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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

On liberalism

by digby

I'm not going to engage in the rousing argument about David Atkins' last post, except to say this: I tend to see this in terms of negative and positive rights, categorical imperative and other more esoteric concepts than "intervention" although that's part of it, at least in economic and social justice terms.

I have to admit that I don't fully understand Stoller's thesis although I do find myself instinctually rejecting the idea that liberalism is based upon a contingent relationship between finance and war making --- but perhaps that's just because of the very unpleasant historic resonances in that conspiratorial premise. Considering that war has been omnipresent since humans emerged from the slime, I find it hard to see this correlation as anything more than coincidental, but it's possible that I'm being obtuse. In any case, I was more confused by it than anything and that's probably my own fault.

Admitting that, I will simply say that I define my own liberalism as a belief in egalitarianism, universal human rights, individual liberty and social justice, all tempered by a pragmatic skepticism of all forms of power, private as well as governmental. I prefer democracy because it provides the best possibility of delivering on those desires while keeping authoritarian power at bay even though it's ridiculously inefficient and often corrupt.

I have been against every war of my lifetime but I would have supported intervening in WWII. I rail constantly against the encroaching surveillance/torture state (at all levels, not just the federal)but I do not recognize that states, property or corporations also have "rights" which may supersede the individual. (And in that respect I'm more supportive of individual liberty than many of the so-called libertarians.) I'm also against rapacious capitalism and discrimination, both private and public, and believe in a reasonable redistribution of wealth for the common good. I think the challenges of the environment require not just collective national effort, but collective global action.

I could go on, but it's really not necessary. people who read this blog recognize this philosophy. Back in the day it even used to have a name. We called it social liberalism. Granted, all that's open to interpretation, filled with inevitable internal conflicts and easily applied to all sorts of mischief, as is any political ideology. But it is coherent.

Unfortunately, presidential candidates who support my beliefs in all these respects are as rare and quixotic as Ron Paul. But that isn't my fault and it isn't the fault of "liberalism." I'm not operating from a false consciousness or naive ignorance of the painful price of the trade-offs others often end up paying for choices that are made in my name. I'm just trying to do the best I can and I'm sure it's not enough.

Update: Corey Robin is a must read if you're following this argument (and not because he says nice things about my writing on this, although I'm very grateful.)