Why Did Liberalism Stop Working?

11

Liberalism once worked, between roughly 1850-1950 it is hard to argue that it didn’t. Certainly it had problems but the truth is that most people who lived under Liberalism found it hard to believe that their system of government wasn’t the best. During this period the standard of living rose substantially, science and technology advanced greatly. Law and order, including policing worked and were seen to work and so did political stability. Not universally, but the more liberal a state the more stable it tended to be.

One of Liberalism’s greatest achievements was to keep its worst excesses in check. While it extolled the individual, it always tried to use that as a collective system. A man should have a living wage, was translated into all men collectively should have a living wage. All individuals should be able to vote, meant in reality that all people over a certain age could vote. Rights intended to highlight the importance of the individual were not about selfishness, instead they were about a person’s obligations to the collective. To their family, society and their government and the system of government. Liberalism rewarded people for supporting it.

Of course even back then Liberalism was about destroying the past, including peoples ties to their own past. Don’t rely upon your family or your community, rely on new ties like Unions, or financial institutions (banks, credit unions, fraternal societies etc.) and as time went on, the government. Even so it was rarely openly anti-family or anti-religious. For most of this period it controlled its worst excesses, even though they were always there and Traditionalists constantly warned against them.

But as time went on and it continued to have successes, it built upon the work that it had done. It slowly moved from the idea that the individual had obligations to the collective to the idea that the collective had an obligation to the individual. Something that Traditionalists and other critics had warned about. We said that it was only a matter of time before the ideas that were in the background would come into the foreground. That in fact it was inevitable that the individual would become more and more important and that the collectives, the family, society and religion would all be the losers. That is exactly how it has turned out.

This has all affected Parliament and then the court system. In English speaking countries these are adversarial, each side is engaged in intellectual combat against the other. Cooperation is not supposed to take place until this intellectual combat has been engaged in, openly, and a winner has been decided. Even then the opposition is supposed to keep the government, or in court the prosecution, honest by questioning their assumptions and their achievements. The so called ‘free’ press was also supposed to do this. However over time it has became much easier to make decisions in secret, at first for convenience, which then became the standard way to do things.

Bipartisanship is the antithesis of how government in a Parliamentary system is supposed to work. Today it should not be hard to see why people talk about the ‘uniparty’. That there is now no difference between one side of politics and the other and that they are simply two sides of the same coin.

Then we have the issue of our Parliamentarians. If you look at the past what you see is that members of Parliament had real differences. Even when they came from the same class they represented different areas with different interests. The Parliament was not of one mind, but instead took its responsibilities to engage in intellectual combat seriously. Individual members also took their independence seriously. But over time the political parties have become much more important than the individual members. Nearly all members became Parliamentarians because they were members of a party. That is where their political support comes from, their financing and that means that that is where their loyalty lies. Not with the area that they ‘represent’. It also helps that they are now recruited from such a narrow stream.

Nearly all follow this stream. Go to University, join a political party at University, join an existing Politician’s electoral office, be selected for a seat in Parliament by the political party, serve until they lose their seat or retire. Of course once in Parliament they receive a large salary, with expenses and then they retire with the same. None of which helps them relate to ordinary people.

No life experience outside of University or politics. No job outside of politics, no idea of the world outside of politics and the party. If they upset or disappoint the party then the results can be professionally and personally disastrous.

People like this cannot represent anyone except their political masters.

Liberalism has become more extreme because that is the only direction in which it can go.

Originally published at Upon Hope. You can find Mark’s Subscribestar here.