Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Problem With Liberalism

J. Budziszewski's other article is entitled The Problem With Liberalism.

He writes:

"Even though I am not a duck, I will sometimes seem to quack like a duck. I cannot be a liberal and I cannot even be in strategic alliance with liberals, but I may from time to time find myself in tactical alliance with them--just as with conservatives--defending the cause of particular laws, precepts, or policies that they too approve, but for reasons of their own. To keep my head, I had better be clear about what those reasons are and how they differ from mine. So although we cannot ask whether Christians can or should be political liberals, we can and should ask what Christians are to think of liberalism."

By "liberal," Budziszewski is here referring to the "contemporary variety of government-driven social reformism."

Here is his thesis:

My thesis is that, even as worldly philosophies go, political liberalism is deeply flawed. We may best describe it as a bundle of acute moral errors, with political consequences that grow more and more alarming as these errors are taken closer and closer to their logical conclusions. I am not speaking of such errors as celebrating sodomy and abortion--for these are merely symptoms--but of their causes. Nor am I speaking of all their causes--for this would require reading hearts--but of their intellectual causes. I am not even speaking of all their intellectual causes--for these are too numerous-but of the most obvious. No claim is here made that every political liberal commits all the moral errors all the time. Nor do I claim that all the moral errors are logically compatible, so they even could all be committed all the time. Certain moral errors support certain others, but others are at odds, so they must be committed selectively. One must not expect logical coherence in moral confusion.

And here are the nine moral errors he identifies with political liberalism, contrasted with the biblical worldview:
  1. Propitiationism: I should do unto others as they want. Christianity: I should do unto others as they need.
  2. Expropiationism: I may take from others to help the needy, giving nothing of my own. Christianity: I should give of my own to help the needy, taking from no one.
  3. Solipsism: Human beings make themselves, belong to themselves, and have value in and of themselves. Christianity: Human beings are made by God, belong to Him, and have value because they are loved by Him and made in His image.
  4. Absolutism: We cannot be blamed when we violate the moral law, either because we cannot help it, because we have no choice, or because it is our choice. Christianity: We must be blamed, because we are morally responsible beings.
  5. Perfectionism: Human effort is adequate to cure human evil. Christianity: Our sin, like our guilt, can be erased only by the grace of God through faith in Christ.
  6. Universalism: The human race forms a harmony whose divisions are ultimately either unreal or unimportant. Christianity: Human harmony has been shattered by sin and cannot be fully healed by any means short of conversion.
  7. Neutralism: The virtue of tolerance requires suspending judgments about good and evil. Christianity: The virtue of tolerance requires making judgments about good and evil.
  8. Collectivism: The state is more important to the child than the family. Christianity: The family is more important to the child than the state.
  9. The Fallacy of Desperate Gestures: "The perfectionist acts, at least in the beginning, from a desire to relieve someone else's pain. The desperationist acts to relieve his own: the pain of pity, the pain of impotence, the pain of indignation. He is like a man who beats on a foggy television screen with a pipe wrench, not because the wrench will fix the picture but because it is handy and feels good to use."

Here lies the power of political liberalism: Its moral errors are fortified with opiates. We may think that reality will break through the dream by itself, but reality is not self-interpreting; the causes by which errors are eventually dissipated and replaced by other errors are hidden in God's Providence. All we can do is keep up the critique which is in the gospel, and in the meantime go on being Christians: our eyes lifted up not to the spectacular idol of political salvation, but to the Cross. Let those who will call this doing nothing; we know better.