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Liberalism as Reaction Without ‘The Good’

Sunday, February 26, 2017 15:36
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Dr. Ron Dart, a Canadian professor at the University of the Fraser Valley and leading authority on Red Toryism, in his work The North American High Tory Tradition (American Anglican Press, 2016) describes liberalism (including classical liberalism and Progressivism) as a reactive movement against traditional life which is unable to define “the good, the true and the beautiful” because of its approach and values. Dart writes on page 186:

[L]iberalism emerged in history in response to and as a reaction to a certain read and interpretation of conservatism. Liberals often know what they want to be free from, but when it comes to defining what they want to be free for, the content of such choices tends to be a rather open-ended project. It is true, of course, that liberalism did put forward as its leading principles such notion as liberty, choice, equality, reason-imagination, the rights of the individual and the quest for meaning and happiness as guiding ideas. But, such principles when disconnected from the good can come to be defined in a variety of ways. This, then, is the first dilemma of liberalism, and it is this dilemma that sets it apart from the Classical way. Liberalism tends to be quite shy and hesitant about suggesting that there is a good (in both a metaphysical and ethical sense) that one and all can know. When notions such as the good, the true and the beautiful are both privatized and relativized, then they can be defined as each and all see fit. It is this liberal fear and suspicion of saying much about the ultimate (or reducing it to a mystery that each and all perceive and define in their own way) that makes liberalism a chameleon-like agenda that can become whatever an age wants or wishes it to be.

The above insight helps us to explain how liberalism jumps from one social crusade to the next, as Southern writer George Fitzhugh noted in the 1850s. From women’s suffrage to Black power to open borders to transgendered bathrooms, liberalism searches for a crusade and pushes ahead with no clear goal or end in mind. It has no real concept of “the good, the true and the beautiful.” This makes it a poor ideology upon which to base a country or civilization.


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