I am enjoying Kenneth Minogue’s book on the Liberal Mind. It is providing a stimulus for thoughtful musing, not in a zero-sum manner where one is right and another wrong, but in a way of creating understanding. In one sense it is an internal dialogue, creating deeper meaning within me.
Minogue points out that Liberalism “is a political theory closely linked these days with such democratic machinery as checks and balances in government.” Check, that sounds good.
He also explains that Liberalism, in its most general sense, is concerned with freedom, “built on an edifice of doctrine” centered in the natural rights of man. “A liberal state is one where most actions of the government are taken with the consent of at least a majority of the population.” Check, this seems reasonable.
Minogue then begins to discuss the liberal’s idea of struggle “by which men make their society rational, just, and capable of affording opportunities for everyone to develop his own potentialities.” This also seems realistic and accurate. It appears that the liberal mind sees the importance of personal initiative. Sounds good so far.
Here is where I begin to move away from the modern liberal. The modern liberal sees political process and subsequently government as the solution to human problems. “Liberalism, however, has come more and more to see politics simply as a technical activity like any other.” We decide what we want, how society should be organized, and then use government to get it. This is not necessarily evil, but where does it end?
George W. Bush used a phrase, compassionate conservative, with which he wanted to demonstrate that the liberal was not the only one concerned with compassion. The liberal is concerned about suffering in the world, suffering of the marginalized people. The liberal mind sees the world as a dichotomy of oppressor and oppressed. The liberal views this pedagogy of the oppressor over marginalized as needing to be addressed by government, not by personal responsibility. This is where I disagree.
According to Minogue the Marxist sees liberalism as a bewildering attempt “of the more intelligent among the privileged classes to paper over the gaping contradictions of capitalism in order to preserve that system.” The Marxist argue that liberals “offer steady doses of welfare, insufficient to cure the sickness but enough to discourage the proletariat from drastic remedies.” The drastic event for the Marxist is revolution.
The above snippets from Minogue are very interesting to me. It tells me a liberal thinking individual cares about the disenfranchised and marginalize person. The liberal cares about freedom, but seems to want to use a large governmental system to deal with the problems, which if not kept in check could lead to the loss of freedom. But Minogue also argues that there is a bit of hypocrisy with the liberal, especially with its emphasis on welfare.
For me, I see three things of importance. First, we must care about the disenfranchised. Jesus tells us to do that, so there is no way we can get around the requirement, nor should we want to. Second, all American’s need to pay attention to what the government is doing, because big government can lead to fewer freedoms. NSA spying may seem innocent now, but it may become Orwellian in the future. Third, there is hypocrisy in all of us. The many celebrities that support so-called liberal causes but are not willing to give up their creature comforts seems a little weird at times. All of us talk about a changing climate, yet, we don’t change our driving habits.
After all of this, I am convinced I am two people. I am liberal, because I want to set up systems where people can be successful and have a better life. But I am also very conservative, because I don’t think big government is the answer. It is us that is the answer. As weird as that answer sounds.
And that is my thought for the day!