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My definitions are valid.
No, conservatism is always bad, because I am a pot-smoking hippie. 33%
No, words may only be redefined to suit liberalist political agendas. 11%
No, liberalism represents progress and freedom! 11%
... which is why we must institutionalise free love and revolution. 22%
... which is why we must fire up the baby vats. Progress is inevitable. 0%
... that's precisely what worries me about it. 22%
No, the meaning of word cannot change over time, my lovely bully. 0%
Yes. 0%

Votes: 9


 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Jan 01, 2002
It's time to clear up a preposterous liberalist myth.

More diaries by nathan
Bartok violin concerto
religion has failed us.
addition to previous diary (sorry)
Why girls are better than boys
tangential point off h.a.'s recent diary
why boys and girls are different
new job!
objectivist club
Another Friday night
some light reading
the opposite sex
hey, alprazolam,
g**k math is not hard.
should women?
a new threat
wiccan woes
is Christianity theistically monistic?
give me advice.
Canada rules!
Burma Shave!
do some atheists hate religion?
Liberalism may be usfully defined, in our era, as an ideology based upon the enshrinement of change and open-mindedness about the revision of values. This redefinition has become necessary because of the dialectic between the Enlightenment idea of liberalism and its effects as applied from that time until the present day. Liberalism is founded upon the idea of the robust natural goodness of man, which implies that individual self-sufficiency is an enlightened way of organizing society, as centralised power is subject to corruption and domination by a few evil people; and consequently a constant danger to the free and many good.

The natural goodness of man is a problematic assumption. It is one thing to observe that men, individually or in the aggregate, are good or capable of good, and quite another to leap from that to man's possession of a nature that is good in itself. If this idea were true, it would not be possible for evil to arise, so the mere existence of evil disproves it. If a majority of men were good, evil people would only be able to hold power by concealing their evilness, and would constantly be subject to destruction as soon as the good people sussed them out. This is equally unsupported by the evidence. History teaches us that man's nature is evil, for we accept selfishness and cruelty as normal (if regrettable) even in the best man; we do not see even a great man and wonder that he has done serious wrongs. It would be the wonder if he had not.

In this light, liberalism seems a little shaky. I would like to refer back to my earlier definition and derive the following from it: as liberalism enshrines change, with the presumption that it is shaking the evil out of the essentially unsullied human nature, it is fundamentally opposed to conservatism, which needs no redefinition; conservatism is the belief in the validity of old-fashioned values. The only question is, which values? Who gets to decide?

That last question must be asked because of the 'cultural conservatism' movement in America. Such liberalists as Buchanan have claimed that they are actually conservatives. This is clearly wrong. The old-fashioned values of Greek civilisation or apostolic Christianity do not include slavishly flattering power; establishing foreign murder squads to maintain power in foreign countries; racism of the most debased sort; not to mention such cornerstones of modern 'cultural conservatism' as monetarism, the international system[1],[2] in politics, or materialistic, technocratic bureaucratism.

I trust this clears a few things up.

[1] This term has a specific meaning, such as ought to be well-known to all adequate people. If you don't know it, I won't do your homework for you, except to suggest that 'international' is the subject of 'system' rather than an adjective modifying it.

[2] I'm specifically asking no-one to take the term 'international system' to indicate some ridiculous conspiracy theory.


so what exactly is the myth? (none / 0) (#1)
by philipm on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 02:33:55 AM PST


the `subject' of the head noun of a noun phrase? (none / 0) (#2)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 03:53:03 AM PST
This term ["the international system"] has a specific meaning, such as ought to be well-known to all adequate people. If you don't know it, I won't do your homework for you, except to suggest that 'international' is the subject of 'system' rather than an adjective modifying it.

This grammatical "clarification" says one of two things: either (a) you are a engaged in that contemporary Principles and Parameters subprogram which postulates parallel structures for the clause and the determiner phrase, for no reason other than some Chomsky lackey with tenure thinks it is "theoretically desirable" (a.k.a. "no natural language data requires it in any way, but I'll sound really smart if I go around saying that it is a deep, noninductive principle of UG that there is a unified theory of the structure of DP and CP"), in which case you are a Chomsky-worshipping fool pursuing a pointless project with hardly any concern for fact; that or (b) you really don't know much about grammar and are trying to sound smart, in which case you are a pompous fool. Which one is it?

not a), nor (I hope) b) (none / 0) (#20)
by nathan on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 05:54:09 PM PST
Really, I don't see the problem. 'The international system,' meaning specifically 'the system of internationality,[1]' is distinct from 'the international system' in the ordinary sense. I'm sorry if my grammar wasn't clear.

All I meant to say is that 'system' modifies 'international' rather than the (more conventionally seen) reverse. If I expressed myself poorly, I'd be pleased to accept your correction.

I know my post was awfully snotty, which is why you're correct to chide me for making a mistake, if that's what I've done. While you're at it, care to comment on the grammar in the rest of the diary entry?

[1] Ie, the system of nation-states, with all it implies.

Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

I would put it even more simply. (5.00 / 1) (#3)
by tkatchev on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 05:37:24 AM PST
For me personally -- "liberalism" encompasses any belief that denies the existence of a higher power. In other words, "liberalism" is any belief that holds that a human being is just the sum of the constituent physical and mental processes.

I'm actually a fairly open-minded person, (don't laugh) so I don't really care if you believe in the Christian God; e.g. I don't consider buddhists to be liberalist.

Peace and much love...

I'm not laughing. Really. (none / 0) (#4)
by SpaceGhoti on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 05:45:56 AM PST
I promise to wait until after I post.

What amuses me most about your declaration is your repeated labeling of me as a "liberal." I have never once denied the existence of God or a higher power, and I defy you to show a post of mine that proves me a liar. My arguments have always reflected on moral, ethical, religious or logic issues, not on the existence (or lack thereof) of God.

In other words, I believe in God. I just think you're deluded for thinking you know the mind and nature of God.

A troll's true colors.

No you don't. (none / 0) (#5)
by tkatchev on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 06:01:00 AM PST
That's just the point -- belief in God isn't a belief in an abstract self-contained "system of ethics". Quite the opposite, actually.

(Besides, how can one believe in God and not believe in the existence of the human soul??)

Peace and much love...

God and ethics (none / 0) (#18)
by SpaceGhoti on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 02:55:36 PM PST
Of course the belief of God isn't merely a belief in personal ethics. Belief in God requires the belief in a higher power responsible for setting in motion the world we perceive around us and more. None of my statements have implied that there isn't such a power at work. My statements have always suggested that what that God is and what that God wants is not necessarily what you think.

A troll's true colors.

One more thing. (none / 0) (#6)
by tkatchev on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 06:03:16 AM PST
How the hell (excuse me) can one "reflect on religious issues" without touching on the topic of God's existence?!

That almost sounds like the vainglorious unitarian idiocy.

Peace and much love...'re thinking of atheism (none / 0) (#25)
by akepa on Thu Apr 4th, 2002 at 03:14:18 PM PST
Atheism is the belief that denies the existence of a higher power. While it's probably true that many atheists are liberals, it's also true that many liberals are Christians, Buddhists, Jews, or other assorted believers in some higher power.

As for conservatives, you'll probably find far fewer atheists among them, but a great many more flagrant hypocrites. Take Christian conservatives, for example. They supposedly live by the teachings of Jesus Christ, who hung out with prostititutes, beggars, and lepers; urged people to love their enemies, turn the other cheek and forgive the sins of others; sympathized with society's poor and claimed that rich people would have one hell of a time getting into heaven; and also knew how to party (he turned water into wine).

Yet many of these supposedly Christian conservatives encourage harsh punishment of sinners (and seemingly accuse anyone having any kind of fun as being a sinner), prefer the Old Testament "eye for an eye" philosophy over the "love your enemies" idea, dismiss the poor as lazy good-for-nothing welfare parasites, and really, really like money and those who have money.

I must disagree (none / 0) (#7)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 08:47:36 AM PST
History teaches us that man's nature is evil ..

History teaches us that some high-profile men (and women) were evil.

.. for we accept selfishness and cruelty as normal (if regrettable) even in the best man ..

This smacks of Ayn Rand-style Objectivism; I reject the notion that cruelty and selfishness are carte blanche accepted as "normal." Certainly, Rand and her acolytes accepted it as normal (and as something to celebrate, not to regret!) The Objectivist position on (for example) government benefits is that if a man loses his job, cannot find another job, and has no savings to support his family, then he should drive his family directly to the cemetery, dig their own graves, and then curl up in them and starve quietly so that when they've expired, all that Graveyard Incorporated has to do is cover the graves with some dirt. You Objectivist types may find this state of affairs to be acceptable, but I submit that moral, decent people do not. In fact, the teachings of Ayn Rand have been almost universally rejected as cultist propaganda.

.. we do not see even a great man and wonder that he has done serious wrongs. It would be the wonder if he had not.

Most great men have done no serious wrongs. Sure, many of them had their vices; Churchill was a bit too fond of whiskey, Clinton was a bit too fond of women, and so on and so forth. Those who have done serious wrongs are not considered to be great men. For example, Richard Nixon (a Republican) was resonsible for the carpet bombing of Hanoi, the U.S. invasion and subsequent slaughter of Cambodia, and a little incident called Watergate. For these actions he is not considered by historians to be a great man. Do the crime, do the time.

conservatism is the belief in the validity of old-fashioned values. The only question is, which values? Who gets to decide?

This question illustrates the superiority of liberalism. When one believes that he or she has the revealed answers to all of the world's questions and that (insert arbitrary race, religion, region, or country here) is wrong, then the logical end to these sentiments are the "serious wrongs" to which you refer. No liberal has suggested that the U.S. ought to invade the Middle East, kill all of their leaders, and forcibly convert everybody to Christianity, as conservatives have. No liberal has suggested that we ought to cease AIDS research and let the disease "run its natural course" on homosexuals, promiscuous heterosexuals, and minorities in sub-Saharan Africa, as conservatives have.

You see where I'm going with this .. most of the intolerence, evil, and atrocity of human history has been the result of conservative thinking. Josef Stalin and his death squads were most certainly not liberals; they were ultra-orthodox conservatives fiercely devoted to conserving their totalitarian system. You know the results. If the world was more serious about embracing liberalism, you would see many of its problems vanish .. but we've got a lot of work ahead before we can actually get there.

I stopped taking you seriously... (none / 0) (#8)
by tkatchev on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 09:26:54 AM PST
...when you started to claim that Stalin was not liberal.

Dude, learn some history; seriously, I have a hard time taking your posts seriously when you make such glaring mistakes.

Peace and much love...

Oh, come on (none / 0) (#9)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 09:55:37 AM PST
I claim that Stalin was fiercely devoted to conserving his hard-line totalitarian regime and murdered anybody that he perceived as a threat. Are you honestly contesting this, and if so, what evidence do you have to offer? Can you name which of the modern liberal teachings that Stalin espoused and/or adhered to? Openness? Tolerance? Freedom? Respect?

I didn't think so.

Sigh. (2.00 / 1) (#10)
by tkatchev on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 10:13:31 AM PST
Stalin AT THE TIME was a hard-line liberal, completely consistent with current liberal thought. The fact that liberal dogma has moved on since 1937 doesn't change anything. AT THE TIME Stalin was a liberal, supported by liberals in the U.S. and Europe. Learn some history, really; history doesn't start in 1969.

Peace and much love...

Let me get this straight (none / 0) (#14)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 01:38:35 PM PST
So when you lash out with malevolence at "liberalists" (as you are often wont to do on this site) you are attacking them on the basis of pre-1937 dogma, even though you admit that it has "moved on" since then? Gee, why not blame Gerhard Schroeder for the Holocaust? After all, he is the leader of Germany. The surest sign that a political philosophy is correct is that its enemies have to resort to tactics like this.

This is so much fun. (none / 0) (#15)
by tkatchev on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 02:06:16 PM PST
Frequent readers of this site might know that I don't place much value on formal logic; however, in this case, the temptation to use the liberalist's own weapon against him so simply too great.

Now then, you imply that you accept two basic precepts:
  1. Stalin's dogma was, in 1937, liberal at the core.
  2. Liberal dogma has changed since then.

Well then, one can only come to one of two conclusions based on these two precepts:
  1. Even though liberal dogma has changed, some fundamantal ideas behind it have stayed the same; the modern liberal may differ on some minor points with Stalin, but the overall idea is the same.
  2. Liberal dogma since 1937 has changed so radically that it now means something completely opposite of what it once meant. This means that the word "liberal" is meaningless -- taken to mean whatever the prevalent political fashion is this year.

So, which type of liberal are you?

Peace and much love...

Indeed (none / 0) (#16)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 02:19:00 PM PST
Now then, you imply that you accept two basic precepts:

1.Stalin's dogma was, in 1937, liberal at the core.
2.Liberal dogma has changed since then.

I implied neither. These things were implied by you. I was only taking them to their obvious (preposterous) conclusion and in doing so, demonstrating their fallaciousness. I did not, and do not agree that Stalin's philosophy or modus operandi could be called anything close to "liberal", which is an assertion that all individuals qualified to speak on such matters will consider to be ludicrous.

So, which type of liberal are you?

I am the type of liberal that embodies the qualities that I have enumerated above in the comment entitled "Horsefeathers", which I am sure you will find most illuminating. These qualities do not change over time. They are immutable. None of these qualities even remotely describes old Joe, who can most aptly be described as an arch-conservative madman.

Sure. (none / 0) (#17)
by tkatchev on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 02:33:52 PM PST
Do you realize just how badly you stereotyped whole groups of people?

Stalin was neither "arch-conservative" nor "madman". He was a talented administrator and revolutionary; remember that he started out as an atheist anarcho-socialist, basically the equivalent of the modern-day "anti-globalist" protester. Please; calling an atheist in Russia a "conservative" as as preposterous as calling a pro-life U.S. citizen that supports the death penalty a "liberal".

Stalin supported atheism, (i.e. "unitarianism") worker's rights, feminism, separation of church and state, agrarian reform, industrialization, materialism, and social engineering. These traits were very liberal in 1937, and they remain very liberal to this day.

As a final aside:

Pop quiz: Name at least one policy change promoted by Stalin.

Peace and much love...

Stalin's policies screwed everybody (none / 0) (#19)
by Hagbard Celine on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 03:17:43 PM PST
I doubt I get a prize, but how about the 1928-1930 collectivization of farmland? He promoted that.
All of my remarks are asides (I'm not adequate enough)

sorry, but (none / 0) (#12)
by derek3000 on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 01:04:20 PM PST
he's right. Liberal would mean more government power, not less.

"Feel me when I bring it!" --Gay Jamie

Horsefeathers (none / 0) (#13)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 01:29:51 PM PST
  • Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry
  • Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded
  • Of, relating to, or characteristic of liberalism
  • Liberal Of, designating, or characteristic of a political party founded on or associated with principles of social and political liberalism, especially in Great Britain, Canada, and the United States.
Sorry, I don't see anything about "government power" in there.

Let's look at some recent actions in the United States. You've got the "Patriot" Act, which defines about a million different things as "terrorism" and enacts strict new penalties. You've got the establishment of secret military tribunals, which are beyond the reach of traditional trial-by-jury and public scrutiny. You've got the wholesale detention of immigrants with no charges filed and no end in sight. Now, do these actions represent a decrease or an increase in the power of the government? Were liberals responsible for these actions? Did (and do) liberals agree with many of these actions?

If you can answer these questions, you will be well on the way towards understanding why your comment is complete nonsense, and why you should get your word definitions from sources more authoritative than Rush Limbaugh or Dr. Laura.

everything you say is stupid. (none / 0) (#24)
by derek3000 on Thu Jan 3rd, 2002 at 09:49:26 AM PST
Sorry, had to say it. If you just align liberal with the left (which is not a far leap) and conservatives to the right, you can see what I'm saying. Communism, Socialism--these are politics from the left, not the right. Anyone will tell you that. FDR was a liberal, and his used his power questionably in his role of expanding the government.

Liberals are 'loose constructionists'--if the constitution doesn't say that government can't do X, then we must be able to do X. The right is opposite--unless the constitution says that we can do X, we can't do it. So Bush and his cronies are, in fact, more liberal than I'm sure you would like to think.

Please wake up and understand the 'liberal' in political terms has a very specific meaning. Everything you talk about has more to do with a liberal personality.

"Feel me when I bring it!" --Gay Jamie

Ahem... (none / 0) (#11)
by hauntedattics on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 12:01:33 PM PST
Dood, don't go saying that people who accept the reality of evil in everyone are automatically Randists. You are capable of evil, I am capable of evil, and evil is evil whether it results in the death of millions or the tarnishing of a reputation. God wasn't exactly at the top of old Ayn's list.

Oh, and take tkatchev's advice and go read some history.

self-contradictory (none / 0) (#21)
by nathan on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 06:26:24 PM PST
conservatives fiercely devoted to conserving their totalitarian system

I trust the error is clear to everybody.

Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

You can't possibly... (none / 0) (#23)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 11:45:54 PM PST this naive.

Are you going to stand here and suggest that conservatism and totalitarianism are diametrically opposed philosophies? Because if you are, you don't have a leg to stand on. Let's take a short quiz, shall we?

1) Which philosophy seeks to regulate the behavior of consenting adults in their own bedrooms? (Hint: It isn't liberalism.)

Bonus points if you can write a short paragraph describing the Soviet Union's views about sodomy and/or homosexual activity.

2) Which philosophy seeks to regulate which substances a grown adult decides to ingest into his or her own body? (Hint: It isn't liberalism.)

Bonus points if you can write a short paragraph describing the Soviet Union's "solution" vis-a-vis drug users.

3) Which philosophy seeks to dictate a single religion that is the Real Religion, all the while doing whatever possible to ban practice of other Fake Religions, such as passing legislation that criminalizes the practice of Wicca on US Army bases? (Hint: It isn't liberalism.)

Bonus points if you can write a short paragraph describing the Soviet Union's support for the religion of atheism (yes, it is a religion.)

4) Which philosophy holds the view that sheer military might is the solution to all problems, and that all situations are best resolved by unloading (or at leasting threatening to unload) as much firepower as possible on the epicenter of said problem? (Hint: It isn't liberalism.)

Bonus points if you can write a short paragraph describing the importance of the military-industrial complex to the Soviet Union at the height of its power.

I could go on with this all night, but if you haven't gotten the point yet, then I fear that there is no use. The truth is that Stalin's philosophy has much more in common with modern-day conservatives than it does with modern-day liberals. Modern-day liberals consider Stalin to be a murderous butcher; if modern-day conservatives had any interest in being consistent, they would embrace Stalin as a comrade in arms.

yo :-) (none / 0) (#22)
by johnny ambiguous on Wed Jan 2nd, 2002 at 07:12:29 PM PST
You are wrong where you claim that liberalism is based in a Pollyanna-ish faith in the "natural goodness of man." On the contrary, liberalism - that is, as you put it, "open-mindedness about the revision of values" - is founded upon the rock of human fallibilty, the notion that each and every single idea that people have believed up until now is most likely not merely incorrect but flawed beyond redemption, and that this tendency toward error will almost certainly continue indefinitely into the future. That the only known way to elude the certain, grinding doom logically subsequent upon following out to the bitter end any one of the various idiotic mistakes to which various civilisations have become ideologically addicted is a.) to view any received truth with a jaundiced eye and b.) every now and again, just for variety's sake, in order to bleed off the build-up of volatile effluents that cause spontaneous combustion, deliberately to rake and churn that great compost pile of ideas.

Besides which, your converse assertion that mankind is inherently evil is simply absurd. I mean it. I too am emotionally inclined toward gloom so believe me I sympathize with your sensibilities; still, unbend your neck, rise up out of your funk, and look at the world around you. If we buy into your cheap flashy Manichaean thesis, how can we explain the fact that almost everywhere in the world most people die of old age? Have you no idea just how complicated it is for humankind in its mutlibillion mass merely to manage production of food and disposal of sewage? Hell, tourist, I'll bet you never even think about sewage. Considering how howlingly stupid humans are and all the natural barriers to communication, it's a luminescent miracle of cooperation and general good will that all mankind are not always wallowing amidst direst plague and famine.

Yours WDK -

Getting into my Chevrolet Magic Fire, I drove slowly back to the office. - L. Rosen


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