Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Liberal neutrality update
Liberalism, we are told, is neutral between the diverse moral, religious, and philosophical points of view competing within a pluralistic society. Or at least, it is neutral between the “reasonable” ones. And which views are the “reasonable” ones? Why, the ones willing to conform themselves to liberalism, of course! As I’ve argued in several places, such “neutrality” is completely phony, though you don’t really need much in the way of argument to see that – it is blindingly obvious to everyone except liberals themselves. (You can find my fullest statement on this issue here. The immediate target of the paper linked to is one particular version of liberalism – libertarianism – but as its discussion of Rawls makes evident, the points it makes apply to liberalism generally. See also, from National Review, my reviews of Amy Gutmann’s Identity in Democracy and of David Lewis Schaefer’s Illiberal Justice: John Rawls vs. the American Political Tradition.)
The BBC brings news of the latest illustration of the fraudulence of liberal “neutrality,” as a Christian couple is denied the right to become foster parents because of their disapproval of homosexual behavior – all in the name of “non-discrimination,” naturally. As BBC News religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott sums up the court’s decision, “the court discriminated between kinds of Christianity, saying that Christians in general might well make good foster parents, while people with traditionalist Christian views like Mr and Mrs Johns might well not” (emphasis mine). And there you have it. Liberals never try to impose their views on you – as long as you agree to be a liberal too. All views are equal, but some are more equal than others. Four legs good, two legs better.
Nor is there any reason why interference with the way biological parents raise their children might not be justified on “liberal” grounds, if such parents are insufficiently “progressive” in their attitudes. There are three kinds of liberals: Those who admit this; those who don’t admit it because they haven’t thought through the implications of their principles; and those who don’t admit it because they don’t think it (yet) politically prudent to admit it. Not that there’s much point in denying it – it’s happening already. There is, in principle anyway, no limit to the restrictions on freedom of thought and action that might be justified in the name of “liberal neutrality,” though it usually takes several steps to get there – five of them to be precise.