Liberalism is an ideology and its narrative

Liberalism
is an ideology and its narrative focuses on the importance of the individual,
and closely interlinked with this is freedom, which leads on to the concept of
the individual freedom or liberty. Liberalism proposes that the principle of
justice and tolerance are fundamental to the wellbeing of society and each of
these aspects relate directly back to the individual in question. John Stuart
Mill says behind liberalism lies the belief that we are all different and this
diversity should be seen as a strength not, weakness, emphasizing the
importance of right and society’s role to protect these rights. How then is it
possible that liberals, guided by right, reason, and freedom of speech come up
with a new narrative and all will agree to this new story without a bit of
tension in agreement? If the majority agrees, how about the rights of the
minority? An attempt to stretch further in finding a new narrative may easily
lead into some narrative that may fall out of the scope of liberalism.
Liberalism is therefore, finished and can no longer tell a story relevant to
our own times. First, it was the new deal liberalism, then vital center, then
third way liberalism and what next?  It
is hard to fit a new narrative into the concept of liberalism considering
friction existing for example, in the transition from concepts of classical
liberalism to concepts of modern liberalism as we have seen over the periods.

The
development of society throughout history led to the evolution of liberalism.
The features of liberalism changed as the rising middle classes succeeded in
establishing economic and political dominance. Liberalism was no longer
revolutionary but had become increasingly conservative with the maintenance of
the status quo which in my opinion is the way to go. This leads to liberals in
the 19th century beginning to question the idea of early liberalism
particularly regarding the extent to which government must interfere with the
lives of its citizens. The role of the state becomes incoherent in the context
of classical and modern liberalism, sparking huge disagreement among liberals. According
to John Stuart Mill, “too much government is dangerous and also individuals are
denied the chance to learn in the process”. Besides, Isaiah Berlin succeeded in
responding to the role of the government action in the face of injustice,
poverty and discrimination. His response, “not too much” indicates that Berlin
does not only recognize the friction between liberals who advocate greater
liberty  and liberals who are willing to
sacrifice some  liberty but also senses
the danger on the encroachment of personal freedom which is the hallmark of
liberalism itself.  In order for a new
narrative to succeed in politics relevant to our times, it will have to contest
with the deep stories of liberals who want greater freedom as against those who
are willing to sacrifice some freedom. To achieve this narrative will be a form
of utopia that is beyond reach.

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Focusing
on liberal democracy whiles paying attention to the ideology of liberalism, I
am inspired to remark that liberal democracy as we see today is the strongest
form of liberalism that exists in our time but not necessarily the strongest
form of government in which a new story will stand. Liberalism advocates
freedom of free speech wiles democracy divides these speeches based on majority
and minority. The problem, of course, is not with the concept of liberalism.
The main issue is the fact that democracy tend to place less rationality on
decisions made at the end of the day. It is not about who makes the most sense
anymore. It is about how many are in favor of decisions made irrespective of good
or bad.  The decision making in a
democratic government is centered on inequality. Thus, the bigger number wins.
Then there is the problem of class inequality itself in the system where it is
the lower class against the upper class. In theory, decisions made are expected
to favor the majority which in most societies are expected to be those in the lower
class. However, class issues still remain a bigger part of liberal democracy
today because most decisions are not relevant in solving the actual problems
existing. A new narrative may work in theory but will not be relevant to our
times because democracy will divide liberals into those who agree and those who
disagree the narrative which consequently shadows the relevance of the
narrative. On the other hand, it is tempting to allude that executive order
will be a means of bypassing the issue of rationality in liberal democracy. That
is to say if the majority or minority is not in agreement with a new narrative
and the president has the power to enforce such narrative in the name of the
greater good of the nation, there is the risk of too much government interference
which is in opposition with the premises of both liberalism and democracy.

Another
interesting factor worth considering is that 21st century presents
very little circumstances in which a new story will be relevant. For instance,
the European revolutions of 1848 have shaped the world we see today. The
revolution brought about two world wars and huge level of political and social
turmoil in Europe. Major countries were affected, monarchies were overthrown
and new countries such as Germany and Italy had formed as a result of the
spread of nationalist politics of the era. Most of the liberal ideas which were
considered revolutionary at the time have become common practices in countries
at the era. In order for a new narrative to succeed, the timing must be
appropriate and the need for the new story must be of bigger concern. With the
1932 election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as president, the United States
ushered in a new era of liberalism. Roosevelt’s set of government initiatives,
known as the New Deal, tried to slow down the effects of the Great Depression
and prevent the possibility of another such economic catastrophe. In 1949,
Arthur Schlesinger’s book, politics of
freedom with the concept of the vital center defends liberal democracy and
state regulated market economy against the totalitarianism of communism and
fascism few years after the Second World War. We can propose a similar story
about the Third way as it evolved after President Bush and was largely adopted
by Bill Clinton in order to deal with the Bomb marks and the series of threat
against the United States. Our current time also present problems but these
issues are not as phenomenal and basic as the issues in the mid-20th
century. Current problems like immigration, globalization, climate change and
race are secondary and tertiary needs that do not affect people on a larger
scale when compared to major basic problems of the 20th century
given the rate of civilization we see today. Hence, a new narrative has very
less room to succeed in liberal democracy as our current time does not warrant
much basis or reason on which it will be deemed relevant.

It
is also interesting to grapple with the question of what becomes the fate of
liberalism, if in practice, liberal democracies are forced to tell a narrative.
If the new narrative is more in line with assuming power rather than in the
interests of individuals, then it is outright illiberal. Liberalism according
to John Stuart Mill which places the individual in the center of the narrative
is the ultimate form of liberalism. In practice, liberalism is vanishing in the
sense that liberal democracy tends to sell these freedoms based on minority and
majority. Enough freedom has been sold in the spirit of democracy. What must
liberals do then? What liberals should focus on is not a new narrative. Liberalism
loses impact in the process. Rather liberals must focus on strategic procedures
to enforce the already existing narrative of liberalism, make clear the process
of liberal democracy, its strengths and weaknesses in the context of individual
freedom and rights in order to win interests of people. As most liberal democracies
tend to focus less on the individual, liberalism has been sold down the river. 

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