Flat White

Liberal or progressive? You can’t be both

20 September 2017

1:01 PM

20 September 2017

1:01 PM

In the aftermath of the British election Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron was forced to resign because of his Christian faith. The contradiction between his beliefs and his party’s platform on same-sex marriage was highlighted in the media and his position became untenable. In spite of his support for civil unions, the fact that he privately did not support same-sex marriage made him a pariah in his party. In other words, for progressives, tolerance is not enough, only screaming acceptance will do.

Farron wrote, “To be a political leader – especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 – and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me. I’m a liberal to my fingertips, and that liberalism means that I am passionate about defending the rights and liberties of people who believe different things to me.” Farron’s mistake was to think that one can both a liberal and a progressive.

While at times these two movements can be allies, they are fundamentally different. Progressives believe in a grab bag of policies and solutions deemed to be progressive. This can include sugar taxes, subsidies for vanity infrastructure policies such as high-speed rail or any other number of things. The progressive will gladly strip the individual of liberty in the name of progress. The Liberal, on the other hand, believes in liberty. The YouTuber Sargon of Akkad has produced a video detailing the differences between the two political philosophy.

Tim Farron probably should have worked out that he was leading a political party that was neither liberal or democratic based on the fact that party passionately advocated a second Brexit referendum in a brazen attempt to ignore the democratic will of the British people. Or its advocacy of a sugar tax, minimum pricing on alcohol and increased tobacco taxes.

The great dividing point between progressives and liberals is the progressive attitude toward mandatory acceptance. The liberal tradition champions tolerance where progressives demand acceptance. The liberal knows that one can’t accept all things. Society is full of different values and belief systems, many of which are in conflict with each other. A devout Christian can’t accept the teachings of another religion any more than another religion can accept the teachings of Christianity.

The liberal draws their beliefs from the long tradition of religious tolerance that emerged in Europe after the religious wars. People of different religious traditions had to learn to tolerate one another. This was no small feat; in our time many pretend that all major religions teach basically the same thing, but in a time where people were very religious this was a big ask. This reality led to the freedom of religion, where different even heretical views were tolerated. This could have never worked had acceptance been required. By contrast, state religions have lead to persecution and violence.

Contrast this with identity politics, progressives demand acceptance and expect the state to enforce it. Misgender someone, expert a visit to the star chamber. Tweet something critical of Islam expect a call from hate police. Under progressives, we’ve seen the reintroduction of blasphemy laws, with freedom of speech being curtailed. In Australia, the progressive agenda is enforced via 18c and state legislation such as Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. In the United Kingdom, the police have established units to monitor hate speech. Much of which is just people being critical of Islam.

The progressive belief system much like socialism is utopian. It imagines a perfect world where everyone gets along and agrees with one another. Since in the real world it’s not possible for universal acceptance of all ideas, the state is used to enforce correct thought and thought crime is punished. To balance the competing demands for acceptance the progressives have developed the idea of intersectionality where different groups are ranked by their power. Under this system, different groups scramble for the highest oppression points to seize government power enforcing acceptance of their beliefs, lifestyle and practices.

Progressivism is deeply flawed and the only path to a tolerant and diverse society is through liberalism. People need to be free to say and think what they believe without the fear of state reprisal. The only role for the state is to protect groups from physical violence from other groups. Every individual in a free society should be free to say and think what they believe and through that process, society can progress. Ideas no matter how flawed should never be restricted.

Justin Campbell is General Manager of LibertyWorks Inc.

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