Ten Liberal Tenets

Geoffrey Stone, distinguished law professor, former dean of the law school, and former provost of the University of Chicago, finds it “appalling” that

“liberal” has become a pejorative. Part of the problem is that liberals have failed to define themselves and to state clearly what they believe.

He thus proceeds to list ten propositions that he believes define liberalism today. Only two of the ten make any reference at all to racial equality, the second and the fifth:

2. Liberals believe individuals should be tolerant and respectful of difference. It is liberals who have supported and continue to support the civil rights movement, affirmative action, the Equal Rights Amendment, and the rights of gays and lesbians….

5. Liberals believe government must respect and affirmatively safeguard the liberty, equality and dignity of each individual. It is liberals who have championed and continue to champion the rights of racial, religious, and ethnic minorities, political dissidents, persons accused of crime, and the outcasts of society. It is liberals who have insisted on the right to counsel, a broad application of the right to due process of law, and the principle of equal protection for all people.

With regard to No. 2, Stone does not reconcile support for “the civil rights movement” during its long career when it stood for the colorbind principle of treating every individual “without regard” for race, creed, or national origin and its later career when, under the rubric of “affirmative action,” it has come to stand for the opposite principle — taking race into account at every opportunity and distributing burdens and benefits based on it.

With regard to No. 5, he similarly does not reconcile safeguarding the equality of “each individual” with championing “the rights of racial, religious, and ethnic minorities,” presumably as groups, since that is the basis on which the claimed rights of affirmative action and racial preference are based.

Those failures to address irreconcilable principles of racial equality stand out because liberalism’s abandonment of the traditional principle of colorblind equality has played such a prominent role in producing its current philosophical incoherence and causing “the word ‘liberal’ [to] become a pejorative.”

Say What? (3)

  1. superdestroyer October 8, 2006 at 7:04 pm | | Reply

    I also found it ironic that Dr Stone talked about respecting others and having an open debate at a time when conservative talk show hosts in Seattle have been quieted by campaign finance reform and anti-illegal immigration proponents have been forced off the stage at Columbia University.

    I also how he reconciles his support for protecting the constitution with hate speech laws and universtiy speech codes? I doubt that he would support the rights of students to have an Affirmative Action bake sale.

  2. Richard Nieporent October 9, 2006 at 9:32 am | | Reply

    Au contraire, my dear Professor Stone. The reason liberals are held in contempt is because we know exactly what you stand for. Rather than helping minorities, Liberals patronize them and treat them as the white man’s burden. You attempt to keep them from succeeding so that you can get their votes by claiming to be their champion. Rather than attempt to improve relations between groups, Liberals promote racial, religious and class animosity in the guise of affirmative action. When if comes to foreign affairs, Liberals will support even the most tyrannical foreign governments over their own government. To quote John Hinderaker from Power Line “one must recognize that he [Garrison Keillor] is one of a growing number of liberals for whom liberalism mostly means hate.

  3. Anita October 10, 2006 at 9:38 am | | Reply

    everyone in liberal democracies is a liberal (except for self proclaimed nazis, etc), in the sense that we all believe in representative government, non racism, equality under the law, freedom of speech and all that. What is described today as liberal is not really liberal in that it often has nothing to do with liberal principles. It is defined mainly by a hatred of the west and the US and a conviction that those parts of the world are responsible for all human ills and that everyone non western or non judeo-christian is superior (how is not clear since their superiority is certainly not based on adherence to any liberal principles as defined above).

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