How We Can Rescue Liberalism From The Negative Reputation

The reason Liberalism has been given such a bad reputation is because of the way we have framed our positions. The only reason that conservativism appears more moral, reasonable and sensible is the way they have framed their positions. I dont know if you have ever read George Lakoff's work on political psychology. But he is really good at explaining how we see things politically, and uses the metaphor of family types. Liberal Policies reflect a Nurturant Parent model, where the Conservative Policies reflect a strict father figure model. Naturally, the Liberals favor a system where both parents work together to care for their children. Children learn respect through being respected. In general, there is more mutuality, considering that mom and dad share equal authority, and the children and parents share mutual respect. With the strict father figure model, the father has absolute authority over the family, and the kids learn respect through strict rules and punishment. So there is little mutuality, and more hierarchal. If I had to assign a shape, I would draw the liberals as a circle and the conservatives as a pyramid. Naturally we all have both views that lean both left and right. For example, I think that political correctness is stupid. But I think that racial discrimination is wrong.

This brings me to the point to explain our political positions. First off, its not good to use conservative language. When liberal politicians talk, they need to speak about their values. We need to explain the Nurturant parent model from a government point of view. How would we best explain this? The governments job is to protect the freedoms and liberties of the people. In our American constitution, the importance is on the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Hapiness. So naturally the liberal morality would want to protect those ideals. So the true evils of society are to take any of those things away from people. This is for both government and the people. So naturally murder, violence, authoritarianism, rape, domination and harassment are by definition immoral. And we place the governments job to protect us from these forces. Naturally we see this in a light of mutual responsibility. Liberal collectivism is about responsibility to your fellow man. Business is responsible for serving the customer, authorities are responsible for the wellbeing of others. As a whole, we are responsible for the wellbeing of all. So we understand basically that we have to respect the rights of others.

The problem I see with the strict father model is that it doesnt work. In their view, secondary principles are given too much importance while taking away importance from the basic morals of care and equality. I dont see anything moral about policies based on obedience to authority, purity, and ingroup. Sure, authority is necessary to keep order, but thats it. Purity is fine if its against contamination, and there is nothing wrong with belonging. But the problem is that our morals become based on moralistic principles which have nothing to do with morality, which end up turn into oppressive statutes. There is nothing wrong with gay marriage, as no one elses rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of hapiness are violated. Yet outlawing this is taking away a homosexuals choice, and not allowing them to pursue hapiness. Naturally a nurturant parent would want their children to be happy, even if its not considered a conventional way of hapiness. Albeit they are not hurting others. Yet that is the problem with the strict father morality. They care more about making the kid into a certain image than their hapiness.

There are also two sides of right and left libertarianism. With right libertarianism, the government is uninvolved, and if they deviate from the norm, society is justified in punishing them. With left libertarianism, self empowerment is what is important, allowing people to be free from government intrusions, or other institutionalized forces.
ratburn ratburn
1 Response Sep 18, 2012

I mainly agree with your observations. When you set up some order of freedom - i.e. society as a whole declares its attaching to some principles of freedom- you must count on some basic moral values. From that point on, the question is where you put the source of these values: in the collective or in the individual. Is this moral foundation something which is given once for ever or is it some moral code of civilization to which an individual and society as a whole strive? It is a choice between static and dynamic perspective.

Having this in mind this father or patriarchal model, perpetuate ideas of tribal society however contemporary it may seem. The whole civilization is an continuing and never ending process in which an individual build their freedom respecting the freedom of others. Building our own freedom we improve ourselves as human beings; respecting the freedom of others, we improve society and human rights as a whole. It is not easy process but resorting to authority of father, or tribe or collective is not way to improve the overall morality.

You said:

"But the problem is that our morals become based on moralistic principles which have nothing to do with morality, which end up turn into oppressive statutes. There is nothing wrong with gay marriage, as no one elses rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of hapiness are violated"

Yes, and you know what? Moralistic preachers worsen all that staff of morality. Sex is neither wrong nor good. It has potential to be good, whatever sexuality we're talking about. But when you put restraints to sexuality you put in all this a huge amount of hypocrisy; because you found way to consider your freedom more important than freedom and needs of other humans; instead of treating them as equal. You prescribed your freedom to others. Sexuality is just one example. It is not the way how civilization works. Morality includes respecting freedom of others.*

*English is not my native tong.