Return to “Liberals”
In the 1930’s, the “liberals” had a program of broad social reforms and a crusading spirit, they advocated a planned society, they talked in terms of abstract principles, they propounded theories of a predominantly socialistic nature—and most of them were touchy about the accusation that they were enlarging the government’s power; most of them were assuring their opponents that government power was only a temporary means to an end—a “noble end,” the liberation of the individual from his bondage to material needs.
Today, nobody talks of a planned society in the “liberal” camp; long-range programs, theories, principles, abstractions, and “noble ends” are not fashionable any longer. Modern “liberals” deride any political concern with such large-scale matters as an entire society or an economy as a whole; they concern themselves with single, concrete-bound, range-of-the-moment projects and demands, without regard to cost, context, or consequences. “Pragmatic”—not “idealistic”—is their favorite adjective when they are called upon to justify their “stance,” as they call it, not “stand.” They are militantly opposed to political philosophy; they denounce political concepts as “tags,” “labels,” “myths,” “illusions”—and resist any attempt to “label”—i.e., to identify—their own views. They are belligerently anti-theoretical and—with a faded mantle of intellectuality still clinging to their shoulders—they are anti-intellectual. The only remnant of their former “idealism” is a tired, cynical, ritualistic quoting of shopworn “humanitarian” slogans, when the occasion demands it.
Cynicism, uncertainty, and fear are the insignia of the culture which they are still dominating by default. And the only thing that has not rusted in their ideological equipment, but has grown savagely brighter and clearer through the years, is their lust for power—for an autocratic, statist, totalitarian government power. It is not a crusading brightness, it is not the lust of a fanatic with a mission—it is more like the glassy-eyed brightness of a somnambulist whose stuporous despair has long since swallowed the memory of his purpose, but who still clings to his mystic weapon in the stubborn belief that “there ought to be a law,” that everything will be all right if only somebody will pass a law, that every problem can be solved by the magic power of brute force.