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Left Has Hard Time in Era of Terrorism
New York Times ^ | 12/21/02 | Edward Rothstein

Posted on 12/21/2002 10:02:11 AM PST by bdeaner

. . . one strain of American liberalism has gone awry when its celebration of equality and its distrust of power are taken to extremes. Liberalism also presumes a society in which equality and liberty have been established and disruption controlled through the use of reason. So when force becomes necessary, it is a source of discomfort, because it implies the failure of reason and the curtailment of liberty.

Read rest of article here

(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: conservatism; eraofterrorism; liberalism
I thought this was an interesting article highlighting the failure of liberalism in the age of terrorism. I'm interested to hear how others respond to it.
1 posted on 12/21/2002 10:02:12 AM PST by bdeaner
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To: bdeaner
Can't you post the entire article here? I'd have to register with the NYT in order to read it, and I'm simply not going to do that.
2 posted on 12/21/2002 10:06:08 AM PST by hellinahandcart
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To: hellinahandcart
Can I post the entire article here?
3 posted on 12/21/2002 10:12:50 AM PST by bdeaner
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To: hellinahandcart
put in as userid: billclinton
password:isaliar

Works w/o registration.
4 posted on 12/21/2002 10:14:27 AM PST by reformedliberal
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To: reformedliberal
Sorry. They seem to have pulled that authorization.
5 posted on 12/21/2002 10:16:25 AM PST by reformedliberal
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To: hellinahandcart
Here you go.




December 21, 2002
Left Has Hard Time in Era of Terrorism
By EDWARD ROTHSTEIN


n a 1976 symposium published in Commentary called "What is a Liberal — Who Is a Conservative?" the novelist Tom Wolfe offered an unorthodox explanation of those vexed political terms. He declared that they were more the result of instinct than reason and more a reflection of schoolyard wrangling than adult sophistication. Forget political philosophy. Political conflicts grow out of rivalries like those between jocks and freaks that once split the nation's high schools. "My Childhood Enemy!" Mr. Wolfe cries out in epic extravagance, "O My Faithful Schoolyard Phantoms!"

But as Mr. Wolfe also knows, schoolyard enmities are hardly matters of innocent play. Caricature and mockery abound, but consequences are serious. Trent Lott's recent declarations, for example, did indeed have an adolescent aura, mixing exaggeration with elastic principles. His first comment portrayed a liberal caricature of the conservative: a racist wanting to turn back the clock. Then, in his apologies, he became a conservative's caricature of a liberal, guiltily and naïvely donning the mantle of virtue. But more was always at stake than posturing and declarations of allegiance.

In fact, conservative and liberal categories really do offer opposing views of the world, providing different explanations for events in history, different descriptions of human nature and different philosophies of political justice. These ideas have always changed with historical circumstances, but after 9/11, some of liberalism's perspectives have come under increasing scrutiny.

In an article called "The Case for Liberalism" in the December issue of Harper's, for example, George S. McGovern tries to revive liberalism as a loyal opposition in the face of possible war. He says its definition as a political philosophy is "based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of man and the autonomy of the individual, and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties." In contrast, conservatism's function, Mr. McGovern argues, is "to cling tightly to the past"; it cannot be relied upon for "constructive new ideas" that might lead to a "more just and equitable society or a more peaceful and cooperative world." Conservatism's main contribution, he suggests, is just to keep a critical watch on liberalism, whose virtues should be transparent.

Mr. McGovern's version of conservatism is hardly recognizable as the conservatism of recent decades; his version of liberalism is also formulaic. But if liberalism is considered in its broadest sense, Mr. McGovern's sweeping assertions about its obviousness might be true. Much of political modernity, with its ideas of democratic rule, individualism and human rights, actually represents a triumph of classical liberalism. In fact, attitudes like Mr. Lott's aside, much contemporary conservatism honors similar ideas, making it less an opponent of liberalism than an alternative interpretation of the liberal world.

This is one reason that events since 9/11 have been so traumatic. While ethical and political acclaim for this larger sense of liberalism in the West is uncontested, it is barely present in Arab governments, virulently opposed by Islamic radicalism and rejected by many in the growing Muslim fundamentalist populations in European urban centers. Meanwhile the United States has been engaged in a new form of war, one goal of which is to transform preliberal societies into modern democracies while protecting against incursions at home. This requires an uncompromising scrutiny of liberalism's doctrines, ambitions and limitations.

Yet Mr. McGovern avoids the issue. He refers to terrorism as "one of the more vexing problems facing us" but argues that it does not justify an "obsession with external threats and internal security." Other liberals have been more attentive. Last spring in Dissent magazine, for example, Michael Walzer argued in an essay called "Can There Be a Decent Left?" that the overemphasis on civil liberties misses the real nature of the threat. Mr. Walzer more broadly accused the American left of having been "stupid, overwrought, grossly inaccurate" in its condemnations of the United States. Its rationalist and materialist analyses, he continued, have also led to an inability "to recognize or acknowledge the power of religion in the modern world." The left has thus become alienated from its own country, he said, and unrealistic in its expectations. Comparable arguments have been made by Todd Gitlin in Mother Jones and by Michael Kazin in the current Dissent.

Each of these writers says one strain of American liberalism has gone awry when its celebration of equality and its distrust of power are taken to extremes. Liberalism also presumes a society in which equality and liberty have been established and disruption controlled through the use of reason. So when force becomes necessary, it is a source of discomfort, because it implies the failure of reason and the curtailment of liberty.

Recent events increased discomfort because in many ways, liberalism's international future is at stake. In the West liberal democracy became possible only after centuries of economic growth and philosophical debate. In his classic 1927 book, "The History of European Liberalism," the Italian scholar Guido de Ruggiero showed how principles of liberal government developed in England, France, Germany and Italy over three centuries. How, then, can preliberal or fundamentalist societies be quickly transformed into liberal democracies? And if they are not, how are their militant threats to liberalism to be addressed?

There are no simple answers to these questions, but they address issues at the heart of the liberal idea. Consider, for example, the philosopher John Rawls, who died last month. He struggled to define a philosophy that could take the messiness of the world into account while preserving an ideal of reasoned and just liberalism. In a 1993 essay, "The Law of Peoples," he tried to envision a reasonable international counterpart to his ideal of a just society made famous in his 1971 book, "A Theory of Justice."

But Rawls began that essay stipulating that he would consider only peaceful, nonexpansionist, legitimate governments who honored human rights.

The same limitation applies to Rawls's vision of "justice as fairness." He imagined that if a group of people were designing a just society without knowing what their place in that society would be, behind that "veil of ignorance" they would make sure that the society would be most fair to its least privileged members because that is who they might end up being. Inequalities in intelligence, character and wealth would still exist, but in Rawls's view "men agree to avail themselves of the accidents of nature and social circumstance only when doing so is for the common benefit."

But this noble ideal assumes that human decisions have a fundamentally rational foundation, that material goods are the main measure of privilege, that an interest in egalitarianism is paramount, and these hypotheses are surely not universally accepted.

Rawls's notion of fairness also assumes an almost static world that can be managed without worrying about the irrational and the unexpected. But it is in response to challenge and disruption that the system would be tested. In the face of internal challenge and external attack, Rawls's system might even display the kind of intolerance outlined by Mr. Walzer.

None of this means, of course, that the broad liberal ideas of the West are to be discarded; just the opposite. But the challenges being mounted also mean that the particular incarnations of liberalism will change under pressure; conservatism will also have a role, leading to other kinds of intellectual confrontations. Edmund Burke once wrote, "Politics ought to be adjusted, not to human reasonings, but to human nature, of which reason is but a part, and by no means the greatest part." That is something that really is learned in the schoolyard.



Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company | Permissions | Privacy Policy
6 posted on 12/21/2002 10:17:24 AM PST by sinclair
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To: bdeaner
Last I looked, the NYT was not a subsidiary of the LA TImes or Washington Post (the only sources we're legally enjoined from posting in full here). So yeah, screw the NYT, go ahead and post the thing. :D
7 posted on 12/21/2002 10:19:00 AM PST by hellinahandcart
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To: hellinahandcart
Use the following logon credentials at the NY Times web site and you don't need to register, plus you get a great deal of satisfaction using them (heh heh)

Member ID: Hildebeast

Password: isaliar

8 posted on 12/21/2002 10:20:16 AM PST by Unmarked Package
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To: sinclair
Oh, thank you.

What happened to your dinosaur?
9 posted on 12/21/2002 10:21:11 AM PST by hellinahandcart
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To: hellinahandcart
LOL. Okay, to hell with 'em. Thanks for posting the article.
10 posted on 12/21/2002 10:21:15 AM PST by bdeaner
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To: bdeaner
The age of liberalism died at 0847 on 9/11. The continued dem/left/lib attacks on the right are being noticed by people who didnt pay attention to politics before. So Im encouraging all of the lib/dem attacks.
11 posted on 12/21/2002 10:28:25 AM PST by cardinal4
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To: bdeaner
In an article called "The Case for Liberalism" in the December issue of Harper's, for example, George S. McGovern tries to revive liberalism as a loyal opposition in the face of possible war. He says its definition as a political philosophy is "based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of man and the autonomy of the individual, and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties." In contrast, conservatism's function, Mr. McGovern argues, is "to cling tightly to the past"; it cannot be relied upon for "constructive new ideas" that might lead to a "more just and equitable society or a more peaceful and cooperative world."

Haha. Is George too old to run for office? It's hard to tell these days...

Someone should tell him that the left hasn't had a new idea in nearly thirty years, let alone a constructive one.

And this bullcrap about the essential goodness of man falls apart when confronted by real live evil. That's why a lot of former liberals have stopped listening to people like McGovern.

12 posted on 12/21/2002 10:34:20 AM PST by hellinahandcart
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To: hellinahandcart
Can't you post the entire article here? I'd have to register with the NYT in order to read it, and I'm simply not going to do that.

Try using "normal" for name and password. The word "generic" may also work. Please tell me if it works.

13 posted on 12/21/2002 10:39:28 AM PST by dennisw
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To: hellinahandcart
And this bullcrap about the essential goodness of man falls apart when confronted by real live evil. That's why a lot of former liberals have stopped listening to people like McGovern.

Yes, 9/11 was a wake-up call to liberals like McGovern to update their polical philosophy or face extinction.
14 posted on 12/21/2002 10:39:57 AM PST by bdeaner
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To: hellinahandcart
Here it is.


15 posted on 12/21/2002 10:42:55 AM PST by sinclair
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To: sinclair
I love that little guy. :D
16 posted on 12/21/2002 10:44:30 AM PST by hellinahandcart
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To: hellinahandcart
They may have stopped listening to George, but they sure believe they are better people by being a liberal than you or I.They cling hard to the belief that liberlaism has imbued them with a moral superiority that only by being liberal can one understand.It is the only religious faith they will practice ;-)
17 posted on 12/21/2002 10:49:51 AM PST by habs4ever
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To: reformedliberal
LOL - this also works:

username: liberalmedia
password: sucks
18 posted on 12/21/2002 10:51:21 AM PST by watchin
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To: habs4ever
Their elitism is nauseating.
19 posted on 12/21/2002 10:55:53 AM PST by bdeaner
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To: bdeaner
Here's where liberlsisim falls apart:

"...political philosophy is "based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of man and the autonomy of the individual, and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties."

As long as there is no guarantee of the "essential goodness of man" I will continue to support my conservative values and in turn support my police depts domestic and international.
20 posted on 12/21/2002 11:12:10 AM PST by Kay Soze
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To: sinclair
He imagined that if a group of people were designing a just society without knowing what their place in that society would be, behind that "veil of ignorance" they would make sure that the society would be most fair to its least privileged members because that is who they might end up being.
Liberals do envision their selves entrusted as the designers of our society.

They quickly realize that their skills will not be in great demand from the rest of us though. There are very few want-ads for "society builders".

So they do their best to engineer a society that obliges the largest number of people to their whims. Liberals become the distributors of cardboard boxes for the homeless, unemployment for the unemployed, and tax-breaks for the non tax payers.

Enslaving us while adding to the ranks of the worlds "least privileged members" year after year.

21 posted on 12/21/2002 12:04:06 PM PST by avg_freeper
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To: avg_freeper
if a group of people were designing a just society without knowing what their place in that society would be, behind that "veil of ignorance" they would make sure that the society would be most fair to its least privileged members because that is who they might end up being.
. . . or else they would redefine "priviledge" as rights with corresponding responsibilities.

If my "priviledge" is only my bank account, I have the responsibility to earn, save, invest. That is fairness to the least priveledged, in that it allows them the fruit of their own diligence.

That's why conservatism is compasion . . .


22 posted on 12/21/2002 1:19:14 PM PST by conservatism_IS_compassion
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To: bdeaner
Somebody once said "The facts of life are conservative". And that is the most direct attack upon Liberals you can make. Do these hypocrites lock their homes and cars when they leave? Why? Don't they trust people? Do they walk down the street passing out THEIR bucks to screaming, urine-encrusted homeless drunks? No way. Just look at the so-called "Progressives" in San Francisco absorbing the inevitable results of their own pig ignorance. They're not so bloody "progressive" when it comes to their own personal worlds.

Today's liberalism or "progressivism" - or whatever silly-assed new word they use to avoid the stigma attached to the failure of the same Dimwit philosophy - cannot survive without a pathologically delusional hypocrisy.
23 posted on 12/21/2002 1:59:10 PM PST by guitfiddlist
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