Friday, May 18, 2012

Some Comments on Liberalism.

Over at The Orthosphere, Jim Kalb has put up a post on the etiology of Liberalism. Now, from what I can see, Kalb's contention is that liberalism arises from the interpretive weltanschauung (big picture view of life) which is the modern scientific method. 
The most recent revolution was the modern one, which involved, at the most fundamental conceptual level, the attempted rejection of formal and final cause in favor of exclusive reliance on material and efficient cause [Ed]. That revolution was closely related to the rise of modern natural science, modern capitalism, and the modern state, and involved a great increase in the social emphasis on control. (How such things come about is a complicated story that can be told various ways. Etiologies have their own etiologies.)
What Kalb is trying to say here is that philosophical system that rejects concepts of "ultimate purposes" and "natures" is at the heart of liberalism. Personally, I don't buy that, because hard-arsed scientism leads you to conservatism and the not the other way around.  Premature, weak and logically inconsistent science is justified by liberalism, but it is quite a mistake to confuse the scientific world view with liberalism.

In fact, if you look at liberalism in action, what you see is a rejection of the scientific method when it conflicts with its world view. The recent "Climategate" events are a case in point. Here "inconvenient truths" are pushed aside in the name of a greater good. There are other examples from unrelated fields as well. For example, scientific studies have long shown the religion makes people happier, yet atheist still bang about it as if it were a curse. Married couples have, on average, more frequent sex than single people, despite liberal propaganda. Scientific evidence also shows that people seem more happier with their own kind and so on. In fact, what you find, is the better the science, especially in the sociological fields, the more it confirms to the conservative vision.

Quite a few Nobel Laureates, and I'm talking about those who won hard physical science awards not the bullshit ones, saw no problem with belief in God and the scientific method. Richard Feynman, a freakishly brilliant scientist who was also an atheist, also saw no problem with science and the idea of God. But Feynman was a man who understood that any consistent scientific theory had to take into account all of the facts, not only the ones that we found convenient.  And what divides the liberal from the conservative is this fact that the liberal regards it as OK to lie for the greater good.

Now, by lying, I don't mean that liberals always consciously lie; it's just that they ignore, overlook, suppress, explain away facts which they find inconvenient. Individual conservatives, do this as well, but nowhere is this habit so culturally entrenched, supported and justified as it is in the liberal movement.

In this regard, I agree with commentator Thursday, who gave a good rebuttal to Kalb.
The context of all this is my fairly longstanding disagreement with Jim Kalb on whether liberalism comes out of changes to human psychology that come about under conditions of safety, prosperity, and comfort or whether it comes out of what JK has outlined here as concepts. (There is a fairly substantial experimental literature that shows that inducing anxiety and fear make people both more conservative and more religious.)...........JK doesn’t really have an etiology of liberalism. As I have pointed out to him before, it doesn’t seem to tell us where those ideas that lead to liberalism come from, nor why they seem to stick in people’s minds.
Still, I have some critiques of Thursday's thoughts as well. Thursday too, doesn't provide an explanation of the origins of Liberalism. Rather, he places a strong emphasis on biological factors which predispose a person to liberalism. He cites Jonathan Haidt, and his research on moral foundations, which would seem to imply a cognitive biological difference between liberals and conservatives. i.e. In that certain individuals seem "wired" in such a way to give them their liberal tendency. Haidt's research is pretty good and I also agree that externalities such as threat, anger, plenty and security influence our thinking. The saying, "that there are no atheists in foxholes" is the common wisdom which modern psychology has only recently rediscovered.

Now, people can be roughly divided into the two types; the people whose actions are motivated by their animal instincts (the sheep, proles, common man) and the those who live according to the life of the mind( the shepherds, intellectuals, aristocrats). This biological explanation has the most influence mongst the sheep. In communities where there is both democracy and religious freedom, people will vote along biological instinctive lines, with the rationalisation hamster directing the vote to the appropriate party. Those who feel comfortable with liberal "anarchy" will vote left, whilst those who need "security and structure" will vote right. In times of low threat people are more open to "tolerant" government whilst in times of stress people drift towards more "authoritarian" regimes. The more
"inclusive the democracy" the stronger the "biological vote". (This explains the drift to both Communists and Fascists during the 1932 German elections in Protestant Germany and the current drift in Greece towards extreme political parties.)

But what fear and its opposite, comfort, seem to introduce is not liberalism but bias. Comfort/Security biases the mind towards liberalism while danger pushes towards the opposite direction.  The Nazi's, especially in their early years, were fat and happy but no one would describe their treatment of the Jews as Liberal. What motivated Nazi actions was ideology, not circumstance or disposition.  It was the Nazi ideas about Germany's troubles and potential solutions that produced the historical entity that was the Third Reich. Most normal Germans, in normal times, would have have dismissed their ideology as out of hand, but given the circumstances in Germany in the late 1920's and early 30's, it no surprise the the populace had become receptive to their message, since both the Nazi and Communist ideology appealed to the instincts of the herd.

Indeed, this is where liberalism draws its strength from; by providing an ideology that appeals to the instincts of the herd, Liberalism becomes the justifying ideology of the proletariat. Liberalism draws its strength from "instinctive synergy".

No, for the origins of liberalism you need to look amongst that other class of men, the "shepherds" or the "intellectuals". In this group of men, instinct is subordinated to the intellect and thereby the mind, or ideas, have more sway. In this level of society, man is more intellectual and less biological.

It's my opinion that liberalism started as a corrupted form of Christianity (and its Western atheist derivatives) which places emphasis on the "nice" and "agreeable" over the Good. Liberalism is an easy variant form of Christianity, and contrary to Jim Kalb, belief in God is no protection against liberalism if the God you believe in is liberal. It's an ideology of believing in God on My terms. It's the modern shepard who have taken this view and fed the proles of message of "instinctive synergy".

Liberalism originates from an intellectual rejection of God as he in preference to a God as he should be. Jesus, in a liberal mindset, becomes a person like myself. In its mildest forms, liberalism may manifest itself as an incomprehension of those of hold that fornication is wrong even if there is an element of deep love between two unmarried people, at its most extreme it manifests as militant atheism.

The problem with liberalism though is that its vision conflicts with reality and what happens in the end is that the liberal has to deny reality in order to live as he sees fit. Science, that ultimate asserter of empirical reality, is denied, and in doing so, the liberals join those unwitting conservatives, who in undercutting science are digging their own grave.