The year was 1632, Britain, at nearly the height of its power, births one of the most controversial and revolutionary men to ever grace the Earth. John Locke, the father of liberalism, would help lay the foundation of the Enlightenment. Nearly 400 years later, his ideas still impact and influence the realm of politics. However, I’ve witnessed a clear detraction from the original values and ideals in today’s prescribed left; values including freedom of speech, limited government, free-market capitalism and individual rights.
Mainstream liberalism, in my perspective, now supports restricted liberties instead of general ones. Rather than supporting the freedoms and justice of individuals, mainstream liberals would rather support social justice. Rather than supporting a limited form of government, liberals have now created a dependence for a more powerful system of governing whose scope is nearly unlimited. Lastly, rather than supporting liberal democratic principles of freedom of speech, political freedom and rule of law, liberals now support restrictions to the freedoms of political dissidents. All this to finally conclude that the left is no longer liberal.
Economically, the liberal perspective would abide by the principle that the government has no role to play in economics other than perhaps ensuring the rights of workers are being respected and playing minor roles in spurring the economy during economic downturns. Nevertheless, liberal government’s role in the economy has now become far more expansive. Obama’s administration, paired its 800 billion dollar stimulus package with, according to the Federal Register, 97,110 job killing pages worth of regulations by the end of 2016’s fiscal year while simultaneously raising taxes across the board. Trudeau’s government has already tripled their expected deficit and is further expected to spend even more if he is reelected. Trudeau and the Liberal Party are also guilty of imposing even more restrictions on businesses through their carbon tax, the increase in minimum wage and an increase in taxes.
This is entirely illiberal and stifling the growth and potential of democratic nations. The production of goods and services should be controlled by producers and workers in a fashion which is mutually beneficial. An employer pays for work done by employees who contribute to the business or corporation through their labour. By adding a third party into the mix, ie. the government, the natural flow of goods and services is being limited.
Certainly, the government has a role to play in the economy. Although it should be a minor one, as already mentioned, to protect the rights of workers, ensure the law is being followed, collect taxes, and impose necessary regulations to protect society (such as regulations to protect the environment). The overreach of liberal democratic governments in the economy is incredibly problematic and has resulted in the growing debt of such nations. The government’s oblivious imposition of unnecessary regulations and growing role in the workplace is ultimately limiting the potential of producers, workers and the economy.
Politically, the left is supposed to defend the rule of law. However, as we’ve seen on college campuses across the United States and even here in Canada, numerous liberals hold no respect for government officials. Protests from groups such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter, though they perhaps support warranted and rightful causes, are subject to vandalism and the spread of anti-democratic and anti-police sentiments. Their distaste for the rule of law and their role in silencing political opposition is entirely illiberal.
This notion is further exemplified by liberals who seek to limit the freedoms of members of certain political groups. The problem with setting limitations to democratic principles is that it sets a precedent. When the rights of one group are limited, no person or group is safe from not seeing their rights also being restricted. Once any limitations are placed, the consequences are endless.
Nazi Germany slowly began limiting the rights of Jews which eventually led to the Holocaust. In Russia, the communist revolution led to a massive expansion in government power which consequently resulted in restrictions to the rights of citizens and the deaths of political dissidents. Aung San Suu Kyi is currently failing to respect and recognize the rights of Rohingya Muslims and is now presiding over a genocide. History tells us that freedom is always the answer. Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, one should always advocate for more freedom and less government. These are not only liberal values, but universal ones.
The realm of politics is ripe with controversy. For many, it has become a toxic and poisonous outlet. At the heart of it all is the growing illiberal and anti-democratic movements spread by those who coin themselves as progressives. It is no surprise that the recent activism of the regressive left has resulted in the growing activity amongst the repugnant members of the alt-right.
Their fascination for a more powerful body of government and their desire to limit the freedoms of political opponents are entirely unwarranted and against every liberal principle ever created. Though the past may never be changed, we may look to the present to provide a better future. Locke and other philosophers of the Enlightenment taught us to protect the very liberties many modern liberals are attempting to restrict. Though the controversy and growing scope of government will continue to haunt democratic nations, we can turn to the brave and wise examples of our ancestors for guidance, to ultimately provide a better future.