Liberalism is often equated with NEO-liberalism, which is in large parts due to its history, the so called “paleoliberalism” or “paleolibertarianism”. Its tenets are listed here.
- The leviathan State as the institutional source of evil throughout history.
- The unhampered free market as a moral and practical imperative.
- Private property as an economic and moral necessity for a free society.
- The garrison State as a preeminent threat to liberty and social well
- The welfare State as organized theft that victimizes producers and eventually even its „clients.“
- Civil liberties based on property rights as essential to a just society.
- The egalitarian ethic as morally reprehensible and destructive of private property and social authority.
- Social authority-as embodied in the family, church, community, and other intermediating institutions-as helping protect the individual from the State and as necessary for a free and virtuous society.
- Western culture as eminently worthy of preservation and defense.
- Objective standards of morality, especially as found in the Judeo-Christian tradition, as essential to the free and civilized social order.“ (Rockwell, 1990: 35).
In brief, for paleolibertarians the state is the bogeyman and the epitome of all evil within society.
It is important to note that “paleolibertarianism” is a term coined in opposition to this line of thought. This means that it is a name that people who hold such believes would never use for themselves.
In discussing modern ideas for the benefit of a country’s society as a whole, I think it is important to ground such a debate not in mutual designation of wrongdoing and ill intent. Political debates between the left and the right or the progressives and conservatives in most cases result in mutual accusation of having bad intentions – at least for me or my group. This basic assumption is to a large extent the main reason why so many political debates do not seem to be going anywhere – they are ideological warfare not searches for optimal solutions.
I think it is fair to point out that social welfare states in Europe but also in other regions around the world have not only lead to higher standards of living for many people but also to societal stability, which in turn is one of the greatest conditions for sustainable economic growth.
On the other hand many welfare states, such as Austria, spend the money they receive from taxpayers extremely inefficiently – to the point where it is not even funny anymore. Also there is some truth to the claims that in welfare states government owned companies are treated very nicely and get some very nice employees with inscrutable political track records to be sure.
So there is maladministration and there is a genuine need for social and compassionate action for the disadvantaged – but there is no single way to go about it. Liberalism, given equality of opportunity certainly is one way – incidentally the one that I like best – but there are many more.
What is clear is that just like we have to let go off communism, which we have in 1990, we also have to let go of neoliberalism and paleolibertarianism. The state is not the source of all evil, but the state cannot do all, or even all, that a modern society needs.
There is a solid middle ground, which is the one we should try to reach – ideally leaving ideologies at home. And which both sides of the political spectrum should try to reach together.
As a final inspiration: a TED-talk on this idea of bridging political divides and looking towards solutions> find here