Sunday, May 17, 2009

Required reading: Leftism is NOT liberalism

Twitter user @vermontaigne tweeted a link to this article yesterday, in which a self-described "secular humanist Enlightenment liberal" separates "leftism" from "liberalism" like white from yolk.

It's long, but well worth the read. Michael Strong first establishes his liberal cred, then describes how classic liberalism has been co-opted by leftists, particularly on university campuses. Here's a stand-out paragraph:
But despite the healthy, productive, and necessary debate concerning global economic history and contemporary policy measures, often the loudest and most aggressive voices in academia do not represent healthy, positive or informed debate. The anti-globalization movement, anti-Americanism, and lingering communism that are common in some academic departments do not offer a useful, positive, or well-considered means of making the world a better place. Hatred and bitterness are no substitute for intellectual coherence. The social and intellectual atmosphere at most universities (and, significantly, the two cannot be distinguished) continues to support views that are better described as “Leftist” than as Liberal. It is not socially acceptable in the humanities departments of most universities to suggest that Hong Kong and Singapore are economically successful today in large part because they had the good fortune to have inherited classical liberal principles as a legacy of British colonialism, or that free trade is the best means available of alleviating global poverty today, or to debate whether FDR or LBJ was the most destructive U.S. president in the 20th century.
Strong offers a checklist to determine whether classic liberalism has returned to college campuses:
1. Are most students and professors aware that under 19th century free market capitalism in the United States and Britain that it was not true that “the rich got richer and the poor got poorer?” i.e., that the working class standard of living steadily increased under laissez-faire capitalism?
2. Do most students and professors understand that wealth is created almost exclusively by private enterprise (given a framework based on the rule of law)?
3. Are most students and professors aware that Marxist governments murdered over 100 million people in the 20th century, vastly exceeding the loss of human life due to the Nazis?
4. Do most students and professors acknowledge that those humanely-motivated academics who self-identified as Marxists should, indeed, accept responsibility for having advocated a repeatedly murderous ideology? (“We didn't intend those outcomes” is not an adequate excuse after the fourth totalitarian Marxist regime, predictably enough, committed mass murder.)
5. Do most students and professors understand public choice theory?
6. Do most students and professors understand the necessary relationship between economic freedom, on the one hand, and creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship, on the other?
You go read now.

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