Monday, November 12, 2012

Liberalism and Values, in relation to the previous post

In which I said that the triangle of my values, mutually supporting, was Liberalism, Values themselves, and Socialism.

Well, what I mean by the importance of values is pretty straightforward. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that when I criticize liberalism, I'm not doing so in the sense of people who spit it out as an insult, who see it as an epithet that's responsible for all the ills of the world.

Liberal values, the things that liberalism stands for, are good enough, but what I believe is that although they're necessary, they're not sufficient. Simply looking at society as being made up of autonomous beings who chart their own destiny, and having society reflect that, is functional. It doesn't lead to the destruction of society, it doesn't lead to terrible and shocking things happening in the street. But, on the other hand, simply looking at things from a liberal perspective does not, in my opinion, lead to anything particularly spectacular.

While a society where the only concerns are freedom and autonomy is functional, I believe that in order to get to a society that rises above mediocrity and functionality there needs to be a recognition and implementation of deeper values that go farther into the human experience. Those are the values that I'm talking about. Many of these values were previously supplied to society in the form of maxims and ideas that were intended to build character. Those are largely lost in today's society.

Instead of teaching people how to be good people, good citizens, decent individuals, we emphasize people's freedom to do whatever they want---as long as it doesn't impact others in a way that breaks the law. Between that status, freedom and autonomy as long as it doesn't seriously hurt other people, and having what I'd consider to be a culture truly built on respect and good conduct, there's quite a chasm, and it's one that liberalism alone can't bridge, because it doesn't recognize that it exists....or if it recognizes that it exists it doesn't know what to do about it.

Mutual respect is essential, but I feel it should be a social minimum, not the state that we're aiming for. Things can be quite bad without being bad enough to fail the test of perfect freedom as long it doesn't negatively effect someone else in a serious way. To really live in a decent society, things that are identified, or have been identified, with good moral character need to be acknowledged as positive values that improve life.


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