Thursday, June 24, 2010

Charles Kesler on the New Liberals

Charles Kesler delivers an interesting take on the new liberalism in Imprimis' May/June 2010 edition:

FDR's New Deal implied that there's nothing to fear from making government bigger and bigger, because political tyranny—at least among advanced nations—is a thing of the past. In truth, however, the new socio-economic rights were group rights, not individual rights. They were rights for organized interests: labor unions, farmers, school teachers, old people, blacks, sick people, and so forth. Collectively, these rights encouraged citizens to think of themselves as members of pressure groups or to organize themselves into pressure groups. Subtly and not so subtly, citizens were taught to identify their rights with group self-interests of one kind or another...These new group rights were conspicuously not attached to obligations.

The new rights pointed to a kind of moral anarchy in which rights without obligations became the currency of the realm—in which rights, understood as putative claims on resources, were effectively limited only by other, stronger such claims. The result was, at best, an equilibrium of countervailing power....Liberalism in these terms is just a preference.

Basically, Kesler sees modern-day liberals favoring freedom without morality and duty. He believes such a path leads to moral relativism and a slow erosion of individual rights.

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