One reason I am not a liberal is that I disagree with the fundamental assumptions of liberalism as I understand them. Liberalism is the product of late nineteenth century pragmatism/progressivism which eliminated the concept of sin as the cause of human suffering and substituted for it a belief that deprivation is the cause of human suffering. The underlying economic assumption of liberalism is social materialism, i.e., access to basic material goods will empower people to address higher order needs and move toward self-actualization. This philosophy presupposes humanity is moving toward a utopian social/economic democracy. Humanity is destined to solve its problems through the liberation of all people from poverty and other dehumanizing forces. Liberation is fundamentally an economic and educational issue, but not education in the classic sense of the liberal arts [“liberal” in the sense of liberating]. Rather, in this model education centers on mastering the application of the scientific method of problem solving to social ills; “truth is what works.” Through this type of “democratic education” [see John Dewey], social evolution can be accelerated. In short, the origins of liberal philosophy implied the path to utopia is paved with the redistribution of wealth and the control of public education. This philosophy gave birth in 1905 to the National Education Association (NEA) which has been at the center of American liberalism every since.
While I believe in the innate goodness of God’s creation, I do not believe progress is hindered principally by the lack of opportunity. Sin is the primary cause of human suffering and the obstacle to progress toward a just society. I believe progress is possible but not inevitable. I do not believe people can be liberated by government provisions alone. Liberty is a gift of God not of government. I believe human goodness is seen in personal responsibility and responsibility begins at home. I believe people can be inspired by their leaders but that participation in solving their own problems is critical to personal development. I believe personal development is the key to the development of society. If we are going to build a better society we must honor every member of society by recognizing their abilities and their responsibilities for improvement. Thus, I support problem-solving methods in education as they encourage students to accept responsibility for their future. But I find them insufficient to create a vision of a better future.
Another reason I am not a liberal is that liberalism simply does not work. I am not only convinced it does not work; I believe the liberal philosophy actually dehumanizes people and tends to lock them into a cycle of dependency. It does this by (2) convincing them they have no responsibility for their situation and (2) creating within them a self-image of dependency.
Having laid out my core arguments against liberalism, I need to now offer a brief critique of conservativism. Conservatives have a tendency to forget their cornerstone commitment (there are truths and values that must be conserved for future generations) and to over emphasize their secondary commitment which is to individual freedom and this at the expense of the needs of the suffering. A primary value in Western civilization for thousands of years is that the powerful have a debt to the powerless to ensure their safety and well-being. Too often conservatives proclaim “a hand-up; not a hand-out” and use it as a slogan to hide unbridled greed. Conservatives are often guilty reducing human values to a few flashpoint issues such as abortion. More grievous than sins of reduction, is the conservative tendency to identify itself with free market capitalism as the holy grail of human happiness. If liberals are guilty of a materialism that emphasizes sharing the wealth as the measure of goodness, many conservatives are equally guilty in their glorification of the hording of wealth. Material possessions are simply the wrong starting point for defining liberty and human wellbeing.