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Liberalism for Dummies

by | Aug 23, 2019

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Modern liberalism takes on so many shapes and ideologies that it’s hard to pin down what exactly it is, but its main roots trace back to progressivism. How progressivism changed from FDR’s brand to the post-1960’s brand is a story in and of itself, but this post is just aimed at tracing a very broad understanding of the main vein.

Progressivism is the idea that mankind and human society are evolving and getting increasingly better over time, it just takes the right kind of education and planning to move a society forward. Such a framework has no room for old constitutions, historical sentimentality, or notions of a fixed human nature. Humans are constantly evolving and progressing and so is human civilization.

Progress, however, is a scientific process. It requires planning, experimentation, and adjustments. Therefore, the government needs to be educated, powerful, and efficient.

Seeing society progress on the whole and enabling all individuals to have an effective level of freedom within society means bringing all individuals to a certain level of equality. Therefore, liberals tend to favor centrally planned economies and redistributed wealth to create equity.

Liberals, having a notion of constant human evolution, also tend to adopt moral frameworks which are…fluid. They believe right and wrong do not exist as conservatives think of them, or they believe that such concepts are prone to constant change as humans evolve. Therefore, liberals tend to see things such as non-traditional sexual orientations or non-binary genders as a result of human change and adaptation rather than moral perversion.

While favoring a strong centrally planned society, liberals tend to think highly of individual dignity and autonomy as long as it meshes with their view of progress. Conservatives tend to find this hypocritical, but it can be conceptually consistent – at least to a point more respectable than it often gets credit for (though not all liberals describe their views in consistent ways). Liberalism tends to think of human progress as an elevation for oppressed and impoverished people, hence the general concern for immigrants, refugees, minorities, and generally marginalized groups.

As a conservative, I believe there are plenty of things wrong with the framework I just sketched out. However, it’s important to attack the liberal position in a way that represents liberalism such as that liberals would say they recognize it as their own position. Just like liberals should try to fully understand conservatism, conservatives should seek out a sufficient understanding of liberalism.

Conservatives must also have a very pointed understanding of what it is they disagree with liberals about. Conservatives, if they understand their own framework correctly, will agree that providing for personal dignity, avoiding oppression, and promoting the general welfare are all things essential for any political philosophy. Where conservatives can and should disagree is over human nature, the compatibility of centrally planned societal progression and personal autonomy, and the means by which societal goods are achieved.

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K. William Huitt

K. William Huitt is currently an M.A. student in Western Michigan University’s philosophy program. He graduated from Hillsdale College in 2019 with a B.A. in philosophy and a minor in history. He has spoken at various Christian apologetics events and writes regularly about religious and political issues.

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