Conservatives often blame liberals for the breakdown in society today. After all, liberals challenged an order that existed and replaced it with a situation that is now unraveling.
This unraveling can be traced to the efforts of liberal activists to influence legislation and elections and to liberal control of the media that shape the debate.
The fragmented and polarized state of society is proof that something has gone terribly wrong.
Defining the Liberal Mindset
However, it is not only the activism that has caused the social decay of institutions, manners and communities. It is a mindset that determines the course of their action. Understanding the characteristics of the liberal mind helps people grasp the nature of the crisis.
This is not easy to do since liberal thought can be defined by its lack of definition and love of ambiguity Such characteristics might also be shocking because they cross party lines and include people from all walks of life. The premises of this mindset come from the classical liberal philosophy that is widely accepted by everyone. Only when these premises are taken to their final consequences, do the harmful effects become evident. The damage is now everywhere.
A Gradualist Progression Away from the Truth
One characteristic of the liberal mind is its gradualist progression away from the objective truth. In its early stages, the liberal mind does not deny the existence of objective truth outright. Instead, liberals deplore its rigidity. Instead, they offer half-truths that mitigate the hard-hearted attitudes of conservatives, smoothing the slide into error. The liberal mind likewise does not initially embrace error but is drawn toward and harbors sympathy for it.
Thus, the liberals might defend private property, but support excessive taxation on those who have large properties. They would oppose crime but propose leniency for felons because of imagined injustices they might have suffered.
The liberal mind is constantly looking for half-truths to appear more compassionate and kind.
Searching for Conclusions that Please
A second characteristic of the liberal mind is that it does not seek objective and external truths that explain reality. Liberals seek instead only those conclusions that please them. They search for perspectives that fit their temperaments, lifestyles and ways of being. These are the thoughts that guide their lives.
This liberal mind is perfectly expressed by the famous Supreme Court decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey which stated: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
A Distorted Vision of Freedom
The liberal mind gives rise to a mode of action which is easily defined. The foundation of liberal action is a distorted vision of freedom that consists of doing only what one wants to do.
Thus, liberal action tends to be relativistic and subjective, following the whims of the individual. It can be imaginative and fantasy-driven when a person takes the action to its final consequences.
Liberal action is also characterized by a spirit of doubt toward that which does not correspond to personal whims. Such doubt, however, is never directed toward that which does not please liberal whims.
A Dislike of Rules and Laws
The final characteristic of the liberal mind is a dislike of rules and laws. Law by definition is restrictive.
Law consists of those reasonable precepts coming from a competent authority to which all must conform for the sake of the common good. Rules and laws upset the liberal mind, which feels attacked by them.
Thus, liberals dislike anything that imposes restraint such as laws, manners or morals. In more advanced stages, even the restrictive nature of clothing or grammar can irritate the sensibilities of the liberal mindset.
This explains the liberal hostility to the Church and traditional notions of religion. God is the First Lawgiver and punishes those who sin against His Commandments. The liberal mind prefers a god for whom nothing is a sin. This god is one of the liberals own making. In their view, he radiates compassion, not justice.
A Common Trait
While these four psychological characteristics differ, they do have a common trait. They all are self-centered.
What governs liberal minds and actions are the dictates of each individual’s ideas, tastes and desires. The individual is the center of everything. Each person determines right and wrong, truth and error.
The Descent to Anarchy
Up to this point, the liberal order has survived because it lived off of the firm foundations of a Christian moral order. The moral influence of the Church, natural law and other institutions served to temper the disordered ideas, tastes and desires of individuals. The adverse effects of the liberal mind were mitigated by its gradualism. As long as the most extreme liberal elements stayed in the zone of half-truths, society could absorb their destructive influence.
The problem today is that half-truths now dominate and error is pushing the envelope ever closer to chaos. The liberal mind naturally leads to anarchy when taken to its final consequences. It admits no authority other than its own. It will accept no law nor respect any institution that encroaches upon the individual “right” to do whatever one wants.
Everyone wonders why the nation is polarized and fragmented. As social bonds decay, there is no unifying principle in society save that of self-centeredness. Everyone becomes increasingly isolated, lonely and frustrated.
In the words of philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, the world becomes “nothing but a meeting place for individual wills, each with its own set of attitudes and preferences and who understand that world solely as an arena for the achievement of their own satisfaction, who interpret reality as a series of opportunities for their enjoyment.”
John Horvat II is a scholar, researcher, educator, international speaker, and author of the book Return to Order, as well as the author of hundreds of published articles. He lives in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania where he is the vice president of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.