04 March 2017

Liberalism's Wrong Turn

Or should it be, the wrong turn that became known as Progressivism.

Aristotle noted the development of factions based upon economic status.

"For one party if they are unequal in one respect, for example in wealth, consider themselves unequal in all; and the other party, if they are equal in one respect, for example free birth, consider themselves to be equal in all."

The previous post noted that European conservatism rested on the first error. It asserted that a person's wealth revealed that person's virtue.  They erroneously asserted that rule by the wealthy meant rule by the virtuous. 

Modern progressives commit the second error.

Progressivism rests upon the ideas of freedom and equality. Citizens are born free and they are born equal. Progressives grow alarmed, however, that in the exercise of their free choices, inequality emerges. Traditional liberals did not find inequality too disturbing, as long as it emerged from the natural and acquired abilities of people and not from the artificial benefits of government. In the mind of traditional liberals, freedom trumped inequality, as long as the opportunity to success was equal--that is, free from artificial rules. Progressives, however, seem to believe the equality trumps freedom. They claim, via John Rawls, that the very system by which we financially reward people for how they excel is an arbitrary and unfair. Or they point to institutional racism or some other non-verifiable invisible force. Progressives argue that wealth must be transferred from the rich to the poor. In other words, because people are equal in the free birth or citizenship, they should enjoy equal more equality in their possessions. Progressives get very vague on this point. They never say how much equality is just.

This idea is not new. 

Aristotle observed that in the democracies of his day, the government attempted to harass the wealthy and take their money. Leaders in a democracy stirred up popular passions against the wealthy. This in turn moved the wealthy to unite against the multitude.
In order to win favor of the multitude, they treat the notables unjustly and cause them to unite. Sometimes they make them split up their possessions or income in order to finance their public duties. Sometimes they bring slanderous accusations against the rich with a view to confiscating their money.”

This is the origins of the demagogue.

Sometimes in democratic Greek city-states, the demagogues would go beyond slander of the property owning classes. They attempted to persuade the citizens to prosecute the wealthy in order to seize their money.

Sometimes the democracies resort to trumped up charges against wealthy individuals to seize their money.

“In democracies the most potent cause of revolution is the unprincipled character of popular leaders. Sometimes they bring malicious prosecution against he owners of possess one by one and so cause them to join forces."

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