Website of Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr.


RE: Modern Social Liberalism on Human Nature & the Potential for Human         Progress

"[As regards] ... the basic ideas and beliefs that comprise the formal structure of the ideological syndrome of modern Liberalism....

"The logical starting point for Liberalism, as for most other ideologies, is a belief about the nature of man.

"...Liberalism believes man's nature to be not fixed but changing, with an unlimited or, at any rate, indefinitely large potential for positive (good, favorable, progressive) development. This may be contrasted with the traditional belief, expressed in the theological doctrines of Original Sin and the real existence of the Devil, that human nature had a permanent, unchanging essence, and that man is partly corrupt as well as limited in his potential. 'Man, according to Liberalism, is born ignorant, not wicked,' declares Professor J. Salwyn Schapiro [Schapiro, Liberalism: Its Meaning and History (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand, 1958), p. 12], writing as a Liberal on Liberalism.

"... Modern Liberalism, contrary to the traditional doctrine, holds that there is nothing intrinsic to the nature of man that makes it impossible for human society to achieve the goals of peace, freedom, justice, and well being that Liberalism assumes to be desirable and to define 'the good society.' Liberalism [in its pure form] rejects the essentially tragic view of man's fate found in nearly all pre-Rensissance thought and literature, Christian and non-Christian alike."

RE: The Conservative View of the Liberal Perception of Human Nature & Human         Potential

"...as understood by all the centuries of Christianity ... and by all other of the great world religions, man ia a creature by essence limited and bounded, his potential goodness corrupted by a portion of evil that, by his own efforts, cannot be overcome, fated to walk in the valley of the shadow of an alien material universe, under unreprievable sentence of death. ...religious doctrine ... was borne out in full and terrible detail by the entire history of man, in every continent, climate, and region of the earth, in every society at every stage of development from primitive tribe to mighty empire, constructed by whatever race, black, brown, yellow, red, or white. Only those who know very little about the history of mankind can suppose that cruelty, crime or weakness, mass slaughter or mass corruption, are exceptions from the normal rule. A doctrine of human nature that paints a picture of what man might be is a direct contradiction to what he has always and evertwhere been....

"The fundamental law of every science is the postulate that the pattern of what happens in the future will probably resemble that of what has been observed to happen in the past. Any belief requiring the assumption that the future will be radically different from the past is not only false on the evidence ... but non-scientific in kind. The grimmest lessons of the past about the inherents limits and defects of human nature have been continuously confirmed by wars with tens of millions dead, by mass persecutions and tortures, deliberate starvation of innocents, wanton killings by tens of thousands, the ingenuities of science used to perfect methods of mass terror, new forms of enslavement, gigantic genocides, the wiping out of whole nations and peoples. True enough, the record of the present, as of the past, is not unmixed black; the crimes and horrors are mingled with achievements, mercies, and heroism. But in the face of what man has done and does, it is only an ideologue obsessed with his own abstractions who can continue to cling to the vision of an innately uncorrupt, rational, and benignly plastic human nature possessed of an unlimited potential for realizing the good society.

"It is not merely the record that speakes in unmistakable refutation of the Liberal doctrine of man. ...almost all modern scientific studies of man's nature unite in giving evidence against the Liberal view of man as a creature motivated, once ignorance is dispelled, by the rational search for peace, freedom, and plenty. Every modern school of biology and psychology and most schools of sociology and anthropology conclude that men are driven by profound non-rational, often anti-rational, sentiments and impulses, whose character and very existence are not ordinarily understood by conscious reason. Many of these drives are aggressive, disruptive, and injurious to others and to society. ...these negative impulses ... are no less integral to the human psyche than those positive impulses pointing toward Liberal ideals.

"The Liberal assumes ... that men, given a knowledge of the problem and freedom to choose, will opt for peace, justice, and plenty. But the facts do not bear him out, either for individuals or for societies. Individuals choose, very often, trouble, pain, injury, for themselves and for others. Socities choose ... guns instead of butter, empire instead of justice, despotic glory instead of democratic cooperation. Of course, the Liberal can always say: that is because they, individuals and societies, were not sufficiently indoctrinated, educated, and civilized by the bad institutions held over from the past. To that argument, there can be no answer, because, in making it, he is speaking as an ideologue, and all evidence becomes irrelevant."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism on Political & Social Change

"[As regards] ... the basic ideas and beliefs that comprise the formal structure of the ideological syndrome of modern Liberalism....

"The ignorance and bad social conditions that cause the world's evils and block progress are the legacy of the past, 'the product,' as Professor [J. Salwyn] Schapiro puts it,' of the errors and injustices of the past.' [Schapiro, Liberalism: Its Meaning and History (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand, 1958), p. 18] There is therefore no reason to favor ideas, institutions, or modes of conduct merely because they have been long established, because our ancestors accepted them; their ancient lineage is, if anything, a ground for suspicion. We should, rather, be ready to undertake prompt, and even drastic and extensive, innovations, if these recommend themselves from a rational and utilitarian standpoint. Thus Liberalism is antitraditional.

"I rather think that the attitude toward tradition furnishes the most accurate single shibboleth for distinguishing Liberals from Conservatives, and still more broadly, from the Left drom the Right.

"... does the fact that a particular idea, institution, or mode of conduct has been established for some while create a presumption in favor of continuing it? To this question, a Conservative will answer with a definite Yes; and a Liberal, with No, or "very little.' This does not mean that a Conservative never, and a Liberal always, wants to change what is. It is the revolutionary Nihilist, not the Liberal, who thinks everything to be wrong; and the Reactionary, not the Conservative, who wants nothing altered (unless, perhaps, in order to return to the past). For the Conservative, there might be some new circumstances cogent enough to call for a change in the prevailing ways, inspite of his presumption in their favor; and the Liberal is, on occasion, content to let well enough alone. But the difference in presumption, bias, and trend remains.

"In situations where both Conservatives and Liberals agree that reforms are in order, the Conservative will want reforming to be less extensive and more gradual than what the Liberal will believe to be necessary, desirable, and possible."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism on Political & Social Change

"... most Liberals ... do not feel ... that considerations of experience, habit, custom, and tradition have any appreciable weight as against the clear-cut arguments derived from democratic theory and reformist goals....

"Liberals, moreover, when seized with the 'passion' for reform ... do not reflect unduly on the fact that no social innovation takes place in a vacuum. When we alter item A, especially if it is changed deliberately and abruptly, instead of by the slow molding of time, we will find items B and C also changed, and, to some degree, the entire social institution, sometimes in most unexpected ways. We may be successful in achieving our sought-for reforms, but there will be other, unintended and perhaps undesired changes arriving along with the reforms, and there will also and inevitably be something lost ... so that, on net, the loss may more than counterbalance the gain on the scale of Progress.

"... this possibility does not greatly worry the Liberal in advance because he will have reached his decision about the desirability of reform by derivation from his ideology -- which comprises a ready-made set of desirable goals -- and not from slow, painstaking and rather pedestrian attention to the actual way in which ... [social institutions] function."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism on Private Versus Publicly-Directed Economic         Activity

"It is not true that individuals possess a prescriptive 'natural liberty' in their economic activities. There is no 'compact' conferring perpetual rights on those who Have or on those who Acquire. The world is not so governed from above that private and social interests always coincide. It is not a correct deduction from the Principles of Economics that enlightened self-interest always operates in the public interest. Nor is it true that self-interest is generally enlightened; more often individuals acting separately to promote their own ends are too ignorant or too weak to attain even these. Experience does not show that individuals, when they make up a social unit, are always less enlightened than when they act separately."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism on Government Control of Private Business Activity

"These measures [which I support] would involve Society in exercising directive intelligence through some appropriate organ of [governmental] action over many of the intricacies of private business, yet it would leave private initiative and enterprise unhindered.

"I believe that some coordinated act of intelligent judgement is required as to the scale on which it is desirable that the community as a whole [i.e., the state, the government] should save, the scale on which these savings should go abroad in the form of foreign investments, and whether the present organization of the investment market distributes savings along the most nationally productive channels.

"I do not think these matters should be left entirely to the chances of private judgement and private profits...."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism & State Intervention

"In the United States, the good ship Liberalism ... has been boarded and captured by a pirate crew of state interventionists and near-socialists whose ideals are unrecognizably different from those of the historic founders of Liberalism and who regard Karl Marx as more relevant to modern conditions than Adam Smith."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism & Statism

"American Liberals have been ... moving toward statism ... [tending strongly] to favor government planning and control [of economic activity] against private initiative and the functioning of the free market.

"... American Liberals [since the early 1930s] have usually preferred to go along the dangerous road that may lead to a new serfdom by advocating ever increasing state spending, controls, and bureaucracy as the cure for all social ills."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism, Statism, & Socialism

"Modern Liberalism has shifted to a belief in one or another degree of what may be called, in a general sense, statism. It has an always critical and sometimes wholly negative attitude toward private economic enterprise. Liberals accept and advocate a multiplication of the substantive activities of government in nearly all social institutions, extensive government controls over the economy, and at least some measure of government ownership and operation. Modern Liberalism insists that the entry of government into nearly every phase of social life, except religion, aids rather than hinders the attainment of the good life and the good society.

"... modern Liberalism has absorbed an important segment of the ideology of Socialism. Liberalism does not ... share the total demand of orthodox Marxian Socialism: for nationalization of all major means of production, transport, and distribution; and ... the non-Communist Socialist parties in most Western nations have dropped this extreme position during the past decade or so. The ideological movement has gone both ways: just as Liberalism shifted toward Socialism in its doctrine of the state and its economics, so has the reformist or democratic wing of traditional Socialism shifted toward Liberalism. The two have come close to meeting in the concept of what has come to be called 'the Welfare State,' and there meet up with other currents from radicalism...."

"... Liberals almost always support the side of government control, planning, financing, or take-over when this is posed as a specific issue."

RE: The Shift from the Laissez-faire, Limited State Ideology of the Older Liberalism
        to the Statist, State Interventionist Orientation of Modern Social Liberalism

"Gradually a change came over the spirit and meaning of Liberalism. It came surely, if gradually, to be dissociated from the laissex-faire creed and to be associated with the use of governmental action for aid to those at economic disadvantage and for alleviation of those conditions.... The majority of those who call themselves Liberals today are committed to the principle that organized society must use its powers to establish the conditions under which the mass of individuals can possess actual as distinct from merely legal liberty.

"Since liberation of the capacities of individuals for free, self-initiated expression is an essential part of the creed of Liberalism, Liberalism that is sincere must will the means that condition the achieving of its ends. Regimentation of material and mechanical forces is the only way by which the mass of individuals can be released from regimentation.... The notion that organized social control [i.e., government control, or state control] of economic forces lies outside the historic path of Liberalism shows Liberalism is still impeded by remnants of its earlier, laissez-faire phase. Earlier Liberalism regarded the separate and competing economic action of individuals as the means to social well-being as the end. We must reverse the perspective and see that socialized economy is the means of free individual development as rhe end."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism on Economic Underdogs & the Use of Government         Power

"American Liberalism in the past forty years is perhaps best defined as an attitude favorable to ... the use of government power directly to assist economic underdogs both at home and abroad.

"Conservatives might argue that they too are sympathetic to the economic underdog but believe he can benefit most (although indirectly) from a healthy free enterprise economy that provides jobs for all, that improves housing through private builders, and that improves medical care through private efforts. Liberals, in contrast, seek to directly promote the economic security of financially precarious groups by public [government] programs such as socialized health and medical care, comprehensive and extensive social welfare policies, unemployment compensation and minimum wage laws, public aid to migratory workers, public aid to immigrants, and so on.

"The Liberals' attitude toward economic underdogs has [in the past] led them consistently to support higher levels of foreign economic aid for underdeveloped countries than Conservatives ... [would] support."

RE: A Definition of the Modern Social Liberal, as Regards His Position on Taxation         & Public Spending.

"A Liberal is a man who is willing to spend someone else's money."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism, Taxation, & Government Spending

"The modern American "Liberal" is, in principle, a profligate spender of public funds for any and all purposes and sometimes merely for the sake of spending. If he is free from the cynicism of a Harry Hopkins, with his patented scheme for buying the votes of the people with their own money ('tax, tax, tax, spend, spend, spend, elect, elect, elect'), he is usually a super-Keynesian, convinced that the cure for all social and economic difficulties is for government, the supposed horn of plenty, to write a bigger check."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism & Public Spending by the National Government

"Conservatives can be counted on to oppose larger federal spending (except for national defense and security) by a national government they regard as overgrown, overfinanced, overpowerful, and overdisposed to interfere with business and the private citizen. The states and local governments, on the other hand, are seen as 'close to the people,' more manageable, and less likely to abuse their powers.

"Liberals ordinarily favor action by Washington, rather than by state and local governmenrs, because Washington, since 1931, has usually adopted the more Liberal policies."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism & Tax Policy

"One of the most reliable touchstones for distinguishing between Liberals and Conservatives is their attitude toward tax reform. If taxes are to be raised, Liberals want them raised most for upper-income groups. If taxes are to be lowered, they want them lowered most for lower-income groups. Conservatives regularly resist what they regard as excessive taxes on the more productive classes."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism, Government Regulation, & Equality of Condition

"Modern Liberalism ... reacting against the social and economic inequality that are endemic to capitalism, has turned increasingly to government regulation of the economy to advance the Liberal goal of equality of condition."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism, Private Property, & Individual Freedom

"... one of the trade-marks of what now passes for Liberalism is support for laws and judicial rulings that override deep-rooted local sentiments and destroy the right of the individual to dispose of his property as he may see fit.

"... what is now called Liberalism would put the individual in a new straitjacket of state aid and control, of state handouts and state confiscatory taxation. It would completely nullify that fine picture of the redoubtably self-reliant, self-sufficient American whom Alexis de Tocqueville found in the early life of the American Republic...."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism & Individual Freedom

"During the 1970s ... Liberalism was profoundly utopian, embracing a view of man that tranformed him into a perpetual child, degrading him almost to the level of an animal caged in a zoo."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism, Economic & Social Planning, & Individual Freedom

"... Liberals would plan our lives for us under the banner of Democratic [Party] administrations and the ever greater flow of federal largess.

"Behind all the premises of [Liberal] planners lies a cynical contempt for the individual freedoms which make Americans different from most of their contempories around the world. ... The [Liberal] New Dealers ... would legalize their direction of our lives under the guise of economic grants and other giveaways, but Conservatives ... would free us from the grip of the federal bureaucracy and inspire us to control more of our own destiny."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism & Communism

"(1) ... contemporary Liberalism is in agreement with Communism on the most essential point -- the necessity and desirability of Socialism; (2) ... it [Liberalism] regards all inherited values -- theological, philosophical, political -- as without intrinsic virtue or authority; (3) ... therefore, no irreconcilable differences exist between it [Liberalism] and Communism -- only differences as to method and means; and (4) ... in view of these characteristics of their ideology, the Liberals are unfit for the leadership of a free society, and intrinsically incapable of offering serious opposition to the Communist offensive."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism, Liberal Intellectuals, & the Meaning of Conservatism

"... the dominant political orientation of American intellectuals has been Liberal and Left....

"Because the great majority of intellectuals [in the U.S.A.] are Liberal, it is essentially Liberals who define what is meant by the term 'Conservative.' In the Liberal vision, Conservatives are people who want to either preserve the status quo or go back to some earlier and 'simpler' times. However politically effective such conceptions may be, in putting alternatives out of court, there are great cognitive difficulties with such characterizations. For example, there is not a speck of evidence that earlier times were, in fact, "simpler," though, of couse, our knowledge of such times may be cruder. Moreover, the status quo in the United States and throughout much of Western Europe is a Liberal-Left status quo, entrenched for at least a generation. Alternatives to this [status quo] are arbitrarily called 'going back,' even when these alternatives refer to social arrangements that have never existed (the monetary proposals of the Chicago economists, for example), while proposals to continue or accelerate existing [Liberal-Left] political-economic trends are xalled 'innovative' or even 'radical.' Conservers of Liberal or Socialist institutions are never called by rhe pejorative term, 'Conservative.' Neither are those who expouse the ideals, or repeat the very phrases, of 1789 France. In rhe broad sweep of history, the systemic advantages of decentralized decision making are a far more recent conception than the idea that salvation lies in concentrating power in the hands of the right people with the right principles. Adam Smith came two thousand years after Plato, but contemporary versions of the philosopher-king approach are considered new and revolutionary, while contemporary versions of systemic decentralization are considered 'outmoded.' Such expressions are themselves part of a vision in which ideas may be judged temporally, rather than cognitively -- what was adequate to older and simpler times being inadequate for the complexities of modern life."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism, Totalitarian Ideology, the Liberal Intellectuals' Vision,         & the Centralization of Political Power

"The characteristics of the [Liberal] intellectual vision are strikingly similar to the characteristics of totalitarian ideology -- especially the localization of evil and of wisdom, and psychic identification with the interests of great masses, whose actual preferences are ignored in favor of the overriding preferences of intellectuals. It is consistent with this fact that [Liberal] intellectuals have supported and indeed spearheaded the movement toward a centralization of political power in democratic nations and have apologized for foreign despotisms and totalitarianisms which featured like-minded people. Democratic traditions may create either internal ideological conflicts or an external pragmatic need to rhetorically paper over the totalitarian thrust of the [Liberal] intellectual vision. Here, intellectual processes -- definitional clarity, logical consistency, cannons of evidence -- are often sacrificed to the intellectual vision or the self-interest of the intellectual class. For example, anti-democratic processes may be described by democratic rhetoric as 'participation' or 'public' representation. Presumption may be substituted for evidence -- past, present, or future -- as in numerous arguments that the national I.Q. was declining, or existing evidence may be resolutely disregarded, as in claims that crime rates reflect social 'root' causes, or that 'innovative' educational methods are more effective.... In short, there is little to suggest that [Liberal] intellectuals' political positions reflect the intellectual process, and much to suggest that their positions reflect a vision and a set of interests peculiar to the intellectual class."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism, Plebiscitary Democracy, & the Absolute, Unlimited Rule         of a Popular Majority

"Liberalism tends toward a plebiscitary interpretation of democracy. Government ought to reflect the will of the democratic majority as immediately, sensitively, and accurately as possible. Liberals thus distrust those political institutions and processes that mediate, distort, or otherwise interfere with the direct expression of the popular will: such as, for example, the electoral college method of electing chief magistrates [chief executives]; the non-proportional basis for electing the United States Senate and other 'upper chambers'; and ... the non-democratic procedural rules that characterize American and many other legislative assemblies.

"Liberal fundamentalists usually favor the election of the head of government by a 'direct consultation' of the electorate as a whole, that is, by a plebiscite or something approximating a plebiscite. Their distrust of intermediate political institutions also leads modern Liberals ... to favor centralization of governmental power. Decentralization, such as persists in the American federal structure, in spite of a century's erosion, and the whole tradition of States' Rights ... become in practice, as the Liberal sees it, instruments of reactionary minorities that break up and often thwart the democratic will of the majority."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism, Internationalism, & World Government

"Modern Liberal doctrine tends naturally toward internationalist conceptions and the ideal of a democratic world order based through one mode or another on the majority will of all mankind. The logic of Liberal principle unites with the normal bias of Liberal temperament to incline modern Liberals favorably toward ideas, movements, and organizations that can be thought of as steps toward world cooperation, [world] federalism, [world] unification, and [world] government: world courts; world leagues of nations, worldwide cultural exchanges; world congresses and parliaments; world conventions and committees. To the Liberal, it has become self-evident that 'national sovereignty is an outworn concept' that must be drastically modified, if not altogether abandoned."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism, Internationalism, & World Government

"Esperience since the Second World War should have made it clear that a Liberal foreign policy must assume that Liberalism and democracy can only flourish or indeed survive in a suitable environment, that such an environment, under present conditions, can be no less extensive than the entire world, and that, therefore, Liberal foreign policy must look at the world as a whole. Any form of isolationism or regionalism is obsolete. The nation that would save itself must subordinate its immediate interests to the maintenance of a peaceful, stable, and just world. That is the assumption that the United States and other nations made in establishing the United Nations."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism & World Government

"The establishment of a world government with powers adequate to prevent war must be an objective of United States foreign policy to be achieved at the earliest possible date."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism, War, & Pacifism

"Because coercion and force are felt to be intrinsically irrational, and because they undoubtedly interrupt the universal dialogue of the democratic process, Liberals tend ... to be against both war and warriors. Some Liberals, and an increasing number since the advent of nuclear weapons, go all the way to strict pacifism; others, to the myriad sorts of modified or conditional pacifism, like the movements for partial or total disarmament, against nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons tests, and so on.

"... most present-day pacifists of all shades, including most of the religious pacifists, are Liberals, as can quickly be confirmed by checking the membership of any of the pacifist, anti-bomb, or disarmament organizations."

RE: Modern Social Liberalism -- Its Position on Diversity & Tolerance

"Contemporary Liberalism honors diversity and tolerance above all, but what it calls by those names is different from what has been so called in the past. Its diversity denigrates and excludes ordinary people, and its tolerance requires speech codes, quotas, and compulsory training in correct opinions and attitudes. Nor do current Liberal totems and taboos have a clear connection with letting people live as they wish. Prohibitions, both grand and petty, multiply. To outsiders, the rules often seem simply arbitrary: prayer is forbidden, while instruction in the use of condoms is required; smoking and furs are outrages, abortion and sodomy fundamental rights.

"Tolerance" is traditionally understood procedurally, to mean letting people do what they want. Contemporary Liberals understand it substantively, to require equal respect as a fact of social life. ...substantive tolerance requires pervassive administrative control of social life. A regime that adopts substantive tolerance as its goal must be intolerant procedurally because it must control the attitudes people have toward each other, and any serious attempt to do so will require means that are unforgiving and despotic."

RE: Sources of Modern Social Liberalism -- Naivete & Narcissism

"How can decent and often very smart people hold Liberal positions?

"There are many reasons, but the two greatest may be naivete and narcissims. Each alone causes problems, but, when combined in the same person, are particularly destructive.

"At the heart of Liberalism is the naive belief that people are basically good. As a result of theis belief, Liberals rarely blame people for the evil they do. Instead, they blame economics, parents, capitalism, racism, any anything else that can let the individual off the hook.

"A second naive Liberal belief is that, because people are basically good, talking with people who do evil is always better than fighting, let alone killing them. 'Negotiate with Saddam,' 'Negotiate with the Soviets,' 'War never solves anything,' 'Think peace,' 'Visualize peace' -- the Liberal mind is filled with naive cliches about how to deal with evil.

"Indeed, the very use of the word 'evil' greatly disturbs Liberals. It shakes up their child-like view of the world, their view that everybody is, at heart, a decent person who is either misunderstood or led to do unfortunate things by outside forces. [Editor's Note: A notable exception to the Liberal's unwillingness to use the word "evil" is his very strong tendency to rhetorically localize evil in those individuals and groups whom he labels "reactionaries," "Rightwing extremists." "greedy capitalists," "corporate vested interests," "racists," "Fascists," "war mongers," "militarists," "Red Necks," "male chauvinists," "homophobes" and "socially and culturally backward elements," as well as in Conservatives and other non-Liberals who oppose Liberal policies and offer non-Liberal policy alternatives. Almon L. Way, Jr.]

"The second major source of modern Liberalism is narcissism, the unhealthy preoccupation with one's feelings. We live in the Age of Narcissism. As a result of unprecedented affluence and luxury, preoccupation with one's psychological state and a hedonistic culture, much of the West, America included, has become almost entirely feelings-directed.

"That is one reason "feelings" and "compassion" are two of the most often used Liberal terms. "Character" is no longer a Liberal word because it implies self-restraint. 'Good' and 'evil' are not Liberal words either, as they imply a standard beyond one's feelings." [Editor's Note: An important exception to the Liberal's reluctance to use the word "good" is his very strong inclination to characterize as "good" basic human nature, Liberals, Liberalism, and the Liberal political agenda. Almon L. Way, Jr.]

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