Koyzis – Chapter 2

Liberalism is concerned with the rights of individuals. It allots every individual the right to posses property in their own person and freely “govern themselves in accordance with their own choices, provided these choices do not infringe on the equal rights of others to do the same.” Liberalism arose out of 17th and 18th century humanism, where Rene Descartes’ mathematical exactitude defined human community from its most basic principle in human individuals. Man’s state of nature begat rights to individuals prior to community. Thus, early liberals sought emancipation from the birthright system of feudalism and demanded social positions to be vied for out of individual qualification. Hobbes (the state of nature as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”) and Locke (more peaceful) both appreciated society’s eventual formation of a civil commonwealth which over-arched the state of nature. Civil commonwealth served the needs of individuals as a social contract that protected freedom of choice. Thus, freedom of the individual ironically depended on political authority for accountability. This state had to be strong enough to enforce rules but weak enough to avoid totalitarianism. The range of freedom expanded through (1) the pre-liberal stage (characterized by Hobbesian management of fear and the desire to protect one’s life, where limitations on the state were primarily practical rather than legal or ethical and it was in the ruler’s interest not to oppress his people, lest they prefer the state of nature over his commonwealth and overturn his dominion by revolution), (2) the property appreciation stage (recognition of the connection between preserving one’s life and earning a livelihood lead to the embrace of the free market or capitalism, which also lead to individuals amassing private resources and people being far from equal), (3) the regulatory state (governmental power was brought into the service of freedom), (4) the equal opportunity state (sought to level the playing field with a social “safety net” or welfare), and (5) the choice enhancement state (lobbied for a spiritually/morally vacant state where no good is seen as the utmost good and the state remains as referee). However, this last evolution of the naked public square is an illusion. The privatization of religion from the public square (Jefferson’s “wall of separation”) is held above all other convictions and is thus treated religiously. Once people realize this “liberalism’s ascendancy is likely to end.”

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