal values such as transparency, rule of law, accountability and respect for human dignity are being widely trampled. Autocrats and even some Western politicians openly traffic in fear, xenophobia and paranoia. The enemies of democracy are growing bolder by the day. The United States is partly responsible for letting this happen. It should step up to the autocrats of the world and confront their dangerous illiberalism.

In a way it tells the truth, despite the hyperbole. But of course this illiberalism doesn’t apply to the U.S.  In fact, the U.S. is apparently not being Liberal enough for the Post. And that Liberal action entails, as one would expect, more bombing, and the selling of  more bombs. The ruling class knows we are nearing the end. Is this a way for the higher orders to ease the masses into an out and out dictatorship? Some of Us at the Preservation Society believe that is the best thing to do despite Our misgivings.

The the Post‘s editorial board got depressed about the upcoming election “[u]nfortunately, there is a chance that America’s lethargy will worsen — Mr. Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders are promising a further retreat from international commitments.” They are no doubt wiping the sweat off their brow knowing the agenda is still on track with a false flag Syria, among others. Does this mean Liberalism is back?

Of course not.

After the election, in December 2016, Fareed Zakaria penned an article, America’s democracy has become illiberal. He discovers the reason for the decline of Liberalism:

It turns out that what sustains democracy is not simply legal safeguards and rules, but norms and practices — democratic behavior. This culture of liberal democracy is waning in the United States today.

The Founding Fathers were skeptical of democracy and conceived of America as a republic to mitigate some of the dangers of illiberal democracy.

* * *

But we are now getting to see what American democracy looks like without any real buffers in the way of sheer populism and demagoguery. The parties have collapsed, Congress has caved, professional groups are largely toothless, the media have been rendered irrelevant.

* * *

What we are left with today is an open, meritocratic, competitive society in which everyone is an entrepreneur, from a congressman to an accountant, always hustling for personal advantage. But who and what remain to nourish and preserve the common good, civic life and liberal democracy?

Zakaria leaves it there. No question as to who or why this breakdown has occurred. It is merely the irresponsible masses who have squandered their democracy and elected the unapproved of (but thoroughly manageable) Donald J. Trump. Their masters had nothing to do with it.

Democrats Shouldn’t Give in to White Racism by Slate’s Jamelle Bouie is part of a tag team with The Party of Hubert Humphrey by James Traub of The Atlantic. Bouie claims, as the trend goes these days, that Trump won because of white racism despite the fact,  for instance, that Obama had won the previous two elections — the first quite handily and with great enthusiasm from the much of the masses. Suddenly that has gone away? That Trump ran against Hillary Clinton, one of the most disliked candidates in history, had nothing to do with it either, nor did running against the despised establishment parties and their failed economies. Bernie Sanders beat The Donald in poll after poll? Means nothing.

The racism of the Democratic Party is supposedly rooted in 1948, when Hubert Humphrey introduced civil rights of minorities into the Democratic platform, though it was opposed by most of the leadership, and led to a Southern walkout). But the party was afraid of the very popular Henry Wallace, who advocated for a “European-style socialism”. “A bold civil-rights plank in the Democratic platform would go a long way to blunting Wallace’s appeal,” says Traub. Does this not show Liberals what their party is like? But no matter. This culminated in LBJ’s Great Society. This, and apprently nothing else, led to Conservative reaction and the Reagan Revolution of the 70s and 80s.

Civil rights are presented as either-or situation. Now that it had passed, it had to be paid for. A pound of flesh. Tax costs and anti-black propaganda drive whites away. But this is only couched as racism of privileged Liberals. Once or twice the authors may mention economic stagnation. Neither pointed out that in a healthy society civil rights should not be a problem. But the cost is usually and unnecessarily put on the always stressed middle class.

This is the box the masses have to play in. It is the racist individual to blame for the bought and paid for Democratic Party’s “failures”. Especially at fault are the white middle class who don’t think they are racists but are. The masses are conditioned to accept guilt and blame each other, and not to blame the ruling class. These are Our well bred masses. You see how they benefit Us, yet endangers us all?

Veteran Liberal journalist E. J. Dione brings religion and anti-liberalism together in The Virtue of Original Sin Liberalism to blame the individual. Like a good religionist he recognizes the guilt of the human being. He claims that

especially since the 1930s and 1940s, liberals have been acutely aware of our fallen nature and our capacity for evil. The Holocaust, the Gulag, the destructiveness of nuclear weapons and the staggering death toll of World War II made thoroughly sunny perspectives about human goodness obsolete.

No mention what would make the masses behave so barbarically, except that “man” has an evil nature, as well as a good nature: the binary of ruling class domination. This takes care of everything. The individual’s inherent alienation from their ruling class society makes this easier to accept.

* * *

Anti-Liberal propaganda, whether from Liberals or Conservatives, takes one of two forms. It either attacks Liberals themselves for abandoning classical Liberalism, or makes claims that Liberalism has failed as a social framework. To complicate matters, these labels morph in meaning when considered in the context of other labels. For Conservatives the abandonment of classical Liberalism happened long ago and is only now coming home to roost. Other Conservatives believe Liberalism itself is the problem as the medievalist Deneen quoted at the start of this essay demonstrates.

For Liberals, the failure of Liberalism is the failure of Liberals to be “Liberal” — that is to say to fetishize identity, and to call out its perceived foes like the hordes of white supremacists in suburban America (ironically, this has been the traditional Conservative position, think “welfare queens” and “commies”). To the well bred Liberal the abandonment of Liberalism is due to the control of “right-wingers” and insensitive racists, but it is not usually attributed to the ruling class and its social imperatives, and therefore stays away from a critique of the system.

In Our last essay, We dealt with the illiberal nature of Liberalism. The difference is that We pointed out that it is not very liberal at its foundational roots. Sanctity of property, contracts and personal security were the issues, not landless peasants, or preservation of common rights.

Original sin makes blaming the powerless masses easy to do. The loyal herd are conditioned to accept the failure of society as their own fault, or, conversely, they are ready to pin it on another sector of the equally impotent masses.

* * *

Liberalism, nor the Enlightenment for that matter, was successful not simply because it seemed like a reasonable set of principles that a free people have decided to accept. Liberalism and the Enlightenment were successful against feudalism and religion because Liberty and Enlightenment were under girded by the powerful forces of business and capitalism to propel them forward, which in turn propelled business and capital forward.

Liberalism and the Enlightenment seem obvious and comonsensical today, but three hundred years ago those values were competing ideologies with monarchism and religion. Today we take them for granted. Liberalism and Enlightenment values appear to us as obvious truths, just as so many obvious truths today appear to remain stuck in doubt, and therefore “debate”, and therefore are ineffective “until the facts can be sorted out”.

There is nothing to under gird Liberalism today. That masters of society no longer need it to get what they want. And lord knows the masses don’t need all that liberty! The corporate order is busy rolling back liberties because it can, and to prepare for the coming collapse, hence the militarization of the police.

The oligarchs’ grip on power is not tackled by Liberals and Conservatives except as a side issue. Meanwhile the best thing the established order has produced and that benefited the masses — Liberalism — is under fire. Still, Liberalism is a failure, but a preventable one. It has failed the ruling class as well as the lower orders and the planet. Bourgeois compliance has rendered Liberals (and Conservatives) incapable of defending their interests even within certain limits beyond which it’s the masters’ domain. But this failure entails far more than bad race relations, which is a consequence of Liberal, which is to say systemic failure.

We don’t know exactly what is out there but Liberalism isn’t the worst. Unless the masses wake up, predictions of the demise of Liberalism will be more than just propaganda. It’ll be moving backwards. Or will it be a new way forward?

Here are a few more recent articles assaulting Liberalism:

Liberalism is loneliness, How Democracy Became the Enemy, How Endangered Is American Democracy?, Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?, Liberal World Order, R.I.P., Liberalism faces a crisis of confidencePost-Liberalism, East and West, Social democracy is floundering everywhere in Europe, except Portugal, The Collapse of the Liberal World Order, The Crisis of Social Democracy: From Norway to Europe, The twilight of the liberal world order.

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