The Wall between Liberal Theory and Practice Must Fall
Por Alberto Mansueti
EspañolLiberal International is a worldwide federation, founded in Oxford in 1947, of political parties that call themselves “liberal” but have actually become socialist. Then there is the Mont Pelerin Society, a club for classical liberal and “libertarian” intellectuals, named after the Swiss resort where it was founded the same year, 1947. Its stated goal is to “promote liberal ideas,” something they have not been very successful at.
On the one hand, liberal parties in name only; on the other, writers who embrace “the cause of liberty” to win over the “battle of ideas.” But the ideas that triumphed a long time ago were socialist and statist ones, prevailing in universities, schools, politics, the media, and religion (or as it is called now, “spirituality”).
To this day, so-called liberal parties and think tanks have always followed different paths, a divorce between practice and theory.
In the liberal camp:
1) Politicians have run out of ideas. They have become accustomed to political calculations for short-term victories, falling into the populist trap.
2) The task of educating and disseminating liberal ideas is no longer among the basic functions of political parties. Instead, they have become ivory towers, unable to show the people concrete plans and programs for reform and detailed measures to leave statism and socialism behind. Therefore, they are incapable of attracting and persuading prospective activists.
1) These unprincipled “liberal” parties, with no programs to offer, grew tired of losing elections. They went downhill from there, taking the path of “consensus” and “middle-of the-roadism” — until they arrived in the socialist camp, where they failed again due to the heavy competition. Among the feeble “center” or “neoliberal” parties, they attempt to reconcile the Washington Consensus with a “lesser evil,” but they are not sure what it is anymore.
2) The think tanks, with no real liberal parties to talk to, also got tired of preaching in the desert about the benefits of “pragmatic” liberalism, the “social market economy” of Ludwig Erhard (1897-1977), based on the utilitarianism of David Hume (1711-76) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). They went on to create a motivational version, a Randian liberalism for entrepreneurs, but who will launch a new company under the tyranny of bad laws? They became some sort of self-help and personal-growth marketers and now they’re sinking with the aggressive and sectarian nihilism of Murray Rothbard’s anarcho-capitalism. Out of the frying pan into the fire!
True liberals (classical liberals) used to face a three-faced struggle: against mercantilism, socialism, and communism. Now we are under attack from a fourth front, the Rothbardians (“ancaps”), most of them youngsters rebelling against their parents, spitting on democracy and parties, like the Nazis and the Soviets did. They dream with the old Marxist utopia of the disappearance of the state, since it apparently a superstructure of the class society that is to vanish along with it. While it disappears, anarcho-capitalist guru Hans-Hermann Hoppe declares that he does not want a “dictatorship of the proletariat” to replace it with, but a monarchy!
Hoppe accuses liberal parties of contributing to the triumph of socialism, and says Mont Pelerin professors did little to prevent it. He is right on both accounts, but his solution is to do nothing. Yet again, the naive and mistaken belief in the spontaneous and miraculous evaporation of socialism!
In this context, there is nothing to counter the anti-political yet statist phobia of parties among the middle class, which has become more stupid thanks to the education system and manipulations from the socialists. Instead of creating a true party for a liberal society, with its political program, leaders, members, and supporters, the “occupiers” attack representative democracy, which during the common-sense era was classical liberalism’s shield against the irrational and violent assaults of the masses.
Following revolutionary fantasies of “direct democracy,” the outraged middle class vent in endless protests against “corrupt politicians,” against “fraud,” asking people “to take to the streets” or “to the barricades,” typically leftist expressions that are useless to combat socialism.
To realize the situation of so-called liberal parties, do an experiment: 1) Try to find a socialist party, no matter the size, that does not have an ideological training course or an education center, but always bearing politics in mind. It doesn’t exist! 2) Look for a socialist research or education center that has stayed away from politics by, for example, barring political participation as some liberal “think tanks” do. They don’t exist either! Socialist parties don’t erect a wall between their (false) theory and their (lethal) practice.
A reason underlying the gap between liberal theory and practice was a previous divorce: between the idea of limited government and its biblical and Christian grounds. The theory of “the rule of law, not the rule of men” has been a cornerstone of Christianity since its beginnings, when they denounced the “divine right of kings” as a false interpretation of the scriptures.
But in the fateful 19th century, Christian churches embraced socialism, with an even more misguided explanation. The noble political ideas of the Bible sought refuge in the dry secular humanism of the Enlightenment, called liberalism since the Spanish 1812 Constitution. But it lost its steam and vigor, because the idea of limited government does not fit with the philosophy that “men are good and sinless.”
The false “socialist Christ” served and serves leftists across the world to win elections with the Christian, Catholic, or Protestant vote. And the current spineless, unattractive, and inconsistent liberalism was not up to the task of resisting. What a pity!
Alberto Mansuetia is a lawyer with a bachelors degree in political science and a Christian-theology teacher. A widely published author and essayist, he has taught at universities in Peru, Guatemala, and Venezuela and is the president of the Center for Classical Liberalism. Follow @MansuetiAlberto.
This article was originally posted in the Bolivian daily El Día.