Paul Gottfried examines the idea of “liberalism” in The American Conservative, writing (abridged):
In a recent column, TAC co-founder Pat Buchanan quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin to the effect that the liberal principle may be falling into disrepute:
“Why is liberalism failing? Several causes said Putin. Among them, its failure to deal with the crisis of the age: mass and unchecked illegal migration. Putin praised Trump’s efforts to secure the U.S. border:”
“This liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population. … This liberal idea presupposes that … migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected.”
Let me raise some questions about the “liberal idea” that seem relevant to Putin’s observation.
Paul writes, “Why should I think that either unchecked immigration from our Southern border or the glorification of homosexual lifestyles, both of which Putin and Buchanan cite as examples of the “liberal idea,” have anything to do with ‘liberalism’?”
Gottfried continues, “why should I believe that “liberalism” leads in a ruinous direction, including the breakdown of nation states and bourgeois Christian social institutions? And here’s my key question: what is meant by “liberalism” when we use that term to describe social, political, and/or cultural changes?”
He further explains (abridged):
In the 20th-century West, the “liberal idea” underwent a dramatic transformation because John Dewey (and other advocates of the modern administrative state, grouped around the infant New Republic) chose that term for their political experiments. Defenders of the welfare state both here and in England thereafter declared that they identified with administered “democratic” government….
Then the term migrated leftward again and came to describe lifestyle radicals, who at least initially resisted “liberal” as a self-description but who eventually embraced it as a badge of respectability. By now, it is considered “liberal” to have drag queens promoting their lifestyle to children at public libraries across the country, as happened at a recent reading hour in Spokane, Washington, where a tattooed, muscled drag queen with Oscar the Grouch Aqua Net hair read stories like “Princesses Don’t Wear Pink.” When a group of mothers announced that they would be protesting the event, the city thought it warranted the presence of police snipers on nearby rooftops.
Such expressions of LGBT activism, together with lax immigration enforcement, has apparently caused Pat [Buchanan] to conclude that “liberalism” may be crashing.
But why? Our current “liberals” seem to enjoy dominant positions in education, the media, and Hollywood, and command a large, somewhat heterogeneous following among Millennials, college-educated women, and racial minorities…
Should I [PG] assume that 19th-century churchgoing Boston and London merchants on the one side and our current drag queens and open-borders advocates on the other all stand in the same political and moral tradition? Are they all “liberal”?
Read more here.