Tuesday, August 25, 2020

On Cancel Culture, Nikki Haley has the Correct Attitude, but Wrong Solution | Trad Lib News



NOTE: I do not endorse the other positions mentioned in the speeches described here.

Welcome back to TaraElla TV,
where we examine cultural and political issues from an old-school pro-freedom liberal perspective. Today, I'm going to respond to some of the comments made at the RNC by Nikki Haley, Donald Trump Jr., and Turning Point USA's Charlie Kirk.

One point that was emphasized in the speeches of all three, as well as the speeches of several others, was the threat of the pro-cancel culture radicals. Free speech is being curtailed, and cancel culture is being normalized. To give credit where it's due, I'm glad that at least these people are paying attention to this issue. I believe that defending free speech should be the first priority in politics across the Western world right now, and I believe it needs to be done at all costs and at any costs, economic, social, or otherwise. For me, there's no priority that comes before free speech, free speech literally comes before everything else. As you would expect, I am big on opposing cancel culture in all its forms, without exception.

The forum being the RNC 2020, of course, the solution that these speakers gave was for America to simply re-elect President Trump, and all will be fine. Now, I know it's their job to promote Trump, but this is highly unconvincing. I mean, I hate cancel culture so much that I am potentially willing to support someone just to end this madness, even if I otherwise disagree with them on most other things. But I simply can't believe Trump is good for free speech. For starters, the Trump era has seen the worst crisis in free speech ever, and cancel culture has been taken to a whole new level. Don Jr is correct when he says that the silent majority is now at risk of becoming the 'silenced majority', but what he has left out is that this has accelerated under his father's watch. Of course, they go on to blame the Democrats, but then, given the Democrats aren't even in power, that sounds questionable. I certainly agree that AOC's dismissal of the cancel culture problem is a major issue, and AOC is indeed my least favorite Democrat of all, but you can imagine that even without AOC around we still wouldn't necessarily be in a better situation. Besides, most other Democrats are thankfully nothing like AOC. The fact is, Trump has been the most powerful man in the world for nearly four years, so he has to shoulder at least some of the responsibility for this.

I mean, if Nikki Haley were instead running for president, for example, and she put restoring free speech and ending cancel culture as a top priority in her campaign, then I would be more than happy to give her a chance to prove herself. It's always good to give people a chance to deliver on what they promise, to take what people say in good faith at least initially. Furthermore, Haley also cited her record on dealing with culturally contentious issues during her time as Governor of South Carolina, and those skills would likely come in handy in the current culture wars. But Trump is not Haley. Trump already has a record, and it doesn't look that nice when it comes to free speech, from a consequential point of view. Nor is he proposing to change the way he operates, so we can't logically expect different results. Given that the whole of the Western world has lived through cancel culture hell during the Trump era so far, why should people trust that the next four years would be anything different?

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Thoughts on 'Systemic Racism', re Bernie Sanders, Michelle Obama | Trad Lib News



Welcome back to TaraElla TV,
where we examine cultural and political issues from an old-school pro-freedom liberal perspective. Today, I'm going to look at the phrase 'systemic racism' again. This phrase was used by both Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders in their respective Democratic convention speeches this week. Looking at the broader context, this phrase has been seeing a rise in popularity in the past few months, in light of the new wave of BLM this year.

I first voiced my disagreements with the buzzword 'systemic racism' in response to something Taylor Swift said two years ago. My point back then, was that I didn't agree with racism being a 'system of oppression', or that seeing it this way was the best way to combat racism. I still stand by this view. However, this doesn't take away from the fact that racism, as a form of prejudice that people hold in their hearts, is still way too common a thing. There's also the important problem of systematic bias against people on the basis of skin color that happens in multiple areas of life, and is especially worrying when it occurs in relation to positions of authority, like policing. I call this 'systematic racism', which is different from 'systemic racism', and I think 'systematic racism' is the more accurate term for reasons I will explain.

The chief reason I disagree with the term 'systemic racism' is because it has a particular meaning in the school of thought known as 'critical theory', which uses a Marxian lens to examine power relations in the world. In this context, 'systemic racism' refers to a pervasive system of oppression put in place deliberately to oppose people of color, for the benefit of the wider capitalist system. I think this is an inaccurate and exaggerated way to look at racial relations, and would lead to counterproductive attitudes and actions. It is inaccurate because, like much of critical theory, it force-fits a Marxian model to something that has much more nuance and complexity about it. My take is, critical theory in general isn't a very productive way to examine society, it likely owes its popularity to the dominance of Marxism and related ideas in some parts of academia in the 20th century, and it's an imbalance we should move away from.

Lately, some sections of the internet have seen very heated debates about whether 'systemic racism' exists or not. While it's good to have these debates in an intellectual sense, I think we should not lose sight of the bigger picture. I actually think, when many people say 'systemic racism', they don't actually refer to the aforementioned worldview, but rather plain old 'systematic racism', like how law enforcement could sometimes be biased against people of certain races. There is important work to be done here, and we should not be seen as dismissive. Moreover, as someone who is thoroughly fed up with the culture wars, I think it's more productive to work together on important social problems, than argue endlessly about the terminology we use. Therefore, I would certainly value someone's determination to resolve the issue of racism much more than if I think they are using the correct words. In this light, people like Michelle Obama, Bernie Sanders and Taylor Swift are still good allies on this issue, no matter what words they use. I think we should all agree that, there's so much important work to do to end racism, that there's really no time to reject allies for using the wrong words.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Culture Warriors Come For Kamala Harris Too! | Trad Lib News

 

Welcome back to TaraElla TV, where we examine cultural and political issues from an old-school pro-freedom liberal perspective. Today, I'm going to examine the attacks from the far-left on Democratic VP nominee Kamala Harris.

While right-leaning media outlets have been busy exaggerating the left-wing radicalness of Kamala Harris, the far-left has presented their own attacks: basically, that Kamala is a cop, because she was part of the law enforcement system, first as a prosecutor, and then as the Attorney-General of California. And while at a glance this looks similar to concerns raised about Kamala's record in those jobs, that's not really the focus here at all. Instead, it's the fact that Kamala did those jobs in the first place! A relevant note I think I should add here is that, these extremists would likely have no love for Kamala's primary rival Tulsi Gabbard either, because of her military background. So, we should make it clear, these people are not fellow travellers of Tulsi either, and this has nothing to do with that Tulsi vs Kamala thing from last year.

The fact is, even if Kamala had a perfect record in her law enforcement career, the far-left culture warriors would still have come after her. They are highly ideological people, and their worldview is based on a school of thought called critical theory, where everything is seen through the lens of power, domination and oppression. A fundamental thing we should know about this worldview is that, they don't even acknowledge that human beings have moral agency of their own. Instead, they see everything as systems of domination and oppression, which are ultimately tied to capitalist economics. In this distorted worldview, Kamala was serving a system of oppression just by doing her job, and it really wouldn't matter how well or just she was doing it. Moreover, many branches of postmodernism-inspired critical theory assert that the law and its enforcement in capitalist societies is inherently systemically racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and more. Therefore, by extension, Kamala would have participated in systemic racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. I mean, this is just ridiculous, because it is clear that Kamala is not guilty of any of these things. Furthermore, Kamala is clearly a strong ally of LGBT people, and we should give credit where it's due.

In the past, I've had mixed views about Kamala, partly because I was comparing her to other candidates in the primary, like Andrew Yang, who I thought had a better approach to politics. But given the insidious advancement of the critical theory inspired culture wars, and its relentless attacks on people across the political spectrum, I think we should help defend anyone who is subject to unfair attacks from that movement. Therefore, I think we should all help resist efforts to paint Kamala as a 'cop' and hence oppressive, and also efforts to paint 'cops' as inherently oppressive in the first place. People have moral agency, and they should be judged on their personal actions alone. Anything else would be illiberal in the extreme.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Neo-Marxists Paint Joe Biden as 'Racist' Again | Trad Lib News

 

 

Welcome back to TaraElla TV, where we examine cultural and political issues from a truth-orientated, pro-free speech perspective. Subscribe if you're interested. Today, I'm going to talk about Joe Biden's latest so-called gaffe, the disappointing response from both the critical theory far-left and opportunistic Trump supporters alike, and why this is a significant moment in our collective descent into the Neo-Marxist critical theory rabbit hole, where free speech will be kept in check by the microaggression police.  

 

Basically, it all began when Joe Biden said in an interview, that "unlike the African American community, with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly diverse attitudes about different things". It is clear that he was talking about the fact that black Americans are more similar in their political opinions compared to Latinos, as polling and election data has consistently shown. It is a fact that about 90% of black Americans vote Democrat compared to around 60% of Lations, for example. Biden was just talking about facts like these. He clearly wasn't implying that black people were not diverse, or there wasn't any political diversity among black people at all. It's an objective observation about aggregate patterns. Of course, radical critical theory activists pick up hints of racism even in otherwise neutral discusion about the facts. It's called 'microaggression theory', and is the perfect combination of Marcusean intolerance and Foucauldian paranoia.  

 

As anyone familiar with critical theory activist tactics would expect, they have gone all out on calling Joe Biden racist, based on a trail of sort-of politically incorrect comments like these, dating from 2006 to now. I even did a video on it last year, as part of my BreadBusting series. It is all based in the toxic notion of 'microaggressions', where factual observations or even sincere advice or praise can be construed as being racist, as long as it sounds like that to some people. Biden's 2008 comments in praise of Obama were thus used as evidence of him being racist, in an up-is-down, Orwellian Newspeak manner. In the microaggression world, for something to be labeled racist, no racist intention is needed, no actual bigotry is needed, and no objective harm needs to be demonstrated. It's all subjective. Make no mistake, the charge of 'microaggression' is one of the biggest threats to free speech we face today.  

 

Make no mistake. The Neo-Marxist critical theory left is really uncomfortable with Biden. I mean, he's the first culturally moderate Democrat to get the nomination in 16 years. More so than most recent candidates, Biden is a deeply religious family man who believes in the traditional institutions of liberal democracy, and anyone who knows him knows that he's never going to give into extremist demands like defunding the police. He probably considers these ideas beyond the pale, and with good reason. Biden's nomination is one of the most severe setbacks for cultural radicals who are keen on dismantling traditional culture. Indeed, I suspect many cultural radicals could be secretly more comfortable with Trump than with Biden. This is why they have already set out to smear Biden, even before he is elected.  

 

Biden is also an old-school politician, who is perhaps not the most articulate, but has a habit of rambling a little bit and speaking his mind on all sorts of matters. He's not used to a world where people need to self-censor their speech and calculate their every sentence, and he's probably too set in his ways to adapt to the new norms demanded by the microaggression police. But while he can't do politically correct performative wokeness, he is sincerely against racism, which is why he has such huge support among black people and other minorities. Obama certainly wouldn't have picked Biden as VP without a strong confidence in Biden's sincerity on the issue of racial equality. Biden's sincere support for racial equality, combined with his at-times politically incorrect ramblings, are the perfect proof that microaggression theory is simply wrong, that it hurts people with good intentions while making everyone paranoid about their speech, and is ultimately both useless and harmful.  

 

Biden's straighforwardness is actually an endearing quality for many people, he's like the old friend you could have a chat with at the local bar, he's someone you can trust. That's why he is so much more popular than Hillary, for example. The radical critical theory revolution would mean that there will be no more politicians like Biden anymore. In fact, everyone would be forced to become a calculating, virtue-signalling, performatively woke but deep down inside scared shell of a person. Is that the world we want? If your answer is no, then it's worth defending people like Joe Biden against the microaggression police. The future generations will be grateful that we did.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Why Joe Biden is the Great Moderate Hope for many in 2020 | Trad Lib News



Welcome back to Trad Lib News. Today, I want to talk about why Joe Biden's campaign this year could be the 'make or break' of moderate politics in our current time. As somebody who has, on numerous occasions, expressed a strong preference for Biden over Trump, I actually want to point out that I'm much more moderate than partisan. While I have never actually supported President Trump, I have tried to be open-minded about what he brings to the table, why people support him, and if there can be overlooked merits to his various policies. However, right now, what I'm looking for are leaders who can bring people together, to end the apparent polarization and division out there. This is the most important part for me, it doesn't matter too much whether they otherwise lean liberal or conservative. Ultimately, my biggest problem with Trump is that he thrives on polarization and is more interested in encouraging it than ending it, which would ultimately also feed the critical theory extremists on the far-left, who want the same thing but for opposite reasons.

In fact, this year's US presidential election is perhaps one of the most asymmetrical ever. Trump is perhaps one of the least moderation and unity-orientated presidents ever, he has chosen to portray almost everything as a binary choice between his way and the way of his opponents, and he often uses extreme examples like AOC and the squad to talk about the Democratic party. In other words, Trump thrives in the polarization, and he seems to be actively creating more of it as part of his re-election strategy. On the other hand, Biden actually said he was open to nominating a Republican VP, which upset the Democratic base quite a lot. Biden's career is filled with examples of bipartisan cooperation, and he has vowed to continue that if elected as president.

Moreover, Trump seems to be pursuing a base strategy to this election, focusing on feeding and exciting his base, while not caring too much about upsetting other people. Trump is attached to his base unlike any other president in living memory. Meanwhile, Biden is pursuing a broad tent strategy, even welcoming many Republicans into his tent, while blankly refusing to entertain the more extreme demands of the critical theory Left so that the big tent is sustainable. Biden is perhaps the most detached from the activist base of his party compared to any other presidential candidate in living memory. This contrast, by definition, means that one candidate, namely Biden, is much closer to the political center than the other one. Unlike in 2016, for many moderates, one candidate is clearly more attractive than the other one. In a world where the noisy minority of extremists from both sides take up way too much political oxygen, Biden reminds us how a reasonable moderate would do things: he listens to community concerns, he is for policing reforms, while clearly against defunding the police, and he definitely doesn't entertain the 'white fragility' nonsense produced by the critical theory world.

This election is shaping up to be not about left vs right like 2016, not about young vs old like 2008, but about feeding the base vs building a big tent. Choose the base path and you may get a generation of polarized politics, choose the big tent path and you're more likely to get a generation of dialogue, cooperation and peace. I sometimes even think that, for those of us who still have hope that politics won't generally descend into a shouting match between the likes of Tom Cotton vs the likes of AOC, Biden is perhaps the last great hope. I think this is why many of us are enthusiastic about Biden, even though he doesn't have a strong policy platform.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Why Trump is Actually Helping the Neo-Marxist Far-Left | Trad Lib News



Welcome back to Trad Lib News. Today, I'm going to follow up on the previous episode, where we talked about the neo-Marxist hijacking and derailing of the BLM protests. Since we last spoke, things have only gotten worst. Statues of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson have been targeted, despite these people having no relation to the people of the confederacy at all. The madness has also spread to other countries, with statues of war-time Prime Minister Winston Churchill being a favorite target of British radicals, for example.

With all this happening, President Trump, who is trailing badly in the polls, seems to think he has found something to latch on to potentially save his presidency. Speaking to supporters, he has told them that these actions have created an environment where 'nothing is sacred and nothing is safe', and that 'the left-wing mob is trying to demolish our heritage, so they can replace it with a new oppressive regime'. In uttering these words, I think he's basically 100% correct. To relitigate history, to forcibly change our collective view of historical events, and hence to manufacture consent to cause radical change in the present and the future, these are all hallmarks of far-left movements based on critical theory, otherwise known as neo-Marxism. All this has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual aims of the BLM protests, and everything to do with a desire to uproot and destroy everything most people hold dear. In fact, critical theory has never been about social justice as we understand it in the liberal tradition; it has always been effectively about dismantling the liberal tradition through finding fault with its imperfections.

So, have we, in President Trump, found someone who can take on the critical theory far-left? Not really! You see, Trump isn't helping our efforts here a single bit. What he's trying to do is to paint the whole left side of politics with the same brush, so that the voting public gets these critical theory activists and regular Democrats mixed up. His real target is the Democrats. He's even trying to tie Joe Biden to the critical theory crowd, notwithstanding the fact that most supporters of Biden and critical theory activists are so far apart politically that they probably can't have a fruitful political conversation together. Trump doesn't want this November to be between him and Biden; he wants it to be between him and the far-left. To this end, he has elevated the status of the far-left, so that it looks bigger than it actually is. Meanwhile, Biden and the Democrats don't even appear to be getting the game Trump is playing.

The problem with Trump's gamble is that he has portrayed the critical theory far-left as his main opponent in the political arena. This is exactly what the far-left wants, because it allows them to attract the many people out there who don't like Trump. In fact, Trump is arguably the biggest gift to the far-left ever, as seen in the exponential growth of the membership of far-left groups in the past four years. The far-left likes to portray itself as the real resistance, and the Democrats as useless against Trump. In the process, they have picked up disappointed Hillary and Bernie supporters from 2016, and they are now getting many disaffected Bernie supporters from this round too. If Trump truly cared about the deleterious effects of critical theory activism on society, he would be reconsidering his role in encouraging its growth. But it appears that Trump actually cares about his own re-election more than anything. Which is why he won't help us a single bit in the fight against neo-Marxism.

The other reason why Trump can't fight neo-Marxism effectively is because he isn't credible to do so in the first place. We're talking about a president who has separated families at the border, and who has taken a very unsympathetic stance towards the BLM protests. By any definition, Trump is not sympathetic to social justice issues at all, and this lack of sympathy has become a big part of his brand. Neo-Marxists primarily recruit from those who care about social justice, seeking to turn them away from liberalism and towards neo-Marxist critical theory. If anything, Trump's opposition to neo-Marxism would just make it look more attractive to this crowd. It's like how Jordan Peterson, who came armed with mostly correct information and arguments against what he called 'postmodern neo-Marxism', basically failed to make even a dent in their support. The far-left could simply point to the fact that Peterson rose to fame 'opposing trans rights' in Canada, or his dismissive attitude towards the existence of racial privilege, to permanently turn the social justice people against his message. Don't get me wrong, I actually like Peterson, but he had his flaws which limited the success of his message. The lesson is, if we want to stop neo-Marxist critical theory in its tracks, we have to show that we care about social justice too, and we have a better way to achieve it. President Trump is clearly not the right guy for this task.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Here We Go Again: The Co-Opting of BLM 2020 | Trad Lib News



Welcome back to Trad Lib News. Today, I'm going to talk about an uncomfortable topic: the radical Neo-Marxist takeover of progressive social movements. I need to talk about this now, because the Neo-Marxist attempt to co-opt the current wave of the Black Lives Matter movement is gaining steam, to the extent that they are actively trying to push liberals out. I am also worried that their actions are potentially turning the general public against the movement.

By Neo-Marxist, I mean activists in the contemporary West who are openly anti-capitalist to the extent that they want to end capitalism, and they aim to do so by combining Marxist theory, critical theory, and postmodernist and anarchist theories. The common thing among these theories is that they emphasize division and struggle over understanding and consensus. In recent days, many Neo-Marxists have decried liberals like Nancy Pelosi and Justin Trudeau for co-opting their movement, saying it belongs to the people in the streets, as if they think the people in the streets are all far-left too. However, the fact is, the current movement against police brutality has support across the political spectrum, with liberals, moderates, conservatives and socialists all represented, and this is what makes it strong. But no, the Neo-Marxists want the movement all to themselves. Even if it means making it ineffective as a result.

Meanwhile, the radical far-left have also inserted clearly irrelevant and potentially harmful distractions, like tearing down statues of Christopher Columbus, who clearly has no relationship with police brutality, the topic we are talking about here, let alone the wider topic of racism against black people in contemporary America and the West. As to why this is happening, my guess is that it's a way to introduce the Leninist obsession with colonialism being the 'highest stage of capitalism' into the conversation, thereby tying racism to capitalism, a common tactic used by Western communists since at least the 1960s. Another reason they may be doing this is to increase the level of conflict in society, which is a strategy inspired by the Leninist idea of heightening the contradictions in society, which in practice has often damaged progressive movements in the past. Of course, it makes sense to neo-Marxists, because you wouldn't need actual improvement of living conditions in the here and now when you have a utopia to look forward to in the future anyway.

One major problem with all this is that it is very good for President Trump, and other people who want to avoid the conversation about police brutality in general. They can just point to the involvement of those with a radical Neo-Marxist agenda, and paint the whole movement with a broad brush. In fact, I can see Trump moving in that direction already, and if the Neo-Marxists keep it up and the liberals don't at least try to stop them one way or another, Trump may just be able to, which could of course make reform more difficult in the short to medium term. In fact, the tactics of the radical far-left have often caused pain for people in need of justice in recent decades, including slowing down the acceptance of LGBT rights, as well as indirectly causing the gutting of the New Deal welfare state back in the 1970s and 80s. But then, from the neo-Marxist point of view, who needs these things when they have a life after the revolution to look forward to?

The fact is, liberals who care about social justice have every reason to fear Neo-Marxist activists being the biggest spoilers. Moreover, if liberals won't take a stance against the more extreme actions of Neo-Marxists, the Right is going to paint all of us as sympathizers, and not without ground either. Therefore, I believe it's time for liberals with a social justice conscience to start taking the threat from the far-left seriously.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Old-School Joe Biden shows Radicals like Trump how Things Should Be Done | Trad Lib News



Welcome back to Trad Lib News. In the past week, the world has erupted in frustration over a grave injustice. What began as one unjust death in Minnesota sparked protests that spread across the rest of America, and then across the rest of the Western world, in just a matter of days.

So what has President Trump done to address this? Bringing people together? Leading his country towards a process of healing? That would be what a normal president, of either party, would do, but that's just not like Trump. Instead, he finds the time to pick another political fight. He has rebranded himself the law and order president, pointing his finger at the involvement of certain far-left elements in the protests, and making that his central issue. As a Traditionalist Liberal, I'm indeed no friend of the far-left. I have often criticized them in the past, and I will continue doing so, in the hope that liberal values will triumph and the far-left won't win. But now is really not the time for this. Right now, people are frustrated, they are sad and angry over a very real injustice that has cost a very real human life. This is the issue that needs to be addressed, right now. I'm frankly very disappointed that Trump has responded this way. His insensitivity to human suffering is beyond even my original estimation.

In contrast, Joe Biden shows that he cares about what the people are feeling. Right now, what he can offer are just words, but even in those words you can see a sincere promise to address the injustice, bring people together, and heal the wounds, should he become President. No matter where you are in the political spectrum, I think one should be able to empathize with his words, as long as one has a decent heart.

Much has been said about Biden being old-fashioned, but I actually think this is a good thing. Being old-fashioned is certainly under appreciated these days. The fact is, Trump is not even a conservative in any meaningful sense of the word. He is, in every sense of the word, a radical. Throughout his life, Trump has shown a lack of regard for any tradition or convention, if it is in the way of what he wants to do. He has always lacked an appreciation of the things that nurture humanity, the bonds that make up the social fabric, and the values that support strong and healthy families. These things are the product of many centuries of human civilization, but Trump simply has no appreciation for any of that. On the other hand, Biden has shown throughout his career that he has always been a defender of these values. And in a time of crisis like this, his appreciation for traditional decency is highly valuable. I believe that, should Biden become president, his appreciation of the values of humanity, handed down through the generations, would serve well in healing the fractures that these past few very difficult years has brought to America, and the Western world more broadly.

Friday, May 22, 2020

How Joe Biden can Greatly Expand the Conversation Around Liberalism | Trad Lib News



Welcome back to Trad Lib News.
Since our inaugural episode, much has happened in the political world. Justin Amash has dropped out of the US presidential race, leaving Joe Biden as very likely the only candidate who is somewhere on the liberal spectrum. While I'll still be interested in hearing from the libertarian candidate, as always, this election is now likely to be framed as a contest between Biden's old school liberalism vs President Trump's populism.

Today, I want to expand on my point in the previous episode, about how liberalism should go back to its roots as going hand in glove with traditional institutions. A Biden campaign would be a good chance to have this conversation, because it is expected that Biden will be making a case for safeguarding the traditional institutions of American democracy during his campaign, and also because of Biden's lifelong support for everyday working families.

To illustrate the importance of this point, I will read an excerpt from the draft of my upcoming book, the 4th book from the Moral Libertarian Horizon series, title still to be determined:

"To understand our current plight, I guess we should take a look at how we got here. As Europe was emerging out of a feudalistic order and into the earliest stages of industrialized economy back in the 18th and 19th century, the political divisions that we often take for granted today began to emerge. The first stage saw the division of politics into a 'Left' and a 'Right' during the French Revolution, with the Left including those who wanted a more egalitarian order, and the Right including those who want to maintain as much of the old order as possible, and as such, were generally against egalitarianism. This was the birth of the paradigm that pit equality and tradition against each other, as a binary opposition. By circumstance of history, the 'historical Left', the faction that believed in equality and ultimately gave rise to liberals and socialists alike, was alienated from an appreciation of tradition at birth.

The fact is, as morally sound as liberal values and principles are, liberals have all too often been agnostic to the wider questions of culture, meaning, and heritage. Back in the 19th century, this was perhaps fine, as the traditional cultural context in which liberalism was born was still largely intact. But two centuries later, we live in a world few people probably envisioned back then: a world where nothing seems to have any permanent meaning, and nothing seems to be inherently worth cherishing, because it would be replaced by something else soon enough. It's a world where people throw away their posessions before they are broken, simply so that they can get the latest model instead. It's a world where even marriage, the most bedrock of institutions since time immemorial, has ceased to be permanent for at least two generations, with about 40% of marriages ending in divorce. That's 4 in 10! We've gotten so used to 'facts of life' like these that many don't even notice how dystopian they really are.

Critics on both the contemporary left and the contemporary right charge liberalism with being about technocratic managament of the economy and society, and they paint liberalism as all about transactional politics. But this is not inherently true of liberalism. Back when traditional culture was still intact, liberal values like free speech, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion alike were valuable because they were the means for peacefully debating over things which people cherished. In other words, free speech was valuable because the speech was used to debate things which people cherished, and would fight nail and tooth for. Similarly, our democratic processes, the very processes which both the hard left and the hard right deride as technocratic today, were valuable because they ensured a fair outcome in the determination of laws and policies that people cherished. Using a more Moral Libertarian perspective, people valued having their Equal share of Moral Agency because they wanted to use that Agency to protect or promote that which they cherished. As you see, the key word here is 'cherish'. In a world where there is nothing much left to cherish anymore, politics is reduced to either a game of power struggle (which is the way both the hard left and the hard right see it) or a reality TV style popularity contest (which is perhaps why the current US President is a reality TV star). There simply is no place for classical liberal values in either of these types of 'politics'.

Therefore, in their neglect about preserving a cultural environment where people have things to cherish, liberals have contributed to their own decline over the decades and centuries."


I wish that Joe Biden will focus on the matter of values in his campaign, and if he does that, it could be a real turning point in the liberal conversation, that may end up saving the fate of liberalism in the longer run. Of course, it will also be a good campaign strategy for him, because it will focus the campaign on something which has always been his strength as well as Trump's weakness, and will also bring him the diverse support he needs.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Justin Amash vs Joe Biden 2020? | What is Trad Lib News?



Welcome to my new news and commentary program, Trad Lib News. Here, we will be looking at news, politics and current affairs from the traditional liberal, or Trad Lib viewpoint. Basically, Trad Lib is broadly equivalent to what some people mean by 'classical liberalism', but I'll be using Trad Lib instead because the definition of classical liberal is contentious, and because I also want to stress the old-school liberal commitment to traditional institutions like families, and values like free speech.

2020 already looks like a good opportunity to bring back a traditionally liberal political conversation. We have at least two US presidential candidates running this year, who are associating their campaigns with some form of old-school liberalism: there's the Democratic presumptive nominee Joe Biden, who is hinting that he wants to run on an ambitious FDR-style platform. While some have disputed that FDR-style liberalism is actually classical liberalism, I strongly believe that FDR firmly belongs in the classical liberal tradition, something which becomes apparent once you examine the historical conditions of the early 20th century, historical conditions that indeed have a strong parallel with our current conditions, and how FDR's programs were basically an application of classical liberal values to those conditions. With Biden's FDR-styled pivot, there will be plenty of opportunity to revisit this side of the Trad Lib equation.

And then there's Libertarian primary candidate Justin Amash, who as I understand it quit the Republican party over what he saw as their move away from classical liberal values, and is now running to revive libertarianism, which is a branch of classical liberalism. Libertarians tend to see shrinking government as the best way to achieve individual liberty, which is a very different vision from that of FDR. However, they both spring from the same individual liberty-based tradition of John Locke, Adam Smith and others, and share some similar values at the core, a similarity that has become more and more apparent with the rise of illiberal alternatives like populists, perhaps represented by President Trump in this election, or radical socialists, perhaps represented by Green candidate Howie Hawkins in this election. Furthermore, since government is clearly a potential source of tyranny, I think even the most dedicated FDR devotee has to acknowledge that there is merit to the argument for limited government at least sometimes, if they are honest to their liberal values.

Biden and Amash appear to have very different views on the appropriate size of government to ensure liberty, and I'm sure this will be a focal point of the debate during the next six months. But looking at it from another angle, both Biden and Amash seem to be very supportive of traditional values and institutions. Vice President Biden in particular has defended policies that foster healthy and strong families and communities throughout his long career, and has been generally unafraid to disappoint culturally radical elements who don't share his family values. I'm hoping that a Biden 2020 campaign can put the Trad back into Trad Lib, and remind everyone of the real roots of liberalism, as an ideology that is committed to the family and the community, the institutions that safeguard liberty. I suspect Biden will highlight how his bigger government policies would help strugging working families, doing it tough in the current economy. It would be interesting to see what Amash would offer as a counterpoint.

For too long now, the real meaning of liberalism has been forgotten by many people. For too long, everyone from technocratic corporate bootlickers to anti-family, communist-inspired far-left elements have been lumped in with the liberals. It's time we stand up for the great tradition of liberalism as it was known before this corruption. Trad Lib News will fill a void in the market of commentary, and will stand for the great liberal tradition against illiberal forces left and right alike.