The other side of the storyLiberalismis an ideology and due to the changing views of persons, who have each viewedthemselves to be liberals, is tempted to say a new story again.
Most storiesfocus on the importance of individual, and closely interlinked with this isfreedom, which leads on to the concept of the individual freedom or liberty. Liberalismadvocates that the principle of justice and tolerance are fundamental in the wellbeingof society and each of these aspects relate directly back to the individual inquestion. John Stuart Mill says behind liberalism lies the belief that we are alldifferent and this diversity should be seen as a strength not weakness,emphasizing the importance of right and society’s role to protect these rights.How then is it possible that liberals, guided by right, reason and freedom ofspeech come up with a new narrative and all will agree to this new storywithout a bit of tension in agreement? If the majority agrees, how about therights of the minority? An attempt to stretch further in finding a newnarrative may easily lead into some narrative that may fall out of the scope ofliberalism. Liberalism is therefore, finished and can no longer tell a storyrelevant to our own times.
First, it was the new deal liberalism, then vitalcenter, then third way liberalism and what next? It is hard to fit a new narrative into theconcept of liberalism considering friction existing for example, in thetransition from concepts of classical liberalism to concepts of modern liberalismas we have seen over the periods.Thehistorical development of society led to a parallel evolution of liberalism, withthe character of liberalism changing as the rising middle classes succeeded inestablishing economic and political dominance. Liberalism was no longer radicalor revolutionary, but had become increasingly conservative and concerned itselfless with change and reform but, instead with the maintenance of the status quowhich in my opinion is something bound to happen. This leads to liberals in the19th century beginning to question the idea of early liberalism particularlyregarding to the extent to which government must interfere with the lives ofits citizens.
The role of the state becomes incoherent in the context ofclassical and modern liberalism, sparking huge disagreement among liberals. Accordingto John Stuart mill, “too much government is dangerous and also individuals aredenied the chance to learn in the process”. Besides, Isaiah Berlin succeeded inresponding to the role of the government action in the face of injustice,poverty and discrimination. His response, “not too much” indicates that Berlindoes not only recognize the friction between liberals who advocate greaterliberty and liberals who are willing tosacrifice some liberty but also sensesthe danger on the encroachment of personal freedom which is the hallmark ofliberalism itself. In order for a newnarrative to succeed in politics relevant to our times, it will have to contestwith the deep stories of liberals who want greater freedom as against those whoare willing to sacrifice some freedom. To achieve this will be a form of utopiathat is beyond reach.Focusingon liberal democracy whiles paying attention to the ideology of liberalism, Iam inspired to remark that liberal democracy as we see today is the strongestform of liberalism that exists in our time but not necessarily the strongestform of government in which a new story will stand.
Liberalism advocatesfreedom of free speech wiles democracy divides these speeches based on majorityand minority. The problem of course is not with the concept of liberalism. Themain issue is the fact that democracy tend to place less rationality ondecisions made at the end of the day. It is not about who makes the most senseanymore. It is about how many are in favor of decisions made irrespective of goodor bad. The decision making in ademocratic government is centered on inequality.
Thus, the bigger number wins.Then there is the problem of class inequality itself in the system where it isthe lower class against the upper class. In theory, decisions made are expectedto favor the majority which in most societies are expected to be those in thelower class. However, class issues still remain a bigger part of liberal democracytoday because most decisions are not relevant in solving the actual problemsexisting.
A new narrative may work in theory but will not be relevant to ourtimes because democracy will divide liberals into those who agree and those whodisagree this narrative which consequently shadows the relevance of thenarrative. On the other hand, it is tempting to allude that executive orderwill be a means of bypassing the issue of rationality in liberal democracy. Thatis to say if the majority or minority is not in agreement with a new narrativeand the president has the power to enforce such narrative in the name of thegreater good of the nation, there is the risk of too much government interferencewhich is in opposition with the premises of both liberalism and democracy. Anotherinteresting factor worth considering is that 21st century presentsvery little circumstances in which a new story will be relevant. For instance,the European revolutions of 1848 have fundamentally shaped the world, and theeffects brought on them are still being felt.
The revolution brought about twoworld wars, and many countries still quarrel over boundary disputes formedduring this time leading to a huge level of political and social turmoil in Europe.Major countries were affected, monarchies were overthrown and new countries suchas Germany and Italy had formed as a result of spread of nationalist politicsof the era. Most of the liberal ideas which were considered revolutionary atthe time have become common practices in countries at the era. In order for anew narrative to succeed, the timing must be appropriate and the need for the newstory must be of bigger concern. With the 1932 election of Franklin DelanoRoosevelt as president, the United States ushered in a new era of liberalism.
Roosevelt’sset of government initiatives, known as the New Deal, tried to slow down theeffects of the Great Depression and prevent the possibility of another such economiccatastrophe. In 1949, Arthur Schlesinger’s book, politics of freedom with the concept of the vital center defendsliberal democracy and state regulated market economy against the totalitarianismof communism and fascism few years after the Second World War. We can propose asimilar story about the Third way as it immerged after President Bush and waslargely adopted by Bill Clinton in order to deal with the Bomb marks and theseries of threat against the United States. Our current time also presentpressing issues but not as phenomenal and basic as it was in the mid-20thcentury.
Current problems like immigration, globalization and climate changeand race are secondary needs that do not affect people on larger scale whencompared to major basic problems of the 20th century given the rateof civilization we see today. Hence, a new narrative has very less room tosucceed in liberal democracy as our current time does not warrant much basis orreason on which it will be deemed relevant.