The hor­rors of lib­er­al­ism flow­ing through town

The Weekly Vista - - News - FarceBook DEVIN HOUS­TON Devin Hous­ton is the pres­i­dent/CEO of Hous­ton En­zymes. Send comments or ques­tions to devin.hous­ The opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the au­thor.

I came across a post on

from a lo­cal can­di­date in this year’s election. She ex­pressed her fear of lib­er­al­ism “flow­ing through our town.” The only thing I see flow­ing in our town when I look out my down­town win­dow is traf­fic and rain. More im­por­tantly, what does one have to fear from “lib­er­al­ism” or, more specif­i­cally, “lib­er­als?”

The word “lib­eral” was used pre-po­lit­i­cally to re­fer to gen­eros­ity, tol­er­ance or one of no­ble status. But in the late 18th cen­tury the word was used in terms such as “lib­eral plan,” “lib­eral sys­tem,” “lib­eral ideas,” etc. It was also used to de­note those who sup­ported lib­er­ties and rights for in­di­vid­u­als. In 1776 Adam Smith wrote a book ti­tled “The Wealth of Na­tions” in which he used the phrase “the lib­eral sys­tem of free ex­por­ta­tion and im­por­ta­tion” which he put forth as a way to pre­vent famines. Smith fa­vored free­dom of con­tracts in the la­bor mar­ket, which he wished would “rest on such lib­eral prin­ci­ples.” He also wrote of “al­low­ing ev­ery man to pur­sue his own in­ter­est in his own way, upon the lib­eral plan of equal­ity, lib­erty, and jus­tice.” Some 50 years later, lib­er­al­ism was as­so­ci­ated with free trade, free mar­kets, and lim­ited government. Gee, that sounds a lit­tle like what the GOP used to stand for.

I do agree that lib­er­al­ism to­day has broad­ened in scope, which most likely re­sulted in con­fu­sion. Some point to the fact that as Amer­ica’s in­flu­ence ex­panded in the world, so did the pro­jec­tion of Amer­i­cans as be­ing “elit­ist” in their quest for spread­ing democ­racy, jus­tice and equal rights. The ma­jor­ity of the hard lift­ing was be­ing done by the more ed­u­cated sec­tors of Amer­ica, and they also tended to con­grat­u­late them­selves on their achieve­ments. The de­trac­tors of such progress, or those who “don’t want things to change,” of­ten re­sented this at­ti­tude and so as­so­ci­ated lib­er­al­ism with ed­u­ca­tion and pro­gres­sive change.

Ed­mund Fawcett, a jour­nal­ist, iden­ti­fied four key el­e­ments of lib­er­al­ism. The first rec­og­nizes that so­ci­ety will al­ways have con­flict and such will pro­duce com­pe­ti­tion and civil dis­course. The sec­ond is that so­ci­ety is in flux, but the changes should work to­ward im­prove­ment. The third is a dis­trust in con­cen­trated power. No one group, po­lit­i­cal party, or seg­ment of so­ci­ety should have all the power. The fourth ele­ment is re­spect by power for the in­di­vid­ual’s per­sonal and prop­erty rights.

Lib­er­als to­day do not yearn for a Utopian so­ci­ety; their re­spect for in­di­vid­u­als for­bids it, even know­ing that con­flicts are in­evitable. Con­ser­va­tives lean to­ward sta­bil­ity and tra­di­tion but this can hin­der progress. Re­form­ers are more of­ten iden­ti­fied as lib­er­als, but lib­er­al­ism to­day needs to re­ject iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with elites in or­der to ac­com­plish re­form for ev­ery­one. Lib­eral thinkers need to value re­li­gious and eth­nic iden­ti­ties just as much as they wish for progress. Iron­i­cally, many lib­er­als be­came con­ser­va­tives in or­der to main­tain a sys­tem in which they lived bet­ter than most oth­ers.

What dis­tresses me most is the la­belling of oth­ers such that no shades of gray ex­ist. In fact, most lib­er­als and con­ser­va­tives ac­tu­ally have more in common than they re­al­ize. But be­cause we have be­come so tribal, so in­tent on win­ning at any cost, we triv­i­al­ize those com­mon­al­i­ties and mag­nify our dif­fer­ences. I want our bor­ders pro­tected. I don’t be­lieve peo­ple should freely cross the bor­der of an­other coun­try with­out go­ing through proper chan­nels. But I also don’t be­lieve we should con­sider those try­ing to es­cape tyranny or vi­o­lence as “rapists and crim­i­nals.” In­stead of us­ing mil­i­tary strength against help­less fam­i­lies, let’s get phil­an­thropic or­ga­ni­za­tions to meet the needs of those peo­ple at the bor­der it­self. Trump has said he wants to get tough on the coun­tries that cause their cit­i­zens to be­come refugees. Let’s see that put into real ac­tion. But let’s not rip fam­i­lies apart or send chil­dren to camps to wait months for re­uni­fi­ca­tion with fam­ily. Fix the sys­tem such that refugees don’t have to wait years for a de­ci­sion on their fate. Stream­line the path to cit­i­zen­ship.

Let’s re­form wel­fare. There are those who le­git­i­mately need help. Weed out the ones who abuse the sys­tem but not at the cost of re­mov­ing the truly needy. Sim­ple to state, but dif­fi­cult to put into ac­tion. But just be­cause an idea is per­ceived as dif­fi­cult does not mean we should not make the at­tempt. Same can be said about health­care, sup­port for spe­cial needs, and vet­eran’s health care.

But above all else, should not lib­er­als and con­ser­va­tives strive to dis­cuss ideas with­out in­flam­ma­tory language, in­sults, and emo­tional out­rage?

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