This continues my intermittent series of articles answering the question ‘what is a liberal?’
Liberals believe in unicorns. They let their emotions trump good judgment, facts, and experience. In this article I’ll highlight two examples: liberals’ belief in government, and liberals’ belief in fairness and justice.
Liberals believe government is competent and good
Does anyone deny that liberals believe this? Look at their faith in welfare and public education.
First Truth: government is not highly competent. For decades, liberals counted on government to eliminate poverty and racism. How well has that gone? Yes, it’s true that government built the interstate highway system and sent Americans to the moon and back. Could we build the interstate highway system today? I don’t know. But, if you want to send someone to the moon today, I refer you to Elon Musk and SpaceX.
Government is not motivated to solve problems. The motivation of government is to get and use power. Yes, the power impulse operates in all organizations, but the private sector responds first to investors, who demand profits. The public sector responds to the ballot box, and the ballot box is a bad filter for competence. The result is that government is never operated with competence as the top priority. Examples: the current problems in the Veterans Administration, ineffective and expensive K-12 education, corruption in benefits administration, waste and inefficiency in military procurement.
Second truth: government is neither merciful or fair. Examples: Wounded Knee, Waco, Ruby Ridge, and now we have the IRS unleashed on conservative political groups.
Liberals believe fairness and justice are real and universal
Yes, fairness and justice are wonderful, but they’re slippery concepts when used in legislation and law enforcement. Here’s the definition of fairness from Dictionary.com:
the state, condition, or quality of being fair, or free from bias or injustice; evenhandedness
That doesn’t really tell us much. ‘Fairness’ is fair. ‘Fairness’ is free from bias, but what’s bias? ‘Fairness’ is free from injustice. Well, we’ll take a look at justice and injustice in a second. ‘Fairness’ is evenhandedness. Evenhandedness? Really? I don’t think I agree with that. ‘Evenhanded’ means equitable. Not helpful.
The first definition for ‘justice’ in Dictionary.com is this:
The quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness
The quality of being ‘just’ goes without saying, yes that’s true. Righteousness. Look it up, righteousness is just a synonym for justice. Equitableness. That means fair or reasonable, which in this context is circular; it just points us back to ‘fairness’. Moral rightness. Yes, but whose morals?
My point is that the concept of fairness and justice is of limited use. It’s not a number. It’s not binary, yes/no. The meaning of fairness and justice evolves over time and it differs from culture to culture. It differs across sex and race. For example, I point to the Duke University lacrosse team rape case.
Fairness and justice are buzz words, not useful as concepts in government or law-enforcement. Elected officials will use the banner of fairness and justice in legislation, but let the voter beware. If you want fairness and justice (we all do), then place your reliance in laws, in an agreed process for creating and changing laws, and in agreed mechanisms for enforcing laws.
Liberals believe in unicorns.
Give your local liberal a hand and point out that government is neither very good nor very competent; and that when they hear appeals to fairness and justice they should beware of demagogues.