The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Liberal Imperialism

In a long and fascinating article on liberalism, Yoram Hazony writes:
Much like the pharaohs and the Babylonian kings, the Roman emperors and the Roman Catholic Church until well into the modern period, as well as the Marxists of the last century, liberals, too, have their grand theory about how they are going to bring peace and economic prosperity to the world by pulling down all the borders and uniting mankind under their own universal rule. Infatuated with the clarity and intellectual rigor of this vision, they disdain the laborious process of consulting with the multitude of nations they believe should embrace their view of what is right. And like other imperialists, they are quick to express disgust, contempt, and anger when their vision of peace and prosperity meets with opposition from those who they are sure would benefit immensely by simply submitting.
Hazony calls this attitude "liberal imperialism," but also admits that it is not monolithic. He notes that conservatives have also espoused imperialistic views about the role of the West on the world stage. But his focus is the growing emphasis on "transnationalism"—the idea that a global order should supersede the designs of any individual nation. He uses Brexit as an example of push-back against transnationalism and describes the liberal reaction to it:
The calumnies and denunciation heaped upon the English public and its elected leadership in the wake of Britain’s determination to seek independence from the European Union are an unmistakable warning to the West as a whole. From the point of view of the liberal construction, the unification of Europe is not one legitimate political option among others. It is the only legitimate opinion to which a decent person can subscribe. The moral legitimacy of Britain’s vote for independence was thus the unrelenting theme of political and media figures decrying the vote: It was alleged that only the aged supported exiting the European Union, thereby disenfranchising the young; or that only the uneducated had supported it, thereby diluting the say of those who really do know better; or that voters had meant only to cast a protest vote and not actually leave Europe; and so forth. These angry pronouncements were then followed by the demand that the British public’s preference be repealed — by a second referendum, or by act of Parliament, or by closed-door bargaining with the Europeans. Anything, so long as the one legitimate opinion should prevail.

The alarm and trepidation with which European and American elites responded to the prospect of an independent Britain revealed something that had long been obscured from view. That simple truth is that the emerging liberal construction is incapable of respecting, much less celebrating, the deviation of nations seeking to assert a right to their own unique laws, traditions, and policies. Any such dissent is held to be vulgar and ignorant, if not evidence of a fascistic mindset.
In the United States, liberal imperialism is in evidence throughout academia. Speakers who argue against the liberal construction on any number of topics are not debated, but are vilified with ad hominem attacks, shouted down or disinvited thereby precluded from speaking at all. Hundreds of instances of this behavior have occurred over the past decade accelerating during the presidency of Donald Trump. Are liberal ideas so sacrosanct that they cannot be debated vigorously? Are academic liberals (meaning the vast majority of all professors and students in academia) so fragile that they need a "safe space" when they hear something with which they disagree? Hazony writes:
One of the most striking features of public life in contemporary America and Europe is the way that the Western nations are now afflicted by public-shaming campaigns and heresy hunts whose purpose is to stigmatize and render illegitimate one or another person or group of people, opinion or policy, that is perceived as having the ability to mount any kind of meaningful resistance to liberal doctrine. Much of what has been written about these campaigns has concentrated on the deterioration of free discourse in the universities, where official and unofficial censorship of the professorate’s opinions — including their views about Islam, homosexuality, immigration, and a host of other subjects — has become commonplace. But the universities are hardly the principal locus of rage against the views now deemed inappropriate. Much of the public sphere is now regularly visited by campaigns of vilification that were until recently associated with the universities. Indeed, as the scope of legitimate disagreement is progressively reduced, and the penalties for dissent grow more and more onerous, the Western democracies are becoming one big university campus.
The fragility of the liberal mindset often causes some conservatives to self-edit their writing, their comments, and their interactions on public policy. If they do not, they risk "public-shaming campaigns and heresy hunts whose purpose is to stigmatize and render illegitimate."

It's an effective strategy, no doubt, having become the backbone of political correctness. One of the tactics of liberal imperialists is to shut down information flow from their adversaries. That's why FOXNEWS is hated by progressives, why Facebook and Twitter have been known to censor conservative voices, and why Donald Trump is continually vilified, regardless of the distinct benefits his policies have provided to the very people that liberal imperialists profess to care about.

Imperialism was bad when neocons suggested it in the 1990s and early 2000s. A utopian vision of democracy in places that are neither ready for it nor capable of sustaining it was the stuff of delusion. Imperialism is equally bad as liberals have suggested it in the first few decades of the 21st century. A utopian vision that espouses a "grand theory about how they are going to bring peace and economic prosperity to the world by pulling down all the borders and uniting mankind under their own universal rule" is a fantasy that is anti-historical and anti-cultural. It is also the stuff of delusion.