Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Liberalism, Its Origins and Consequences - Preface

I am not certain precisely what I am writing. Not the content, of that I am quite certain, it is a subject about which I have written hundreds of thousands of words on this blog alone. [That is on "Random Notes"] What puzzles me is what precisely this essay and its companions are meant to be. Are they simply a comprehensive summary of all my earlier writings on the subject? A new look at all that material? An especially long set of blog posts? The nucleus of an eventual book? They each have been in my mind, many times over, but never any single one long enough for the description to stick.

But, if you are willing to forge ahead, not knowing precisely what you are going to read, then please come along, as I promise that, despite my earlier statement, this will certainly be more than simply a restatement of earlier thoughts.

Not that there won't be some familiar material. After all, it was my realization that liberalism, and all interventionism, rested on a handful of simple postulates, that inspired me to write so many posts. Granted, I had a few other realizations, such as Obama's intent to run a content-free campaign, that inspired a number of posts, but nothing had the staying power of my thoughts on liberalism. And, in the long run, nothing helped explain so much of modern politics. (Or even historical politics, as some of my later posts showed.) The reason the moderate right continues to lose ground, the failure of compromise plans, the affinity between various seemingly disparate political groups, all were handily explained by the discovery that an entire political philosophy rests on nothing more than a few simple statements.

That is only half of the story, though. If the origins are simple, the consequences are not, which is probably why they have inspired far fewer posts, and came much later. The simple, elegant discovery which explained all of liberal though, unfortunately, finds expression in a messy welter of different outcomes, and that makes for messy writing. Fortunately, as I realized only recently, even there, among the multitude of results, there is some common ground. Be it utopianism and its disastrous results, bureaucratic management, frustrated would-be commissars or economic slowing, there are certain constants in the outcomes of the liberal thought process. And that is to be my focus. I may at time have recourse to the messy specifics of a single case, but in general I will strive to keep to the broader principles, try to illuminate the patterns, the common attributes, rather than dwell on unimportant specifics.

And that is, in a very brief form, the plan for what lies ahead of you. Drawing on all my past thoughts about liberalism in particular, and interventionist philosophies in general, I will try to demonstrate how they all rest on less than a half dozen simple assertions, and, once one accepts those assertions, or even a single one of those assertions,that an interventionist philosophy is inevitable. I will then turn to the other side of the equation and look at what consequences those beliefs hold, where they inevitably lead. I will try to show the common attributes of all interventionist philosophies, the effect on political stability, economics, personal interactions, individual worldviews, business management and more. It sounds easy enough when written out in a handful of sentences, but I can already tell how much work I have ahead. Still, it should be an interesting task, even if a daunting one at the moment.

NOTE: As I am not including any hypertext links in the text itself, other than a single link to the next installment, I will provide a "Postscript" section for each essay, following the link to the next chapter. That postscript will contain links to earlier posts which I find relevant to the section in question.

Continue to "Liberalism, Its Origins and Consequences - Introduction".

POSTSCRIPT

Obviously, there are many older posts which would be relevant to the wide range of topics discussed above. Since I don't want to fill the page with links, I will stick to the most significant. On the thought processes behind liberalism, the oldest posts, where these concepts were first formed, would be "The Essence of Liberalism", "Arrogance and Gun Control", "Our View of Our Fellow Citizens", "Those Other People", "Seeing People As Stupid" and "Man's Nature and Government", while the most often cited are "Deadly Cynicism", "The Citizen Dichotomy", "In A Nutshell" and "Cognitive Dissonance Part 2". The consequences can best be found by reading "The Inherent Disappointment of Authoritarianism", "The Right Way", "The Inevitability of Bureaucratic Management in Government Enterprises", "Bureaucracy Revisited", "Utopianism and Disaster", "Life Is Not Fair - And Trying To Make It So Makes Things Worse", "Negative and Positive Rights",  "When Help Hurts", "The Irrationality of Government Redistribution", "Symmetry and Asymmetry in Government" and "How the Government Corrupts Relationships". And, finally, the consequence of adopting the opposite position on the basic questions of political philosophy can be found in "My Vision of Government", "My Vision of Government Part II" and  "A True Conservative Platform".

As I said, there are many more, but those will be pointed out in future postscripts as they prove relevant to specific essays.

Originally Published in Random Notes on 2010/05/05.

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