Monday, July 20, 2009

Liberal vs. illiberal


[From ‘The Clash of Stereotypes’ by Dinesh D'Souza at Christianity Today 7/20/2009']

It's helpful to distinguish between two types of liberalism. One is the classical liberalism of the American founding. Call this Liberalism 1, which is reflected in such principles as the right to vote, to assemble freely, to trade with others and keep the fruits of one's labor, to practice one's religion, to tolerate different political and religious views, and so on.

Then there is the modern liberalism that developed in the West after World War II. Call this Liberalism 2, which is characterized by the right to blaspheme, pornography as a protected form of free expression, the exclusion of religious symbols from the public square, the right of teenagers to receive sex education and contraceptives, the right to abortion, prostitution as a worker's right, and so on.

The data show that the vast majority of Muslims support Liberalism 1 while rejecting Liberalism 2. From Jakarta to Jeddah, from Islamabad to Istanbul, Muslims are deeply concerned that, through U.S. military force, economic pressures, and the global spread of American popular culture, the values of Liberalism 2 are being imposed on the Muslim world.

Kent Comments:

This raises some very interesting questions.  Not all of D’Souza’s listed examples of Liberalism 2 are equal, but let’s try his first example:  blasphemy.  How does one maintain Liberalism 1 and yet ‘do something’ about blasphemy?  It is, after all, a ‘religious view’ is it not?

So it would appear that we cannot hold to a principle of toleration for differences of religious views and at the same time do anything ‘political’ about blasphemy.  But this doesn’t mean that there is nothing to be done in regard to blasphemy and things like it under Liberalism 1.

Because part of Liberalism 1 is the freedom of association, and the sanctity of private property.  This means that those opposed to blasphemy, for example, can use any kind of social pressure to discourage it.  Social pressure is not violent or coercive.  This might mean not befriending or even doing business with those who blaspheme as long as they continue to blaspheme.  Social pressure could be a good and useful thing, except for two problems.

First, advocates of Liberalism 2 have done everything in their power to make social pressure illegal.  Liberalism 2 claims, in essence, that once you go into business the government gains a large degree of control over your property.  You are not legally allowed to ‘discriminate’ in regard to your customers or your employees – which is another way of saying that you no longer control your own property!  In other words, Liberalism 2 wants to subsume ‘social pressure’ under the law and the sword, and thus, in effect, eliminate it.  This is part of what makes Liberalism 2 anti-liberal in terms of Liberalism 1.

But the view of ‘the vast majority of Muslims’ includes the idea that the government should punish those who blaspheme.  They, too, want to subsume ‘social pressure’ under the law.  But instead of eliminating it, they want to give it ‘the power of the sword.’  This is part of what makes many Muslims anti-liberal in the sense of Liberalism 1.

Social pressure is a valuable societal tool, which is given ‘space’ to operate by the very principles of Liberalism 1.  But both Liberalism 2 (modern ‘leftists’) and many Muslims want to take it away because they are, in the end, illiberal in the very best sense of that word.

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