Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Liberals are the People of the Future

My understanding of liberals and conservatives goes like this: Liberals are optimistic about change. Whether it's religious freedom in Rhode Island hundreds of years ago or Civil Rights 50 years ago, it was liberals pushing for change they believed would improve the country. Conservatives on the hand are skeptical of change. Whether it's the fight over the National Bank in the 1800's or FDR's New Deal, it was conservative trying to stop the change they believe would harm country.

Liberals are looking forward to improve the world and conservatives are looking backward. That means, if life is changing then by default, liberals are the people of the future. What was reprehensible in the beginning of the 19th century was the norm by the end of the century (think the train, the lightning rod, and jazz).  What was reprehensible in the beginning of the 20th century was the norm by the end of the century (think the car, birth control, and rock and roll).

But that does not means liberals are always right. The future is not always better. Growing government, shrinking families, stagnant economies are just a few problems of modernity. However, this can help us predict what cultural shifts will become normal. For example, recently in Italy a woman convicted of murdering her sister had her prison sentence reduced based on her abnormal brain scan. Another example is the future option of choosing our children's genetic futures. These ideas make me very uncomfortable, but I'm not sure if they'll make my grandchildren uncomfortable.

My rule of thumb has been to ask myself if once the change is complete, is the world better off or worse off. Ignore the technological and political hurdles required. Ignore the cultural destruction it will cause. Ignore how it makes you feel and try to calculate how it could make you feel. Or, just see what your liberal friends think.


  1. The shame is in the means of effecting the change. Those changers who seek their ends by any means stain the reputations of those future-thinkers whose philosophy is more in harmony with libertarians. In this respect, they are also no better than the tyrants of the past. We travel the world to see monuments to tyrants stretching back to antiquity. What do we remember about the changes wrought by these tyrants? Some were good, some not.

    Perhaps the Conservative places more weight on history and the lessons thereof, whereas the Liberal seeks to go where history could not before.

  2. Interesting thoughts FS.

  3. Just ran across another that made me think deeply. From Ronald Bailey at Reason.com:

    "Modern progressives are motivated by an old instinct to restore the primitive egalitarianism that characterized human social relations when people lived in intimate hunter-gatherer bands, corresponding to the Marxian notion of primitive pre-state communism. For their part, modern conservatives intuitively dislike the socially disruptive character of markets and free speech and want to protect their group from outside competition and cultural corruption. These atavistic longings are part of the bio-psychological heritage of humanity and must be constantly resisted if the ambit of liberty is to thrive and expand. Liberalism (libertarianism) rises above and rejects the primitive moralities embodied in the universalist collectivism of progressives and the tribalist collectivism of conservatives. In doing so, it made the rule of law, freedom of speech, religious tolerance, and modern prosperity possible."


    Perhaps libertarians (AKA liberals, classically defined) are the real people of the future.

  4. This may be the best comment ever...


You are the reason why I do not write privately. I would love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or not.