What’s wrong with liberals?

I don’t like the soft-left, liberal, green agenda. Most of that’s pretty easy to explain and justify. But the “liberal” thing is tricky.

One problem is that “liberal” means a socialist when you’re in America and its means a nice, free-thinking person when you’re in the UK. So what’s not to like about the UK liberal?

Well, such a person is narrow-minded. Liberals don’t like ordinary people with their uneducated prejudices. But I quite like my prejudices and some of them are quite sound. I think my neighbours may share them. I think it’s possible theirs are even better than mine. I think a lot about a lot of things (and quite uselessly a lot of the time), but some of my gut instincts are useful too.

But what I mostly don’t like about the narrowness of the liberal mind is that it knows that it is right and is never more adamant about it than when it’s wrong. It knows that Tories and capitalists and the vulgar and most Americans are not likely to be right. It knows that technological advance (except in the media) is likely to be dangerous and that there are too many people (except liberals) and that the environment is being horribly damaged (by which they mean changed).

There’s another difficulty. The liberal mind is very hypocritical. It has a deep attachment to dissidence. It thinks that disliking The Establishment is a very good thing. That it is The Establishment doesn’t worry it. It thinks that wealth is obviously a bad thing, though it is itself pretty darned wealthy. It thinks the world’s poor matter very, very much, but it can’t stomach the idea that globalisation will bring wealth to the very poor. It hates the military but wants it to interfere very forcefully whenever there’s bad stuff going on abroad.

But, and you may think it’s a big “but”, I am quite a permissive type. Not libertarian (we’ll get to that another day). I don’t like bans. I don’t like kids swearing in public, and I’m not crazy about Ross being so smutty on prime time TV. But very, very bad taste appeals to me.

I’m not permissive in the sense that I believe that one can do good by doling out largesse to unhappy poor people without demanding that they heave on their end of the rope. Hell, they’ve suffered enough by being dependent and idle.

I also see that making welfare and prisons work (ie, reducing demand for them) may depend on spending more on each “client”. Hey-ho.

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Publication date

21 November 2008