WHAT IS LIBERALISM? ON WHAT IS IT PREDICATED? THE ANSWER LIES DEEP WITHIN THE ORIGINS OF LIBERAL-DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY ITSELF: THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION, THE FRENCH REVOLUTION, THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, THE ENGLISH CIVIL WAR, THE ENLIGHTENMENT, THE DISESTABLISHMENT OF ABSOLUTISM AND THEOCRATIC CHRISTENDOM, THE AGE OF RATIONALISM, THE RENAISSANCE, AND ULTIMATELY, THE EMERGENCE OF ALL OF THIS OUT OF THE CHAOS AND DISORDER OF THE MEDIEVAL, FEUDAL ERA IN EUROPE, AS IT SLOWLY COLLAPSED AND GAVE RISE TO THE NEW CREATURE WE KNOW NOW AS THE NATION STATE, THE NOW ENDANGERED STANDARD-BEARER OF LIBERAL-DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY, THE RULE OF LAW, DUE PROCESS, AND MOST OF ALL, THE MIDDLE CLASS.
Wow, what a mouthful, I really know how to pick ‘em, eh? My topics, I mean. I was spending a quiet day at home doing schoolwork and meditating on the couch, getting myself all worked up about all sorts of stuff, that I needed to take both a bike ride and two walks today just to clear my head and to help crystalize my thoughts. I find that often I get a better ‘train of thought’, like a ‘running commentary’ when I’m also ‘walking like a train’, just ‘chugging along’ and allowing my thoughts to just spin themselves out of my brain into my consciousness in a sort of ‘stream of consciousness’ type of fashion. Then I can come back home and write a bunch of stuff.
Today I was thinking about the sorry state of Liberalism in Canada and around the world in general and how Left Wing politics have generally gotten a bad name since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It’s as if when the Evil Empire was so-called ‘protecting’ the Left, the denizens of the Right and of ‘Free Enterprise’ didn’t dare dump on us too much because they had to answer to the Big Unions and the Soviets had a lot of nuclear missiles pointed at their heads ready to potentially blow their and our brains out if they tried anything foolish like a first strike on the Russian Motherland.
Not to mention the fact that the Russians had their ‘Marketing’ guys at the Commintern (Communist International, the global propaganda wing of the Communist Party), fanning out across the globe infiltrating every Left Wing organization and ‘fellow traveller’ they could find. This leaves us now in the precarious position of not having any competing ideology to compete with capitalism and ‘free enterprise’, which is ironic, because the private sector types are always the first to aggressively assert that government monopolies are bad, but they never talk about how bad private sector capitalist monopolies are! Or just the fact that Capitalism itself is now a virtual ideological monopoly on the world stage, having bullied and spent the Russians into bankruptcy and now finding themselves on the verge of bankruptcy in their turn having engaged the Chinese in a game of financial and industrial cat and mouse.
But back to Liberalism. I find it’s sad that such a worthy and proud ideology such as ours, which essentially has spawned both the modern day Liberal and Conservative parties in countries such as Canada, and the Democrats and Republicans in the USA, can have fallen into such misunderstood, misconstrued, misinformed, disinformed, and demagogically twisted, mean-spirited doublespeak such as we are witnessing in today’s world of so-called ‘Left-Right’ political trench warfare.
First of all, we have to define Liberalism. What exactly is it? What does the word ‘Liberal’ mean exactly? If we believe today’s neo-conservative demagogic ideologues in Canada’s Conservative party and the Republicans in America, the word ‘Liberal’ immediately evokes images and thoughts of all sorts of pejorative things, such as moral corruption of a concupiscent nature, fiscal profligacy, ideological and metaphysical ‘loosy goosiness’ and ‘hippie dippiness’, flaky Liberal Arts and social sciences educated teachers and social services providers with all their ‘politically correct’ ‘flavour of the month’ pet social causes, moral relativism, equivocation on just about everything, Atheism, Agnosticism, and generally anything or anybody who can be remotely construed as being labelled as a ‘free thinker’, and who is not ‘bound by any established social, moral or religious convention’, which in the minds of many Conservatives means basically, ‘people who don’t believe in anything in particular.’
It’s unfortunate, but in many ways, the critique leveled at our Party and our ideology is in many ways justified. To truly define Liberalism we must go back to its origins in the 17th and 18th centuries in Britain and in France in particular. In the case of John Locke, considered to be the ‘Father of Classical Liberalism’, he considered the individual person to be a clean slate at birth, that we are a product of our education and that we essentially have no pre-existing characteristics to ourselves as people, that we are 100% products of our environment.
The Industrial Revolution, however, went a long way towards shaping that environment to many people’s detriment, and made a new class of business people very wealthy, but created a whole new problem regarding the Hegelian process of thesis, antithesis, synthesis, and leading to a new thesis. Because as the old feudal order collapsed in both Britain and France, and peasants flooded into the cities, and new opportunities for wealth creation were opened up in the cities and towns and through international trade through the opening up of colonial commerce, people were no longer satisfied with settling for being peasant tenant farmers on some feudal overlord’s estate. They wanted to be free.
More and more, the ideas that Locke espoused about the individual person and their ability to basically ‘be anybody they set their mind to be’, began to spread like wildfire after his death in 1704. As the 18th century progressed, so did the notion of a man’s inalienable rights to freedom and liberty, which were all being shaped by the rapid changes which were occurring at the time in the modes of ownership of property and production and consumption of goods and services and hence the accumulation, aggregation, disposition and circulation of temporal wealth, which radically changed people’s ideas as to who exactly could be ‘free’ and who had access to ‘liberty.’
It was now becoming increasingly clear that just about any free man could become reasonably prosperous if he set his mind to it and engaged himself in the process of productive labour or enterprise which could reasonably be expected to bring a return on his investment in time, effort and capital such that he may entertain the notion of one day being economically independent and not to be afflicted by the scourge of the dark of night or the arrow that flies by day.
Such formed the basis for Liberal thought and ideology. It was based on the notion of freedom of thought, freedom of action, freedom of conscience, and freedom from all of the old institutional theocratic and constraints of the old feudal order from the Middle Ages. It burst forth onto the scene in the 17th and 18th centuries like a breath of fresh air to blow through the dreary old manor house of yore and to even possibly blow it down and to erect something new in its place.
The problem with everything new and improved is that it contains the seeds of its own downfall, or at least of its own possible collapse in its very origins. Yes Liberalism was and still is a force for social, economic, cultural, political and spiritual progress, but if one studies the currents within its emergence, one finds a very sinister, even inadvertently evil element to it, which at the outset did not ever intend on being so. Many of the original Liberal thinkers, both French and English who emerged from the age of the Rationalists, the Enlightenment and who embraced Empiricism for the most part embraced the newly-emergent fields of the pure and applied sciences, but many fell into the trap of denigrating or of denying or rejecting the traditional fields of religion, God and theology, out of the mistaken belief or conviction, or often the prejudicial view that the denizens of religion, God, the Church, Nobility and the Crown, were all antiquated and anachronistic, oppressive institutions of property, prestige, power and money which needed to be categorically broken, destroyed and crushed underfoot by the triumphant march of the rights of enlightened and free men, if ever freedom and liberty were ever going to reign supreme and man was ever to be released from the bonds of what these people considered to be the bonds of religious ignorance, superstition, fear, high handedness, and imperious pomposity.
A perfect example of such a person is the French political philosopher Condorcet, who expressed exactly these views around the time of the French Revolution and who was so virulently anti-God and anti-religion that I was aghast at how somebody who purported to be ‘Liberal’ in his manner of thinking could express such ill-will and ill-mannered anger and hatred towards an institution which had governed his country for centuries. I realize the scope of the discontent of the average French citizen, but I was still amazed at the intensity of the hatred towards God, the Church and the King that such a man could espouse who supposedly believed in ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.’ I guess that fraternal love did not extend to the King and the clergy.
So Liberalism and its accompanying republicanism have had a strong undercurrent of Atheism and anti-clericalism since day one, which has led to many conflicts with the clergy here in Canada over the years until the latter part of the 19th century. Liberal ideology has had a general tendency to split along lines not only of pro-business versus pro-labour factions, with the pro-business elements lining up more in the Conservative or Republican parties in Canada or the US, but also along the lines of pro-God and religion versus pro-secular, with the former lining up more with the Conservative Party of Canada, and the Republicans in the USA and the latter lining up more in the camps of the Liberal and NDP (Social-Democratic) Parties in Canada and the Democratic party in the USA.
This especially left our Party vulnerable to attacks and accusations, some justified, of being a harbour for Communists and Socialists as well as Atheists and Agnostics of all sorts, whom many Conservatives thought, and still think believe in ideas which go against the natural laws of God, despite (or perhaps because of) their Liberal beliefs in better wages for workers, safer working conditions in factories, better compensation for injured working people, public health care for all and so on, which all entail raising taxes on wealthy people, who are often Conservative Christians, who resent having their wealth taxed by the state to pay for the improvement in the living conditions of less well-off people whom they often feel are not ‘worthy’ of such consideration as being raised out of the mire of their poverty by the dubious virtue of government largesse, which has been purchased, in their opinion, at their explicit expense, by taking what they consider to be an unjust and unfair proportion of their wealth, which they argue they have ‘earned through their own hard work and initiative’, and to give it to people who in their opinion are undeserving due to socio-cultural factors which in their opinion make them predisposed to ‘not wanting to work hard’ or ‘not wanting to work at all’, or ‘wanting everything to be given to them and not have to work for it’, or because they are ‘lazy’, or have an entrenched ‘mentality of entitlement and dependency upon government and should learn to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.’
First of all this ignores some fundamental principles of private-public sector cooperation which are, or should be taken as a given in a Liberal Democratic society. We take as a given that one of the main roles of government is to promote free enterprise and to protect and promote the interests of private property. It therefore stands to reason that any person with any amount of wealth has directly or indirectly obtained it by virtue of the largesse of the state, by either having access to public roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, doctors, social services, port facilities, and the invaluable and incalculable cost born by the forces of law and order who are the guarantors of our physical security and whom we often take for granted and without who anarchy would soon reign supreme. Therefore, as our Lord and Saviour said surely it is right and proper to ‘render unto Caesar what is to Caesar and render under God what is to God’, by paying their fair share of taxes into the public treasury without grumbling or rebelling and invoking some sort of ‘wealth creators’ privilege which enables them to be absolved of their civic duty to pay taxes into the public treasury.
This also ignores some crucial elements within the fundamental structure of Liberal Democratic society as it emerged out of the old feudal order during the late 18th century. That essentially, the emergence of a new bourgeois wealth-creating class of people, based on the notion of the inalienable freedom and liberty of man, to challenge the wealth of the old feudal aristocratic hereditary peerage, essentially created a new form of injustice and inequality. What I mean is that in creating the new propertied class of bourgeois capitalists, both large and small, it created a whole new class of landless working people, who were essentially dirt poor, being the industrial proletariat, as Karl Marx called them.
This set in motion the whole process of thesis, antithesis, synthesis, and thesis once again, this time creating an incredibly huge Atheistic monster called Communism, which categorically went one step further than the most virulent ideas of Condorcet and called the notion of religion and God to be the ‘opium of the people’ and when Bolshevism was established in Russia in 1917, Atheism was officially declared to be the policy of the Soviet State. So essentially, Christians created their own monster, by refusing to treat working people fairly, by not paying them fair wages, and by espousing racist Eugenics and Social Darwinist ideologies, which were still quite prevalent until Hitler’s Final Solution was categorically defeated. So the poverty we have traditionally witnessed and continue to bear witness to has a lot more to do with unfair economic conditions generated by the very economic elites’ pursuit of ‘wealth creation’ for themselves and their shareholders than it has to do with any sort of constitutional deficiency of character within working class society, which has proven itself eminently capable in the post WWII period, under the auspices of the Fordist wage scale, to rise out of the mire of socio-economic, socio-cultural, socio-political and socio-religious peonage to become a force to be reckoned with and to acquire the ability to become full-fledged participants in the democratic process by virtue of their purchasing power and access to the rights of purchase of private property and mass consumption.
Perhaps this is likely why the economic elites of the west decided to take them down several notches because they found that the working people of North America and Western Europe had grown to become too entitled and they were having too much trouble controlling and dominating them and that it was cutting way too much into their profit margin and that of their shareholders and those who held their shares in their mutual funds and pension funds, so they made a full frontal assault on the working class starting with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980-81.
First the Big Unions needed to be busted and all those factories in the Northeast and Midwest of the USA and the Quebec/Windsor Corridor in Canada needed to be shut down and moved down to the Sunbelt States in the USA as well as Northern Mexico, China, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, where there was a much more ‘pro-business’ climate (i.e. no unions), and where labour would be once again plentiful and cheap, which is the way the ‘wealth creators’ like it. It of course makes it much easier to ‘create wealth’, specifically for yourself and your shareholders, including now in this case, your newfound buddies in the Chinese Communist Party, who are now taking a cut of every deal you make in China, when you keep a larger share of it for yourself by denying a fair share of it to the very truly ‘productive forces’ of labour which are truly ‘creating’ the wealth on your behalf by the sweat of their brow and whom therefore truly deserve to share more equally in the fruits of the wealth creation process by virtue of a profit sharing mechanism, which has proven itself to be very effective and successful in many companies, but which, for some reason, most ‘wealth creators’ refuse to engage in. Makes one wonder as to the true ‘nature’ of human ‘nature’, to want to accumulate so much for one’s own advantage to the explicit detriment of one’s fellow creatures is in my mind a crime not only against humanity but a mortal sin against God Himself.
It is a shame therefore that Liberalism eventually acquired such a bad reputation on the part of Christian Conservatives, who now continue to hide behind the sacred veil of God and the Church to continue to justify the injustices against working people who struggle to make ends meet on the meagre wages that are often paid to them by employers, Christian or otherwise, who are now advocating for the repeal of minimum wage laws, arguing that minimum wage is way ‘too high’ and that employers ‘can’t afford’ to even pay it, so why even hire anybody?
The fact of the matter is that a wage earner who tries to live on their own on minimum wage, (no they’re not all ‘students’ doing those jobs, so no, that does NOT justify paying them such poor wages!!!), cannot make ends meet, much less afford to purchase a vehicle, insure it, license, register it, pay for food, clothing and shelter, internet, phone, cable, home insurance, life insurance, supplemental medical coverage, etc.
So how and why are Christian Conservatives both in Canada and the USA, who are essentially offshoots of the Christian element within Liberalism, as opposed to the secularists, as mentioned above, acting in such a mean-spirited, anti-intellectual, anti-union, anti-government type of way? I have trouble grasping and getting my mind around such a purist Evangelically driven ideology which is supposedly based upon the compassion which Christ taught and preached for the salvation of humanity, and the policies which are espoused by its advocates, which are explicitly aimed at making the common working wage earner less well-off by preventing him or her from organizing into a labour union, preventing them from having EI or CPP payroll taxes deducted at source by having their job out sourced and classified as being ‘self-employed’ and thereby making it more difficult for them if not impossible to collect EI in the inevitable eventuality that their contractual work dries up, thereby driving yet another person onto the Welfare rolls then blaming them for not showing enough ‘entrepreneurial initiative’ to ‘pull themselves up by their own bootstraps’, and yet to facilitate the owner of property and capital who seeks to acquire more of it to do so by enabling them to continue to be absolved of their responsibility to pay payroll taxes for their employees, to either underpay their workers by not paying them a living wage or by paying them under the table to save on having to pay overtime rates, and by hiring an army of part timers and making them work full time hours, thereby saving on benefits, and enacting legislation which allows companies to abolish private sector pension plans and to abscond with the proceeds.
I’m not saying that these dubious practices are the sole purvey of Evangelical Christian business people and politicians. But what I am saying is that what I have noticed since the Evangelical Right has grown in power in North America and has more and more closely aligned its neo-liberal (i.e. which has now become known as neo-conservative) Christian beliefs with the Conservative Party of Canada and the Republican Party in America, the fortunes of the common working person in our two countries has declined precipitously, even dramatically, as what appears to be a self-appointed group of Christian Evangelical people and their friends, who seem to consider themselves to be amongst ‘the elect’, as Evangelical theology preaches concerning those who truly embrace Christ and his teachings, have muscled and bullied their way into every nook and cranny of the public forum, now dominating the public discourse in both the private and public electronic and print media and who are very much present in Social Media as well.
Neo conservative think tanks are now everywhere in our two countries and they have very deep pockets, and now that they have the Communists on the run from Russia, they seem to be feeling free to pretty much do as they please throughout the west and to ironically tout and trumpet that they have triumphed over a ‘Godless Communist ideology’, which was of course ‘infiltrating all the unions’, and so forth. But what they don’t mention is that they, along with everybody else who is doing business in China, has seen fit to nourish and fatten up the Godless Chinese Communist Dragon by moving our jobs over to China and by lining the pockets of Chinese Communist Party leaders and People’s Liberation Army officers with billions of dollars in money to gain access to their country’s pool of cheap productive labour.
So what of Canadian Liberalism? As I keep saying its fortunes have always risen when the fortunes of the common working person have risen first. This ironically has proven itself to be greatly the product of a process whereby Liberalism, at its origins in the late 18th century, split not only into a secular and spiritual camp, but that the secular camp further drifted towards becoming the foundational basis for Atheistic Communism, which then crossed the Atlantic along with its Liberal cousins and formed the foundational basis for our present day Liberal Party in Canada, which, ironically, has, since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, been the basis up until the end of the Cold War, of the longest continuous period of growth in material prosperity and social peace in our country’s history, which has specifically and explicitly been the result of Atheistic Communism’s efforts to fight for the rights of the common working person’s right to a better material standard of living, which, unfortunately and ironically has come ultimately at the expense of our country’s spiritual well-being, which is now sorely being tested by our falling material standard of living!
It’s as if the spiritual and temporal, Christian and Secular/Atheistic elements within Liberalism just cannot seem to make peace with each other. We cannot seem to, as a Party and as an ideology, advocate in equal measure for the temporal and spiritual well-being of our citizens. One always seems to grow at the expense of the other and vice versa. In the days when Liberal ideology first began to make headway, most people believed unequivocally in the Truth contained within the Theology of the Church and God’s plan for salvation in this world and the next, mostly the latter. But Rationalism and later the Enlightenment and the scourge of Industrialism with its mechanized demoralization of humanity and despoiling of God’s creation and ushering in of the mechanized butchery of industrialized warfare, also ushered in humanity’s now institutionalized and entrenched sense of doubt and outright denial in not only the goodness of Humanity but also in the notion of an all-loving, all knowing and all-caring omniscient and omnipotent God.
One can only hope, that in the light of the recent precipitous decline in our temporal welfare in Canada and the west, with its accompanying decline in spiritual well-being on the part of many if not most of our people, that this simultaneous ‘double whammy’ will allow us to finally ‘recalibrate’ our Liberal Party ideology from zero and work towards re-building not only our lost temporal fortunes of middle class, and middle income, working people’s standard of living, upon which our great party’s electoral fortunes have long since been predicated, but also to re-sanctify and to re-sacralise our spiritual fortunes as not only individuals and families, but also as one great country called Canada, the great village of Kanata, which spans from sea to sea to sea. This indeed has always been the great Liberal vision of our forbearers Wilfrid Laurier, William Lyon Mackenzie King, Uncle Louis St. Laurent, Lester B. Pearson, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. And it shall continue into the future as we boldly go forth with the renewed vigour of a Liberal Party and a Liberal ideology which melds together the best of the secular and the sanctified, the choicest elements of the sacred and the profane, of the rights of the individual and the responsibility towards collective action and progress, both socially and economically.
This is the Liberal party of tomorrow, and we are living its rebirth as we speak like the phoenix from the ashes of the crucible of suffering that is our present post-modern and post-industrial world. Let it rise triumphantly, like our aspirations for a better Canada, both temporal and spiritual. Amen. Thank you.