Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Beyond Corruption and Injustice

It goes without saying that the modern liberal administrative state is unjust. It's corrupt, cruel, and wasteful as well. And its deluded practitioners continue to sing its praises in the face of all its failures.

Liberalism is, after all, not just a political philosophy, but a secular religion.

The larger failure, I believe, is liberalism's culture of compulsion. Modern society under liberalism is a society of a million laws, and ten thousand regulations.

It wasn't supposed to be that way. Supposedly, the bright light of reason and justice would chase away the inequality, the indignities, the superstitions of the old regime. Then everyone would live in freedom and community.

In fact, the liberal regime requires tight regulation and widespread compulsion throughout society. Instead of the glorious future of cooperation, it turns out that in the liberal state vast structures of supervision and mandate are required. Rather than a liberal society, we now have a liberal administrative state in which everyone is forced to do the right thing.

What went wrong, and what can we do about it?

That is the core of this American Manifesto. What went wrong with the liberal dream? What turned it into a nightmare, where limited government turned into big government? What turned the poor into the underclass? What turned respectable citizens into adult adolescents? And what do we do now?

"You must suggest an alternative," said Margaret Thatcher.

It is time to toss liberalism onto the dust heap of history, and start to imagine an alternative. I call it "life after liberalism." What will it be like?

First of all, it cannot be a society where all decisions are made by a political elite. Government is force. Politics is power. Politicians only know about playing power games and dividing people so that they can win elections. The more we empower politicians, the more they will divide us. The reason we call it "society" is because it is more than a top-down administration. All must participate according to their abilities, and all must take responsibility.

It cannot be a society where all decisions are made by reason and by rule. Rules and reason are wonderful things, but they are mechanical and clumsy. "The heart has its reasons that reason knows not." Humans are social animals and the social virtues are not mechanical and rational, but instinctive and emotional. Human society must be a blend of instinct, emotion, and reason.

It cannot be a society of "one size fits all." The difference between humans and machines is that you can write manuals to maintain machines and leave a mechanic in charge. The maintenance of humans in good running order we call a "relationship." No one rule or caned procedure will suffice. Yet, of course, our ruling class attempts to rule us exactly according to the orthodox principle of "one size fits all." We have one compulsory government pension scheme, one compulsory health care program, one compulsory education system. They cannot imagine a society where people take care of their own needs in voluntary cooperation, without the supervision of the politicians and experts.

You'll find, as An American Manifesto takes shape, that there is another way. In the life after liberalism, we will demote politics to a coequal between the economic and the moral/cultural. We will re-strand the withered chords of face-to-face society and responsibility. We will discover how we already have the means for each of us to escape the compulsory "one size fits all" prison of the liberal administrative state.

As Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain puts it: "There is such a thing as society. It's just not the same thing as the state."

In other words, to call a thing "social" or "public" does not mean that the government must do it. It only means that people do it, and that they do it in the community that we create beyond the old boundaries of family and kindred. It might be government, but it is more likely to be a church, a fraternal group, a business, a charity, a sports association.

Yes, Virginia. There is life after liberalism.

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