Saturday, February 10, 2007

Socialism, Liberalism And The Descent Of The Left Into Madness

Fame at last! A link from Samizdata. Only trouble is with it being slightly critical, that’s going to make the post I was planning later today look like payback.

Anyway, to business: Brian Micklethwaite questions my use of the word ‘Liberal’ for the people who make up the bulk of the modern Left. It’s quite deliberate. I try to use ‘Liberal’ in place of ‘Leftist’ quite simply out of respect for the Left.

No, really.

Take Frank Field: while much of what he believes is just plain wrong, you can’t doubt his sincere commitment to social justice. OK, so passionate stupidity doesn’t help anyone, but Frank Field really does have brilliant insights into where Britain’s gone wrong and how to fix it. Equally admirable is the fact that he’s prepared to follow his insights to their logical conclusion even if it brings him into conflict with the kool aid posse – who’d have thunk that it’d be a Labour MP who’d be the most high-profile supporter of private pension provision ?

What Frank exemplifies is that there are – or can be – good arguments for Leftism. If I’d been born a hundred years ago, I’d probably have been a socialist. That’s not to say Leftists can take all the credit for progress since then - I’m sure plenty of folks at Samizdata would claim the Left actually hindered progress – but back then the Left was grappling with serious issues. Not just politically either – there was a whole flotilla of Leftist organisations providing things like educational services and the like (really providing them, not just outsourcing for the government). Again, they may have been wrong on the specifics, but the principles they endorsed, things like self-reliance, education and a sense of community, were good ones. It seems unfair to bracket these people with Cherie Blair.

This isn’t just a matter of morals, in the sense that Frank Field has them, and Cherie doesn’t. Nope, it’s much bigger than that. Consider education – there are plenty of ways to organise an education system, but the central problem is this kind of thing. From educating the masses to eulogising stupidity, things sure have changed in Leftland.

It’s hard to pin down exactly what Liberals believe, not only because of their natural slipperiness, but also because it doesn’t make sense anyway. It’s a mistake to spend too long analysing the ideological underpinnings of folks who’ve embraced both the Gay Rights pests and Islamofasicts. Nevertheless, there is a definable spine of ideological thought which can be summed up as Liberal, as distinct from traditional Leftism. Maybe Liberal doesn’t quite catch the sense of where they’re at, but that’s better than letting trade on the legacy of honest Leftism even while sticking two fingers up the principles that animated their forefathers.

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