The decline of liberalism?

by Robert Maynard

Modern liberalism is based on the notion that you can socially engineer solutions to most social problems if you just give the reigns of political power to the right people.  Given this foundational premise, it is profoundly at odds with our founders’ insistence that government must remain limited in its scope if liberty is to prevail and the people are to flourish.  This modern version of liberalism has been the ruling ideology since the turn of the 20th Century.  One would have to go all the way back to the Presidency of Calvin Coolidge for the last time government spending was actually cut.  Even in the conservative glory days of Ronald Reagan, the growth of government was merely slowed, not reversed.  Never the less, after roughly a century of ideological dominance, some writers are pointing to the decline of modern liberalism as an ideology.  Here is an excerpt from a Pajamas Media article entitled Liberalism, the Decline of an Illusion:”

I have no idea if Republicans will end their circular firing squad and unite sufficiently to right our country, but one thing seems abundantly clear from the events of the last weeks, including Tuesday’s election in which Terry McAuliffe barely eked out a victory over the unexciting Ken Cuccinelli. Liberalism in our country is in a more precarious position than ever. It may not even really exist.

Liberalism as practiced in today’s America is a chimera, not actually an ideology but an alliance of interest groups controlled by elites for the preservation of their (the elites’) wealth and power. The interest groups often seem to be working against their own advantage by being so affiliated (e. g. African-Americans are in the worst shape in years under Obama), but not the elites who have been able to thrive. These elites are also able to appear altruistic to themselves and others while behaving in manners that are hideously selfish and atrocious to the common good. Liberalism is not so much an ideology in our society as it is a shield, a defense mechanism for a lifestyle.

It would appear that these “elites”, who have been put into power to socially engineer solutions to our nation’s social problems, have only succeeded in enriching themselves and consolidating power.  Maintaing that power and privilege has now become the driving force of modern liberalism:

Some accuse liberals of being “statists,” but they are actually more confused than that. They don’t know what they think. But it doesn’t matter because they know what they want — power, control, and the wealth that comes along with it. (Does Al Gore believe in cataclysmic global warming anymore in the face of all the contrary evidence? Who knows? But he has to say he does.)

What Republicans are now confronting is an empty machine. Few outside the academy believe in Keynesian economics anymore and the foreign policy of the Obama administration is inscrutable because it is non-existent. The current attempts to negotiate with Iran and to resolve the perpetual Israeli-Palestinian conflict are more of the same sort of illusion, doing something to appear to be doing something. As we used to say of the 1980′s Lakers, “It’s Showtime.” Only the Lakers scored baskets.

Despite it ideological bankruptcy, modern liberalism remains a powerful force because its advocates hold the reigns of power.  At the same time, that ideological bankruptcy may be on the verge of threatening that power as the curtain is slowly being pulled back on the illusion of modern liberalism:

But this dumb show quality of liberalism does not mean they will not succeed. The very fact that they have no content may be an asset in these post-modern times. So what if there’s no there there. If you control the levers of power, you disperse the money (to your corporate favorites) and have the glitzy White House parties.

But the public is beginning to wake up to the emptiness (and to their pocket books). They are angry. It is up to the right now not to bobble the ball, not to get lost in internecine rivalries. If this is a libertarian moment, as some are saying, seize it, but seize it in a direct and clear manner. Know what you stand for. One of the reasons Obamaa could never be transparent is he doesn’t. He only stands for power — and he’s transparent enough about that.

More people than ever in my lifetime now want less government (well, maybe except for some people in New York City who just elected that Sandinista-loving bozo de Blasio — they’ll learn when their property values start to tank). It’s up to us now to make it happen. All we have to do is overcome the illusion of liberalism. Since it isn’t there, it shouldn’t be all that difficult.

Will the forces of liberty be able to seize the moment and plot a course toward individual liberty and away from the tyranny of the nanny state?  That question is yet to be decided.