Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Jim Kalb on the Inevitable Totalitarianism of "Liberalism"

Here is a sample, from his article at ISI's "First Principles:"

"Because all preferences are equally preferences, and there are no higher goods that allow us to judge one better than another, all have an equal claim to fulfillment. Maximum equal preference satisfaction thus becomes the uniquely rational guide for ordering society.

As the supreme guide to a just social order, that principle of maximum equal satisfaction is considered worthy of a loyalty that trumps all others. For that reason it naturally receives a quasi-religious interpretation, one that sanctifies individual feelings and purposes as the source and goal of all value. Such an outlook has become the criterion for what amounts to a public religious orthodoxy: liberal religion, which affirms the equal dignity of values, is good and beneficial; antiliberal religion, which proposes a substantive higher standard, is dangerous and oppressive....

In any event, it is less a government’s conception of the good that makes it tolerant than its willingness to put up with other conceptions. In that regard there is nothing intrinsically tolerant about liberalism. To the contrary, liberalism is an evolving outlook based on abstractions whose demands expand without limit. In practice it tries to root out one illiberal arrangement after another, and becomes more and more intolerant of competing views and practices. A nonliberal government that views, say, Christian virtue as the ultimate goal of social order will try to facilitate it in various ways, but it is also likely to accept that virtue cannot be coerced, and so adopt a laissez-faire attitude in many respects. A liberal government that aims at equal preference satisfaction and that takes a technological approach to the social order is likely to notice that people inconvenience each other in ways that are unjust by its standards and conclude that a comprehensive system of politically correct supervision, indoctrination, and control is needed to keep them from doing so. Which government will be more tolerant in practice?"

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