The Character of Modern Liberalism in One Paragraph

The character of the modern Left, and the core of the censorious campus leftism at the moment, has seldom been better described than by this 1978 passage from Harry Jaffa in How To Think About the American Revolution. Most importantly he understands that the distinction between liberalism and radicalism had dissolved, which explains Bernie Sanders, among other things. I’ve added a few comments of my own along the way in brackets:

Liberalism and Radicalism both reject the wisdom of the past, as enshrined in the institutions of the past, or in the morality of the past. They deny the legitimacy to laws, governments, or ways of life which accept the ancient evils of mankind, such as poverty, inequality, and war, as necessary—and therefore as permanent—attributes of the human condition. Political excellence can no longer be measured by the degree to which it ameliorates such evils. The only acceptable goal is their abolition. Liberalism and Radicalism look forward to a state of things in which the means of life, and of the good life, are available to all. They must be available in such a way that the full development of each individual—which is how the good life is defined—is not merely compatible with, but necessary to, the full development of all. [You can begin to see here the outline of “free college for everyone!”] Competition between individuals, classes, races, and nations must come to an end. Competition itself is seen as the root of the evils mankind must escape. The good society must be characterized only by cooperation and harmony. The Old Liberalism saw life as a race, in which justice demanded for everyone only a fair or equal chance in the competition. But the New Liberalism sees the race itself as wrong. In every race there can be but one winner, and there must be many losers. Thus the Old Liberalism preserved the inequality of the Few over and against the Many. It demanded the removal of artificial or merely conventional inequalities. But it recognized and demanded the fullest scope for natural inequalities. But the New Liberalism denies natural no less than conventional inequalities. In the Heaven of the New Liberalism, as in that of the Old Theology, all will be rewarded equally. The achievement of the good society is itself the only victory. But this victory is not to be one of man over man, but of mankind over the scourges of mankind. No one in it will taste the bitterness of defeat. No one need say, “I am a loser, but I have no right to complain. I had a fair chance.” The joys of victory will belong to all. [Hence: trophies for everybody!] Unlike the treasures of the past, the goods of the future will be possessed by all. They will not be diminished or divided by being common. On the contrary, they will for that reason increase and intensify. No one will be a miser—or a Conservative.

UPDATE: Thanks to Rush Limbaugh for the on air shoutout on the Feb 17 broadcast. And welcome Rush readers!

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