Dos erros do liberalismo

John Gray, “The problem of hyper-liberalism”:

If history is any guide, large numbers want a sense of security as much as, or more than, personal autonomy.

Liberals who rail at populist movements are adamant that voters who support them are deluded or deceived. The possibility that these movements are exploiting needs that highly individualist societies cannot satisfy is not seriously considered. In the liberalism that has prevailed over the past generation such needs have been dismissed as atavistic prejudices, which must be swept away wherever they stand in the way of schemes for transnational government or an expanding global market. This stance is one reason why anti-liberal movements continue to advance. Liberalism and empiricism have parted company, and nothing has been learnt. Some of the strongest evidence against the liberal belief that we learn from our errors and follies comes from the behaviour of liberals themselves.


In the past, liberals have struggled to reconcile their commitment to liberty with a recognition that people need a sense of collective belonging as well. In other writings Mill balanced the individualism of On Liberty with an understanding that a common culture is necessary if freedom is to be secure, while Isaiah Berlin acknowledged that for most people being part of a community in which they can recognize themselves is an integral part of a worthwhile life. These insights were lost, or suppressed, in the liberalism that prevailed after the end of the Cold War. If it was not dismissed as ata­vistic, the need for a common identity was regarded as one that could be satisfied in private life. A global space was coming into being that would recognize only universal humanity. Any artefact that embodied the achievements of a particular state or country could only be an obstacle to this notional realm. The hyper-liberal demand that public spaces be purged of symbols of past oppression continues a post-Cold War fantasy of the end of history.

Liberals who are dismayed at the rise of the new intolerance have not noticed how much they have in common with those who are imposing it. Hyper-liberal “snowflakes”, who demand safe spaces where they cannot be troubled by disturbing facts and ideas, are what their elders have made them. Possessed by faith in an imaginary humanity, both seek to weaken or destroy the national and religious traditions that have supported freedom and toleration in the past. Insignificant in itself and often comically absurd, the current spate of campus frenzies may come to be remembered for the part it played in the undoing of what is still described as the liberal West.

Multiculturalismo e imigração

Roger Scruton, How to be a conservative (London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2014), 90-92:

Once we distinguish race and culture, the way is open to acknowledge that not all cultures are equally admirable, and that not all cultures can exist comfortably side by side. To deny this is to forgo the very possibility of moral judgement, and therefore to deny the fundamental experience of community. It is precisely this that has caused the multiculturalists to hesitate. It is culture, not nature, that tells a family that their daughter who has fallen in love outside the permitted circle must be killed, that girls must undergo genital mutilation if they are to be respectable, that the infidel must be destroyed when Allah commands it. You can read about those things and think they belong to the pre-history of our world. But when suddenly they are happening in your midst, you are apt to wake up to the truth about the culture that advocates them. You are apt to say, that is not our culture, and it has no business here. And you will probably be tempted to go one stage further, the stage that the Enlightenment naturally invites, and to say that it has no business anywhere.

For what is brought home to us, through painful experiences that we might have avoided had it been permitted before now to say the truth, is that we, like everyone else, depend upon a shared culture for our security, our prosperity and our freedom to be. We don’t require everyone to have the same faith, to lead the same kind of family life or to participate in the same festivals. But we have a shared civic culture, a shared language and a shared public sphere. Our societies are built upon the Judaeo-Christian ideal of neighbour-love, according to which strangers and intimates deserve equal concern. They require each of us to respect the freedom and sovereignty of every person, and to acknowledge the threshold of privacy beyond which it is a trespass to go unless invited. Our societies depend upon law-abidingness and open contracts, and they reinforce these things through the educational traditions that have shaped our common curriculum. It is not an arbitrary cultural imperialism that leads us to value Greek philosophy and literature, the Hebrew Bible, Roman law, and the medieval epics and romances and to teach these things in our schools. They are ours in just the way that the legal order and the political institutions are ours: they form part of what made us, and convey the message that it is right to be what we are. And reason endorses these things, and tells us that our civic culture is not just a parochial possession of inward-looking communities, but a justified way of life.

Over time, immigrants can come to share these things with us: the experience of America bears ample witness to this. And they more easily do so when they recognize that, in any meaningful sense of the word, our culture is also a multi-culture, incorporating elements absorbed in ancient times from all around the Mediterranean basin and in modern times from the adventures of European traders and explorers across the world. But this kaleidoscopic culture is still one thing, with a set of inviolable principles at its core; and it is the source of social cohesion across Europe and America. Our culture allows for a great range of ways of life; it enables people to privatize their religion and their family customs, while still belonging to the public realm of open dealings and shared allegiance. For it defines that public realm in legal and territorial terms, and not in terms of creed or kinship.

So what happens when people whose identity is fixed by creed or kinship immigrate into places settled by Western culture? The activists say that we must make room for them, and that we do this by relinquishing the space in which their culture can flourish. Our political class has at last recognized that this is a recipe for disaster, and that we can welcome immigrants only if we welcome them into our culture, and not beside or against it. But that means telling them to accept rules, customs and procedures that may be alien to their old way of life. Is this an injustice? I do not think that it is. If immigrants come it is because they gain by doing so. It is therefore reasonable to remind them that there is also a cost. Only now, however, is our political class prepared to say so, and to insist that cost be paid.