Thursday, June 21, 2012

Herbert Spencer: How Liberalism Lost its Way

"How is it that Liberalism, getting more and more into power, has grown more and more coercive in its legislation? … How are we to explain this spreading confusion of thought which has led it, in pursuit of what appears to be public good, to invert the method by which in earlier days it achieved public good? … [W]e may understand the kind of confusion in which Liberalism has lost itself: and the origin of those mistaken classings of political measures which have misled it — classings, as we shall see, by conspicuous external traits instead of by internal natures. For what, in the popular apprehension and in the apprehension of those who effected them, were the changes made by Liberals in the past? They were abolitions of grievances suffered by the people…. [T]his was the common trait they had which most impressed itself on men's minds…. [T]he welfare of the many came to be conceived alike by Liberal statesmen and Liberal voters as the aim of Liberalism. Hence the confusion. The gaining of a popular good, being the external conspicuous trait common to Liberal measures in earlier days (then in each case gained by a relaxation of restraints), it has happened that popular good has come to be sought by Liberals, not as an end to be indirectly gained by relaxations of restraints, but as the end to be directly gained. And seeking to gain it directly, they have used methods intrinsically opposed to those originally used"

~Herbert Spencer

"In short, Spencer's analysis is that liberals came to conceptualize liberalism in terms of its easily identifiable effects (benefits for the masses) rather than in terms of its essential nature (laissez-faire), and so began to think that any measure aimed at the end of benefits for the masses must count as liberal, whether pursued by the traditional liberal means of laissez-faire or by its opposite, the traditional Tory means of governmental compulsion. In short, liberalism became the pursuit of liberal ends by Tory means." ~ Roderick T. Long

No comments:

Post a Comment