Friday, February 17, 2017

I Come Neither to Bury Nor to Praise Liberalism - Norm in The WAVE

Published Feb. 17, 2017 www.rockawave.com

I Come Neither to Bury Nor to Praise Liberalism
By Norm Scott

My wife and I got a major dose of American history last week when she won the Hamilton $10 lottery – first row baby. (Sorry, I had to brag at the paying off of my wife’s year long quest of entering the lottery every day.) The experience (the show was even better than I thought it would be) got me to thinking, which can be a dangerous thing. So let’s talk a bit about “liberalism.”

When people on the real “left” as opposed to branded “left” hear the NY Times and the Democratic Party – and Obama and the Clintons branded as “left” they pull their hair out. Maybe liberal or neo-liberal – which can mean different things but not what I consider the real left. But we’ll deal with my view of the left another time.

All people to the right of Genghis Trump have been branded as liberals, and by the more extreme alt-right wing as “libtards.” The liberal label has been much misused and misunderstood. For instance, I have not considered myself a liberal since the 1960s. I find no easy way to label my politics, which has ranged from Marxist to social democratic (Bernie Sanders style) to center-left. Many of us who have been on the defense of public education bandwagon have classified the assault by the “school choice” movement as a neo-liberal free market based attack on public institutions. One of the many contradictions in the choice movement is that they refuse to let the public hold votes on charter expansion and vouchers because the public almost always votes them down. So in essence they suppress democracy in the name of the free market. We’ll explore this contradiction another time.

Liberal, liberty, libertarian, and libertine all come from the Latin liber (free). Our system of government was one of the first liberal democracies (along with England) based on the European Enlightenment during the 17-18th centuries. The key was to reduce the power of the monarchy and to hold kings accountable. Early democracy was not for everyone. Certainly not women or the poor.

A major event was the beheading of Charles II* and the Glorious Revolution of the late 1600s which was a pretty effective way to show monarchists that they were going to be under some level of control. (It took the French another century to do the same to their king). The monarchy was kept in England but with major controls, like parliamentary supremacy, a bill of rights, habeas corpus and other basic building blocks of a liberal democracy. John Locke laid the groundwork for our own nation when he wrote about the consent of the governed and the rights of individuals and even the separation of church and state (hello Mike Pence) in the 1690s.

You may have noticed recently a lot of talk about checks and balances between the 3 branches (executive, legislative, judiciary) with the press (the 4th estate) being another check. On the French side, Voltaire and Montesquieu actually laid out many of the ideas (3 branches of government, separation of powers) used by the founding fathers to frame the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Constitution which took shape from 1787 and was ratified in 1789. Hamilton and Madison played major roles in the process but once the nation began to function in the 1790s found themselves on opposite sides in the political wars – and there were political wars just as vicious as we have today. (See Aaron Burr/Hamilton duel which ended that feud in a pretty definitive way --- imagine settling our elections that way.)

Checks and balances are designed to prevent tyranny but don’t always succeed in many liberal democracies. But that can also lead to gridlock and a growing impatience over the messiness of democracy where maybe the trains always don’t run on time (see MTA transit) and a wish for a strong man (or woman) to shake the tree, democratic institutions be damned – see Mussolini and Putinism and the growing threats to European liberal democracies as the right wing rises.

Note: the far right is anti-liberal democracy, anti-globalism, anti-immigrant and pro-nationalist, which leads to some interesting thoughts on where we started. If liberal equates with free and individual rights, where does that leave us as the far right morphs into the mainstream?

Norm wrestles, not duels, with the alt right, the right, the left, liberals and the center on his blog ednotesonline.com.

*From James Eterno:
Hey Norm,


From Ed Notes:


A major event was the beheading of Charles II and the Glorious Revolution of the late 1600s which was a pretty effective way to show monarchists that they were going to be under some level of control. (It took the French another century to do the same to their king). The monarchy was kept in England but with major controls, like parliamentary supremacy, a bill of rights, habeas corpus and other basic building blocks of a liberal democracy.




Charles I got his head chopped off mid 17th century, not Charles II. Charles II died of kidney failure or the cures doctors tried to give him. James II was the king during the Glorious Revolution in 1688. He fled the country and lived out his life in exile in France after he failed to take back Ireland.


http://www.neatorama.com/2014/11/03/The-Final-Days-of-King-Charles-II/

The following article is republished from Uncle John's Ahh-Inspiring Bathroom Reader. Next time you feel yourself coming down with a cold, thank your lucky ...

6 comments:

  1. I feel like the terms liberals and conservative have become muddled in recent years where even I, a Social Studies teacher, am not 100% sure they mean what they are supposed to mean anymore. Even more confusing for the kids. It's a topic worthy of exploration.

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  2. In its current incarnation, liberalism needs a stake driven through its heart, its mouth stuffed with garlic and a crucifix placed on its chest before it's buried.

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  3. Liberalism (and not radicalism or socialism or anarchism or conservatism) is worthy neither of burial or praise in itself. I tend to prefer my politics to be "center-left or left-center" but what's a mere label among friends?

    All of these labels are worthy of praise or censure depending on the historical circumstances in which they find themselves and which cause them to be constantly redefined, both by their partisans and in relation to each other as the social and political framework within which people act changes around them. I recognize that many folks will find themselves very uncomfortable with a relativistic view of their political self-definition, most people much preferring the absolutist sort.

    I accept the usefulness of the neologism, "neoliberal", but only when it's used as tool or framework for explicating a set of policies and political actors and not as a term of opprobrium to clobber people over the head with whom one differs, on the political continuum, usually by a margin that would barely be noticeable except to the person doing the clobbering.

    At the risk of being labeled a much more heinous thing than a "liberal" or a "radical"--that of being "pragmatic"--I am more comfortable with how political philosophies and strategies actually work to accomplish the objectives of the individual or collective actor/s.

    Finally, I'm always amused at how come "radicals" and some "liberals" find more to despise in each other than they do in their ostensible, self-described real opponents--"conservatives" or "fascists" of either the actual, crypto- or pseudo- sort. As a "center-left" (or "left-center") sort of guy, I often wonder who would first be put up against the wall in a left wing revolution: me or the "fascist" of one sort or another. Of course, our good friends in a right wing revolution would never be nearly as scrupulous about the priority for their bullets.

    I hope never to find out but I have my suspicions....

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    Replies
    1. What I'm ultimately aiming at is to unwrap the confusion. Anti trump are attacked as libs. We attack neoliberals. Everyone is talking a different language. I am left of center SD. What is the center? Where do neoliberals line up with neocons? Where is the intersection of trumpers and Bernies? We may need new labels.

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  4. These labels are outdated. There is one crucial question today. Do you favor a secular representative democracy, or do you prefer a dictatorship of racist, xenophobic, religious fascists?

    Abigail Shure

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  5. We need a change v. Status quo
    Bernie, Trump and lower voter turnout are all "we need a change" (Unfortunately, not the change I was hoping for.)

    ReplyDelete

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