Re Alan Wolfe’s The Future Of Liberalism, whose mushy reviews Jonah and I were rolling our eyes over the other day, The New Criterion offers a more hostile critique from William D. Gairdner. He includes this thigh-slapper by Wolfe in which the professor asks us to try to imagine a world without “liberalism”:
Imagine a world in which religion (or irreligion) is coerced, freedom of speech curtailed, economic activity directed and controlled by the state, and no one [he means unions] allowed to organize and bargain collectively to improve their economic condition—and you have a political system that can only be called illiberal …
You don’t have to imagine it. In Europe, Canada, and increasingly America (see last Tuesday’s speech, last Thursday’s budget) once free peoples are living it. With the exception of the prohibition on collective bargaining, everything else is now a routine feature of life. Gairdner writes:
Christianity… has been all but forced from the public square, and secular humanism is mandated by law and edict in its place (irreligion is coerced).
It might be truer to say that a collectivist state religion is “coerced”. These days, it even has hymns: If you go to a grade-school ”holiday” concert in America, you can’t sing anything about God but there’s usually some pseudo-spiritual dirge about how together we can feel the power of the circle of the dream of the circle of the hope of the dream that sounds like it came 23rd in a Write-Obama’s-2012-Campaign-Theme competition.
As for freedom of speech:
All Canadian provinces and the federal government now have “Human Rights Commissions” that specifically, and with considerable zeal, curtail all speech that is not deemed sufficiently “liberal…” mini-Star Chambers dotted all across our once-free lands, everywhere fining people and mandating liberal “re-education” as a cure.
Economic activity “directed and controlled by the state”:
Structurally, we are endangered because many of the Western democracies are becoming tripartite states in which one-third of all taxpayers are employed by government at some level, one-third of the people are crucially dependent in some way on government support (welfare, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, and a gazillion other untrackable support programs), and one-third produces the income (the tax base) paid out in supports for the first two-thirds. Anyone can see that, as this develops in a mass “democratic” system, the first two-thirds will always gang up on the last.
That seems vaguely relevant to the last week.