Questionable Motives

November 9, 2018

What have so many of today’s liberals managed to forget?

Filed under: Uncategorized — tildeb @ 11:41 am

Quite simple, liberalism

What does liberalism mean?

From the root Latin liberalis, we have the Old French liber – free individual – to the Enlightenment version meaning individual freedom from restraint. John Locke, Thomas Paine, Adam Smith, and JS Mills wrote extensively about the idea of freedom from restraint in a political, economic, and social  sense and these authors are well worth reviewing because the values they explore in these arenas are fundamental to the political, economic, and social systems that have been adopted and have since evolved in the creation of the Western world. This is why we call Western countries liberal democracies; they incorporate the values of individual freedom from restraint combined with institutionalized constraining political, economic, and social reforms. Put into the vernacular, these political entities and the social and economic systems they use attempt to grant each individual maximum freedom to swing fists but constrain it by recognizing the noses of others; your nose enjoys the same legal protection from the excess freedom of others! This is the balance that is always in motion for every generation as conditions and environments fluctuate, and one that is never solidified into a permanent political, economic, or social code. It’s not the lack of a permanent and fixed code that matters; what matters for each generation is to maintain its liberal foundation to respect the fundamental principles upon which the Western liberal civilization has been built: the individual in law. The radical concept here is about bottom up authority, meaning authority for governance comes from the individuals who constitute the governed and not from a top down ordained governance that distributes some legal rights to the lower echelons being governed (Burke).

This foundation of individual rights and freedoms and responsibilities in law shared by all individuals is under attack from within, meaning many of today’s liberals – those who endorse freedom from unnecessary institutionalized restraint for themselves – forget it must be on the condition of endorsing the same unnecessary institutionalized freedom for all individuals. These liberals act contrary to these founding principles by advocating for special constraints of our shared rights and shared freedoms and shared responsibilities for some individuals on behalf of protecting some ‘group’ deemed to be at risk.

But what is really at risk?

Under the new ‘social justice’ and ‘politically correct’ guidelines, what deems a ‘group’ to be at risk is disparity in some statistical political, economic, or social category and the ideology that justifies this concern is based on two assumptions: the first is that disparity demonstrates systemic inequity and therefore systemic inequality (note the difference between the two terms), and the second is that disparity is caused and maintained by the upper hierarchical group in order to collect and exercise political, economic, and social power over the lower hierarchical group. This frames all political, economic, and social issues concerning all individuals as related to the selected groups to which they either belong or are separate from for the creation of a personal placement within the created hierarchy. This produces a third assumption: systemic inequity between ‘groups’ demonstrates systemic inequality between the individuals who constitute the created groups. And this leads to the ideological basis for ‘necessary’ systemic corrections: to address the disparity means corrections to produce equity – and therefore equality – and these corrections must be implemented systemically. And that means individual rights, freedoms, and responsibilities in law shared by all must take a backseat to implementing these necessary systemic corrections… in the name of liberal principles about the individuals.

That’s how today’s liberals who go along with this group-based framing under the guise of having concern for individuals and advocate for group-based systemic responses to political, economic, and social disparity become illiberal liberals. For those who presume to be good liberals fighting for liberal causes, what have they forgotten? They have forgotten what liberalism actually means: liberty (see the common root term?) and equality (not equity). Those two fundamental principles are under attack by these illiberal liberals because the assumptions they rely on are wrong.


  1. An excellent quote from Russell Blackford, an Australian philosopher I’ve followed for decades:

    “There is much to say about right-wing threats to liberty and sound government, but much has been written about these in the past, including by me. On this occasion, I’m more concerned that my own tribe get its house in order. It’s disappointing when self-styled liberals narrow options, distort important debates, threaten individual freedoms, require that we walk on eggshells in our private and public speech, and generally operate in a censorious and illiberal mode. There’s been too much of this, and it’s not even helpful in struggles against our real political enemies. Today, we need to guard against our own large and small Outrage Machines. Otherwise, we can be shunned, harassed, dog-piled, smeared, publicly shamed, and otherwise hurt and harmed for trivial, dubious, or non-existent transgressions. Our good reputations can be destroyed, our jobs can be threatened or ended, and our careers can be ruined. This is not liberalism in any worthwhile sense.”


    Comment by tildeb — November 9, 2018 @ 11:44 am | Reply

  2. I understand where you’re coming from, but given the fact that better than any other time in history we can learn from history, and therefore act proactively with the blessing of foreknowledge, is it not absurd to allow, for example, the rise of something like, say, a theocratic state? Is it not morally prehensile and socially reckless to not resist, given what we know?

    Comment by john zande — November 9, 2018 @ 1:58 pm | Reply

  3. Can you connect the dots for me here, John? Are you saying it’s reckless and reprehensible to criticize this rapidly expanding illiberalism rather than allow it to play out and ‘stop’, say, the rise of a theocratic state using the GroupThink mentality?

    Comment by tildeb — November 9, 2018 @ 2:21 pm | Reply

    • Sorry Tildeb, didn’t get a notice that you’d replied.

      Reckless, and potentially morally reprehensible, if we don’t act to stop the rise of things we “know” will result in suffering, like a theocratic state.

      So, while I appreciate where you’re coming from, I just feel there are many cases where we can’t just give people platforms for the sake of upholding some fantasy of pure freedom. Would you, for example, tolerate a paedophile conference to held in your town?

      Does that make sense?

      Comment by john zande — November 11, 2018 @ 5:38 pm | Reply

      • Seriously, John? Pure freedom? You think that’s what I’m really saying? You think I’m advocating for criminal activity in the name of ‘freedom’? Seriously? Have you read what I’ve written?

        I am doing my level best to protect OUR shared rights, yours and mine, regardless of other group affiliations into which others have placed US. Why is this difficult to grasp? Why the shift by you into coming up with illegal activities and the promotion of illegal actions and then asking me why I seem to support this? Come on, John. You’re smarter and more capable of seeing the difference between individual rights of shared liberty and shared equality that I am advocating versus this bullshit approach of ‘permitting’ or ‘not permitting’ the speaking about uncomfortable and often contrary views to the popular one by switching the groups supposedly being victimized through illegal activities carried out by hypothetical groups of criminals. And you expect me to argue the point? Seriously?

        Where on earth are you coming up with the notion that someone has to ask you – because you seem to assume you are ‘giving’ this platform to others and therefore have responsibility for supporting whatever these people advocate – if he or she may invite a speaker to a legal event? Why on earth aren’t you grasping just how antithetical and dangerous this assumption is to our shared rights and shared equality, like the freedom to speak without fear of being socially sanctioned by the Righteous? I mean, seriously! This idea of speaking only of what others deem ‘acceptable’ goes to the very heart of what free speech means in action and poisons it at its source (that, in fact, you determine what I may or may not say based on your presumption of responsibility for my speech), which I have said leads to demonstrable self censorship. Self censorship then leads to the rise in populism in government. I’ve suggested this is what I’ve been told by Americans who have explained to me why they voted for Trump, that they weren’t going to say diddly squat about their disgust with the people who presumed to tell them what they may or may not say in public, namely the Democrats who just so happen by the greatest of coincidences to be the only ojnes full of such noble warriors for justice. Why doesn’t the parallel with equivalent religious fanaticism scare the living shit out of you? Why on earth doesn’t this travesty of going along with those who are more than willing to shit all over trample our shared rights and make them ‘acceptable’ first offend you more than offending the granters of permission?

        Comment by tildeb — November 11, 2018 @ 7:07 pm

      • A theocratic state is not illegal.

        Comment by john zande — November 12, 2018 @ 4:12 am

      • Advocating for a theocratic state is illegal if it involves sedition.

        Comment by tildeb — November 12, 2018 @ 6:54 am

      • Seed the Supreme Court, assume power of the legislative branch, and…

        “First they came for the journalists… Then we don’t know what happened…”

        Comment by john zande — November 12, 2018 @ 7:10 am

      • That’s why the Constitution – the founding documents granting supremacy in law to INDIVIDUALS and not groups – is the essential bulwark against the removal of INDIVIDUAL rights and freedoms by activists in government and law. That’s why this attack against INDIVIDUAL rights and freedoms in the name of social ‘justice’ is exactly what is needed to dismantle OUR shared individual rights and freedoms. That’s why this group framework is utterly toxic to liberal democracies.

        Comment by tildeb — November 12, 2018 @ 9:59 am

      • Unfortunately, sometimes people don’t respect hallowed pieces of paper.

        Listen, I’m not saying you’re wrong, far from it, but I will note that, at least in my opinion, it’s not as black and white as I think you’re trying to imply. There’s a lot of grey. Over the last 20 years we’ve witnessed the far right drag the centre too far the right. This is why fascists are emboldened today. And if we permit platforms to these voices, then the centre is going to be dragged even further, and pretty soon we won’t be able to recognise ‘normal.’

        Comment by john zande — November 12, 2018 @ 10:35 am

      • Again, John, it is how you define the ‘we permit‘ that I am drawing kicking and screaming into the light because the ‘we’ that is defining it is doing so contrary to OUR shared rights and freedoms and laying down this blanket assertion that your freedom requires their permission. Why are you supporting this? The justification being used is based on this social justice nonsense for groups that are supposedly being victimized. This is why we see the sustained attack against ALL liberal values… because these and these alone stand against this indisputably Marxist ideology that you seem willing to grant as the ones ‘permitting’ this or that.

        No. You don’t have the right to determine which of my rights and freedoms you are willing to permit… this time, in this circumstance, based on potentially offending or victimizing this group or that. A perfect example is the Munk debate. Can you tell me who was offended or ‘harmed’ to the extent of justifying the deplatforming and disinviting that went on prior to it? I mean, seriously. Who? Where’s the evidence of harm? Oh sure, the hypothetical harm can be presented as IMMENSE (just like he religious using an afterlife as the hypothetical risk) according to the busy little beavers demanding they alone ‘permit’ free speech of others, demand they and they alone on behalf of these legions and legions of hypothetical harmed victims can insist who gets to say what where and when. My concern is that far, far too many people – people who identify as the moderate liberal – are going along with this hijacking of OUR shared rights and freedoms in the name of ‘justice’ for others, some hypothetical Oppressed, but what is being produced by such misguided liberals is to offer cover and excuse for the sustained attacked by social justice ideologues against our shared rights, by those liberals who should know better because the evidence for the justification is absent in real life. And that absence of evidence actually matters when it is this evidence that is being assumed to be true WHEN IT IS NOT somehow justifies the removal of OUR shared rights and liberty while we are busy trying to get the right permissions from the right people… who just so happen to be the faithful.

        Umm… no thanks.

        Why doesn’t the long history of evolving legal rights and freedoms in the West addressing social injustices by enforcing equality in law for every individual count for a tinker’s damn today standing up to stem the flow of this toxic group framing about social injustice? Since when was attacking legal equality and treatment in law suddenly empowering right wing fascist but, heaven forbid, never the left wing fascists?

        Comment by tildeb — November 12, 2018 @ 12:43 pm

  4. “…disparity demonstrates systemic inequity and therefore systemic inequality (note the difference between the two terms), and the second is that disparity is caused and maintained by the upper hierarchical group in order to collect and exercise political, economic, and social power…”

    Fascinating. How does that argument look if you flip it around? Disparity exists based on merit and therefor inequality is a justified consequence? The groups at the top of hierarchies do nothing to collect and exercise power? Elites have never fought the establishment of unions? Oligarchs have never controlled the press which they used to further their agendas? Men never kept women from education? Or voting?

    Comment by The Pink Agendist — November 9, 2018 @ 3:53 pm | Reply

  5. Simple, Pink: the assumption that disparity is evidence of inequality is wrong. Inequity of statistical results can occur between groups for a variety of reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with political, economic, or social power… not least of which is diversity (you can’t have diversity without inequity), meaning certain values shared by certain populations can produce different – which means unequal – results when compared to other groups that hold different values. For example, statistics gathered on groups of, say, Asians, may reveal inequity of academic results compared to, say, Caucasian. That does not mean the disparate results are caused by a power imbalance by Asians victimizing Caucasians nor does the disparity mean Caucasians are owed special consideration as a ‘victimized’ group. The assumption that disparity is caused by hierarchical inequality is a fallacy. Acting on this fallacy by policies to address them can and does cause real inequality between the individuals who constitute the different selected groups. Again, groups are not real things but constructions using selected criteria. Individuals are real so anything that impacts the shared EQUALITY rights and freedoms of all individuals is a recipe for imposed discrimination. Hence, the lawsuit of discrimination by an Asian student organization against Harvard because discrimination based on group membership really is used for admission.

    Comment by tildeb — November 9, 2018 @ 5:37 pm | Reply

    • Your mistake is implying it’s either one thing or the other. False dilemma. It’s obvious that incidence and causality are not the same, but there can certainly be overlap. It seems you want to establish a “rule” from a single number, or piece of evidence, when in reality a whole lot more is needed. And implying any piece of evidence should be dismissed because it alone doesn’t prove something is nonsense, as building a case for something requires a range of verifiable factors. So disparities of all varieties can and should factor into an overall analysis.

      Comment by The Pink Agendist — November 11, 2018 @ 5:31 pm | Reply

      • No, I’m not implying that at all. What I am saying is the GroupThink of illiberals depends on assuming a false disparity, that differences are all about power imbalances and hierarchy when this is clearly not true but consistently framed this way. How about you address this point?

        Comment by tildeb — November 11, 2018 @ 5:59 pm

      • I have. What I said is power imbalances and hierarchy can absolutely play a massive role in disparities. They have throughout history. When a nobleman’s word was worth more than a commoner’s word in court, that consistently led to the one class getting away with crimes while the other got consistently convicted.

        Comment by The Pink Agendist — November 11, 2018 @ 6:21 pm

  6. Firstly, note the term you use: can. Not does. Can. I agree. Can. Perhaps surprising even you, there is a difference between can and does. Group ideology about victims and victimizers, Oppressors and the Oppressed, recognizes no such subtle difference. I’m saying that’s a real problem with the ideology when that assumption of only does is wrong.

    Secondly, how does one go about addressing such discrepancies? Often such discrepancies are very good and very pro social. Excellence in ability is highly prized but stands in opposition to equity of outcome. There is a built-in problem when equity is confused with equality. This is a real problem with the ideology when that assumption of equity equaling justice trumps all else (because differences and disparity are assumed to be about power rather than ability). I want an excellent doctor, thank you very much. I want solutions to real problems and people who are excellent at finding them, thank you very much. Inequity is not injustice because in many cases it’s not about power, victims, and being oppressed. Go figure.

    Thirdly, by creating a legal respect for the individual – for all individuals – only then can you have a basis in law to go after illegitimate power imbalances (such as social class inheritance). You seem to think the legal playing field between nobles and commoners was being leveled by some other mechanism than equality in law between individuals with shared rights and shared liberty. Yet we know this Marxist approach that empowers the skewed framing of disparity equaling inequity equaling inequality does not work to address real social power imbalances but ossifies them with a different class structure within the totalitarian system… a system brought into being by social justice warriors who require state power that is necessary to achieve large scale social equity! But you’re fine with all this… as long as, what, you think I must be the problem? Ever read Solzhenitsyn? When are you going to stand up for me, Pink, or am I off limits because I dare to deem you my equal in shared rights and freedoms, in which case I think you owe me money!

    Comment by tildeb — November 11, 2018 @ 8:02 pm | Reply

  7. Modern leftists haven’t forgotten liberal values: they’ve outright rejected them.

    Comment by Ron — November 26, 2018 @ 7:43 pm | Reply

  8. This is what happens when woke ideology finds a home in the institutions and bastions of American values: rot sets in. A malignancy takes over. That’s what woke ideology is – the belief in critical theory and critical race theory – behind all the nice words people have foolishly and naively put in front for this toxic illiberal ideology.

    But it’s fringe, and a few bad apples, and only from the extreme edge of the Left, say those who have completely deluded themselves. They are wrong. It’s MAINSTREAM and its idiotic supports and enablers are everywhere and thinking highly of themselves as virtue agents putting things right. They couldn’t be more wrong. They are the grease on which this intolerant ideology is sliding into a power position.

    Look at the New York Times; this week alone they lost Bari Weiss AND Andrew Sullivan… the last two voices of reasonable liberal sanity.

    If you still think this movement is all about social justice – and not a social reflection of China’s intolerant Red Guard implementing their ideological purity agenda – please read Bari’s resignation letter. This is what’s going on. Everywhere. And it is deeply illiberal. It is an ideology that is INTENDED to destroy any respect you or me or anyone else has for the fundamental principles of Western civilization and replace these with something else. And that something else are the theories I’ve linked to. It is a totalitarian movement to the core and here’s the thing: anyone who decides to self censor and remain silent or acts to downplay the caustic effect of going along with the Twitter mob busy demanding obedience to the ideology is doing what is needed to help destroy liberal secular democracy. THIS is how totalitarian rises to power – by millions upon millions of people stepping aside from their civic duty to defend liberal values in law and liberal principles in action to make way fro this bulldozing purity ideology. That’s the only way it happens. And it’s a legacy, a decision to reject liberal principles and make room for an advocacy of despotism, corruption, and brutality.

    I think it is absolutely accurate to refer to the NYT as the New Woke Times. The Twitter mob is the new editor-in-chief.

    Comment by tildeb — July 15, 2020 @ 9:23 am | Reply

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