Best read I have found in 20 years. Truly. I carry it around a lot for reading on the buses. Author's main contention is that there isn't a short definition of Liberalism. No author, no Moses. Political choices and contingency. Practitioners argument, bargaining, compromise. Great author.
Addition to my review on Fawcett's Liberalism
This done off network with Pillarbox
Finished Liberalism and feel Fawcett deserves more at Amazon here.
Fawcett is an English journalist writing much of his life on his love for the English Liberal Party. Unlike myself, the man can write a sentence. Read his book.
Briton has some differences with the US. England has had a much longer period of local stable institutions. For very much longer than the US, England was developing the Provinces with local handling of whatever problem might arrive. America began to do this with councils and courts from the beginning of Jamestown and Plymouth. In the 80s Thatcher was the very right wing prime minister. When we had Reagan. Right after WW II England rebuilt with many enterprises government initiated. Their Socialism. Thatcher decentralized much of this skilled activity to private enterprise or to more local control. Since the War, the Labour Party --more Socialist advocating --has fended with the Conservative Tories --for power. Once 40% of the working force was organized and voted Labour. Recently, Labour and the desire to Socialize --really took a loss. A coalition of Conservatives and Liberals rules Parliament momentarily.
So Briton is used to handling problems at the local level. But the Liberals --not Labour --were once only 7% of the voters. The great turning point in England was finally signing the Elementary Education Act 1870. Gladstone has been patiently waiting for when the chimes meet the times. Mandatory school for ages 7-12. I think for boys only at this initial moment --I hope not. Upon finalizing the bill Gladstone commented --Ohmygosh, this is going to cost more than the Massive Royal Navy. That is what Liberalism has been about. No Marx setting out a whole systematic theory. Fawcett tells us it's bad faith to ignore contingency (children, sickness, disaster, old age) and choices, judgement and decisions. In England, France, and Germany Liberalism were preachers and teachers. In Fawcett's great story here America offers little liberal thinking or action until FDR, the Great Depression, and the National Recovery Act. All great things, of course. But Jefferson, Monroe and all the Founding Fathers did an incredibly liberal thing --the Declaration of Independence, the Revolution dispensing with European monarchy altogether, and the representative Constitution and democracy. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation may be the greatest thing America has done. The American South has always been the most il-liberal thing possible. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act, Teddy Roosevelt's health and safety reforms and regulations are liberal events. I count the Transcendentalists, self reliance, as important.
Fawcett begins about 1830 with Mills and Constant. Good. Oher's suggest starting with Hobbs and Machiavelli. Hobbs --why do we even have a king when occasionally we inherit an Ivan the Terrible or Attilla the Hun? Because original life was not always the Rousseau Happy Pacific Paradise but most often everything at war. Killing or being devoured. "Honey, that gigantic Saber Tooth Tiger wants our cave back. We can either go sleep in the rain or go see the Leader of the Pack --west side Jets or Sharks gangs. Fear, protection, survival. Whichever gang looks most like us. We want to be his girl friend or join the gang. Our gender --correct that to our preference."
Machiavelli informs us of how bad the dear Leader of the Pack can be. Then Locke, Mills and Constance begin the kind of real thinking that the beautiful Parthenon was built to conference --democracy and free enterprise.
Every Fawcett sentence makes me lift my eyes and mentally lecture myself on whatever. Let me list a few inspirations. I'll exaggerate some.
The Am/British/French/German current governments are what is liberal. Washington --with all it's present lobbyists, stalemates, and NSA --is Liberalism. England is a bit different. Currently a mixed Socialism that has had a lot of it's public enterprises out-sourced to private local management. What the Libertarians want to do with Washington if they ever get any power. Under Bush the 43rd, Dick Chaney outsourced many Department of Defense enterprises --the dining halls that once were Army KP rookie kitchen duty. DOD and the State Department even had 200,000 "mercenary" troopers instead of regular Army in Iraq. French liberalism is all free market --more like our Republicans. The west German's are still willingly supporting old East Germany.
Liberalism is not completely Economic Conservatism nor Socialism. Definitely not Libertarian as Liberal like big good government. Not competition to free enterprise but more big brother to Free Market. Good government keeps Free Market doing the right thing --following the straight and narrow. Liberalism is not Philosophy, History, not just Historical Thought, or Sociology. Closer to Political Science than any of these 19th Century disciplines. Fawcett emphasizes arguement/bargaining/compromise. A lot of just waiting around. Nothing excluded, obstructed, or intruded upon. Big tent. Everything is American. Contingencies and choice. Judgement and decisions.
All of Washington DC is what American Liberalism is. Stunning thought that Fawcett only mentions once. It is hugely tolerant, Big Tent tolerant.
Fawcett's editor says stick to a story. Fawcett says there has been no ordered plan of what Liberalism might be. Endless teachers and preachers. And Political Events --suddenly the chimes meet the times. So we had Lyndon Johnson nose to nose with the likes of such racists as Mississippi Eastland and Alabama George Wallace, with garlic in right hand, convincing the south to go along with Civil Rights and Voting Rights. Lincoln suddenly issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. Contingencies and choices.
I say Fawcett points out the stunning realization that Liberalism is the whole Big Tent thing of Washington DC. Every act is under that tent. And catch this --liberal is whatever citizen's ask of their government.
Fawcett however says, for what it is worth, that he sees four characteristics of what has been liberal. The world is Progressing --getting better. Liberals like change --Conservatives like the way it's always been. For 100,000 years at least sons did what their fathers were doing --taking care of the farm or market stall. Much of the Middle East, Africa, and South America are still in the Agrarian Age. No employment problems with that, then.
Big Tolerance --acceptance of everyone, their ideas, and ways of going about their projects. An acceptance of conflict in the most modern world --the 20th Century sure underlines that. And a Priority to the Individual --suspicion of Power --any Power --government, corporate, community...domestic?
Let's upgrade one of the early great inspirations --the French banner Liberty/Equality/Fraternity. Let's say --Americans, Liberalism
-- in building this incredibly successful country, politic, economy --started out with liberty being Big Liberty --you can do anything you want, and do it your own way. Then After --golly, gee --we gotta rein in your statement Bub. Those automatic weapons and cross bandoleers of explosive shells. Tiny restriction --can you loose the bandoleers --the cops are so frigidity. So for 240 years we have been adding thousands of New Rules, tiny restrictions --federal laws, community ordinances. Big Equality too --from the Labour Party --everyone is entitled to live the life they want --to want the life they are living. Let's define Fraternity Rawl's style --Social Justice means Fairness --the difference principle being "If rich, look after the poor".
Given this fresh meaning to the great French banner --you can imagine the patient Optimistic Liberal waiting on the corner for the next great Liberal thing to happen. Ohmygosh, in 2014 Americans decided to accept gay America --accept quite a bit --while the federal congress was too deadlocked to do anything. The chimes found their times --with very little government involvement. A big overdue liberal event.
Let me restate the reoccurring within a very happy optimistic Liberalism. On the Left Hand Liberals in the four countries Fawcett studies are very tolerant of everybody and their enterprises. Like them or not, they get a piece of pizza at the table, too. The anti-bellum South was once included in our Big Tent as are today Tea Party representatives that their constituents correctly voted in. Mama said grit your teth and smile. Everything that doesn't force itself in --is accepted equally. That is our government. That has always been Washington DC. American government and economy is crazy Wall Street speculation and Social Security, a staid insurance program. Everyone's idea is tried, and sometimes removed. Pioneers built churches and schools as soon as they started plowing. Be patient, your pet program's chimes will match the times, sometime. We just keep bringing up a Minimum Income "Big Safety Net" solution --waiting for its chime to find a time. "Why, that has become indispensable."
Then --often contradictory --On my Right Hand --I accept conflict and distrust power, anyone's power. One moment I show great openness to everything --especially the New --and the next moment I'm very skeptical. Skeptic and criticizing that very once-favored thing. Drives conservatives and others crazy. Why don't we just pick out a Good --like we did in parochial school --and defend it come what may. Liberals are so Schitzy. Well, there is a characteristic of the liberal --a knee jerk suspicion of Power, The the rise to Power of anything --good programs, very bad ideas. All ideas have conflict "built into them." Good ideas and bad, my ideas and your best ideas. Lord Acton had two brilliant notions --power corrupts, great power corrupts completely. Let's exaggerate that --all power is likely to go south --the bad ideas and the wonderful. Liberals expect it. Clean up is a regular chore. I think the Congress for a hundred years has only been reforming the Reforms. How often must we repeat that all adult black Americans are permitted --expected --to vote. All of them. Every election they have. We need to repeat this every 50 years, I guess. On racial issues we are not swift. Lord Acton also commented --Liberalism obligates me to tolerate all. It is also my duty to teach each what is best for them. :) Drives conservatives and other persuasions nutty.
Everything is brought to America and tried here. That is the whole of Liberalism. On any commentary, issue, action --we each decide what is Liberal --what is American. What will be added to the American Way.
Liberals love everything at it's debut. Adam Smith The Heavenly Free Market was the most amazing liberal thing ever. Maybe greater even than Thomas Jefferson's democracy in the New World !! --for 75 years or so. Then the Robber Barons spoiled the brew --"What do I care about the law, ain't I got the Power?" Sorry we've got to put in some tiny restrictions. Like the incredibly inconsequential Federal Reserve. You can't effect the Vanderbilt's less than Federal Reserve interest rate adjustments. Even Timothy Geitner muttered in sub-committee testimony --"I'm not a regulator." He was President of the Third Fed Reserve District. As much regulator as we've got. But that is all we want done. We want the federal government to come to the aide --to help clean up --after the disaster --Wall Street man-made, or natural. AFTER the disaster clean up --don't interfere, obstruct, or exclude An American Effort. Oh, dear.
Speaking of how appealing The Free Market and Spontaneous Order can be. It is a small neat system. Easy to slip over the edge and think of Free Markets as the Answer to Everything! Gift from Jesus. Poser was a judge at the beginning of Reagan's eight years. Perhaps giddy from moving up the ladder as appeals judge. He wrote a paper. In which he reveal with excitement being born again a True Believer in the wonderful Free Market. Alleluia, Praise Jesus. He has seen the light. Blind before but now he sees. Business for a profit supplies everything! You don't need to know anything else. We don't need government at any level --as the Enlightened Libertarians have been preaching since 1970. Mercenary soldiers. Lord Cromwell had to fund himself for his 30,000 British regulars that fought against the American Revolution. The incredible Swiss banking system does everything "government" for the Swiss. Private contractors actually carry out road construction and maintenance for the feds and states. Insurance and other financial models will serve all monetary activities. Social Security is really an Insurance policy administered by the Feds. Best program America has got. Really works simple. But Free Enterprise has an answer to everything. Government not needed for anything! What a Pentecostal Awakening!
So let's not laugh when the new initiate suggests to his judicial breather to use a Free Market concept in deciding all court issues. Make all courtroom decisions on the Principle that we give the money to the litigant that can best make more money, for himself and others, with the award. Isn't that brilliant --businessmen always win, as they should. Only a True New Believer could produce such wisdom. I don't know what Posner would do with so many courtroom matters --privacy, defamation, racial discrimination. That was more than 30 years ago --I imagine Judge Posner has changed his mind a lot since trickle down came from Heaven.
One ancient idea that I have always liked, but now hits the recycle bin --Meritocracy. The idea that your best and brightest rule. The American CEO club respects merit. Many of those on their fast tracks to the now 100 Million Club were high school and college elected presidents. As many in Congress are. I'm thinking Jefferson (if he wont bring his slaves to the White House), Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Kennedy, Johnson, and I gotta include Reagan. All possible President's for Life. Well, I guess I mean my choice of The Best for Life. I could be happy with FDR for life --as he was. The Brit's have always had excellent PMs. The French and Germans have selected their best as well. The best looking wonks have got to be better than a military junta.
Read Fawcett for much better writing.