A blupete Essay

Liberalism, Part 1 to blupete's Essay
"The Siren's Song"

Liberalism had its origins in the 19th century. It stood for liberty, both individual and national, with as little government as possible. It was a reaction to the aristocratic masters of those times when social privilege and authority were thought to be inheritable rights. Historically, what liberals thought is that there should be limits on social authority and believed that there existed a private sphere of beliefs and conduct over which the individual should exercise autonomy. As the 19th century progressed the old aristocratic system was worn down, and while it was hoped that this power would be passed over to the people: it was not, and by and large, has not.

There are those today who flatter themselves by calling themselves "liberals": they are but socialists.[1] The socialist proceeds on the assumption that all concerned will judge rightly and act fairly - will think as they ought to think, and act as they ought to act; and these socialists assume this regardless of the daily experiences which we all have and which show that men do not necessarily act in such a fashion. These socialists, with their complaints that they make against the existing system, show their belief to be, that men have neither the wisdom nor the rectitude required by their plan, at least not under the principles of freedom and democracy. The utterances of socialists, as George Santayana expressed it, is but "the babble of dreamers who walk through one world mentally beholding another." Liking them to flowers, Santayana writes: "Their thoughts ... are all positings and deductions and asseverations of which ought to be, whilst the calm truth is marching unheeded outside."

We need but look at the history of the 20th century and see the damage and injury that has been brought on by those who proceeded to put into practice the theories of socialism. Attempts of establishing governments along socialistic lines, time and time again, have simply demonstrated its unworkability[2]. But, far worse, on every occasion, the outcome has been human misery. But, we hear yet, the Siren Song of Socialism: government action can create the good life for all. To begin with government is not a neutral benevolent institution. But, let us forget and put aside the corrosive effect of Big Government -- just, I hasten to add, for the purposes of this argument. It cannot be calculated what it is that people in society should do; and when, and how, and in what order it should be done. Society works because of the cooperation of people at the roots of society; it cannot be directed from the top by any form of government, one with good intentions or otherwise. Thankfully, for the coming into being of the human race and for its continuing maintenance, no knowing and directive force is required.[3] Things in nature organize themselves by nature not by reason; reason is but a mental process by which human beings sort out choices, a process which necessarily is limited by the number of choices a person can keep in mind -- which, for most of us, is not too many at any one time.

We may achieve in our society, and not at general expense, full production and full distribution, and do so through the voluntary co-operation of most everyone: intrusive and confiscatory government is not needed. There is a natural directive apparatus at work in this world which governs and supplies the needs and wants of human beings. There exists an egocentric mechanism which serves an extended order of collaboration: it is called the "market." Have you not marveled on how food is brought to your table; have you not wondered along the isles of a modern day grocery store and beheld the variety and cheap prices. It all comes to you, spontaneously, through a complex of interacting individuals or groups of individuals, all working consciously to advance themselves, and by so working, albeit unconsciously, advances society as a whole. It all comes about with very little social conflict simply in the desire of each person to gain a living by supplying the needs of his fellows. This marvellous system is fueled and driven by the self-interest of the individuals within it.[4]

The simple and timeless fact, as described by Adam Smith in 1776, is: given the diversity of man's knowledge, only the individual, through his or her own industriousness and ingenuity, is capable of advancing his or her own particular interest or interests. It is only the individual person who can properly assess the matter before him or her; and, considering what is at stake, it is that individual who knows how best to apply the needed industry and capital. It can only be the individual who has the matter at stake, who can best predict the product that might result from the application of his or her preserved industry and capital. It can only be the individual who can take into account his or her local situation; and, being at the level where the action must take place, take the action which is likely required to achieve the desired results. No person can do these things for another even if they be described as a statesman or a lawgiver. If, the inappropriate, or wrong action is taken, or no action is taken where some was called for -- with the result of an undesired impact on the individual; then, that individual has no one to blame but himself or herself; and a lesson becomes available for the learning.


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[Essays, First Series]
[Essays, Second Series]
[Essays, Third Series]
[Essays, Fourth Series]
[Subject Index]
Peter Landry

2011 (2019)