As I have researched the decline and fall of Haiti, I have grown more interested in the origin and spread of the ideas that led to this disaster, and the pathology of the liberal mindset that has sustained it to this day.
This essay by Roger Scruton will serve as a useful point of departure for our next investigation into the roots of modern liberalism – the French Revolution, the American Revolution, the Enlightenment, Endarkment, etc.
“Post-war intellectuals have inherited two major systems of political thought with which to satisfy their lust for doctrine: liberalism and socialism. It is testimony to the persistence of the dichotomizing frame of mind that, even in Eastern Europe, the “world conflict” that endured for seventy years was frequently seen in terms of the opposition between these systems. And because they are systems, it is often supposed that they are organically unified—that you cannot embrace any part of one of them without embracing the whole of it. But let it be said at the outset, that, from the standpoint of our present predicament, nothing is more obvious about these systems than the fact that they are, in their presuppositions, substantially the same.
Each of them proposes a description of our condition, and an ideal solution to it, in terms which are secular, abstract, universal, and egalitarian. Each sees the world in “desacralized” terms, in terms which, in truth, correspond to no lasting common human experience, but only to the cold skeletal paradigms that haunt the brains of intellectuals. Each is abstract, even when it pretends to a view of human history. Its history, like its philosophy, is detached from the concrete circumstance of human agency, and, indeed, in the case of Marxism, goes so far as to deny the efficacy of human agency, preferring to see the world asa confluence of impersonal forces. The ideas whereby men live and find their local identity—ideas of allegiance, of country or nation, of religion and obligation—all these are, for the socialist, mere ideology, and for the liberal, matters of “private” choice, to be respected by the state only because they cannot truly matter to the state. …
Each system is also universal. An international socialism is the stated ideal of most socialists; an international liberalism is the unstated tendency of the liberal. To neither system is it thinkable that men live, not by universal aspirations but by local attachments; not by a “solidarity” that stretches across the globe from end to end, but by obligations that are understood in terms which separate men from most of their fellows—in terms such as national history, religion, language, and the customs that provide the basis of legitimacy. Finally—and the importance of this should never be underestimated—both socialism and liberalism are, in the last analysis, egalitarian. They both suppose all men to be equal in every respect relevant to their political advantage. For the socialist, men are equal in their needs, and should therefore be equal in all that is granted to them for the satisfaction of their needs. For the liberal, they are equal in their rights, and should therefore be equal in all that affects their social and political standing. …”