What makes a Liberal?

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
What makes a Liberal?
Fri, 10-22-2004 - 11:42am

What makes a liberal?
Dennis Prager (back to web version)

August 12, 2003

Why do people hold liberal-left positions? (Liberal and left were once very different, but not anymore.)

This question has plagued me because I have long believed that most people, liberal or conservative, mean well. Very few people wake up in the morning planning to harm society. Yet, many liberal positions -- I emphasize liberal positions rather than liberals because most people who call themselves liberal do not hold most contemporary liberal positions -- have been wreaking havoc on America and the world.

How, then, can decent and often very smart people hold liberal positions?

There are many reasons, but the two greatest may be naivete and narcissism. Each alone causes problems, but when combined in the same person, they are particularly destructive.

At the heart of liberalism is the naive belief that people are basically good. As a result of this belief, liberals rarely blame people for the evil they do. Instead, they blame economics, parents, capitalism, racism, and anything else that can let the individual off the hook.

A second naive liberal belief is that because people are basically good, talking with people who do evil is always better than fighting, let alone killing, them. "Negotiate with Saddam," "Negotiate with the Soviets," "War never solves anything," "Think peace," "Visualize peace" -- the liberal mind is filled with naive cliches about how to deal with evil.

Indeed, the very use of the word "evil" greatly disturbs liberals. It shakes up their child-like views of the world, that everybody is at heart a decent person who is either misunderstood or led to do unfortunate things by outside forces.

"Child-like" is operative. The further left you go, the less you like growing up. That is one reason so many professors are on the left. Never leaving school from kindergarten through adulthood enables one to avoid becoming a mature adult. It is no wonder a liberal professor has recently argued that children should have the vote. He knows in his heart that he is not really an adult, so why should he and not a chronologic child be allowed to vote?

The second major source of modern liberalism is narcissism, the unhealthy preoccupation with oneself and one's feelings. We live in the Age of Narcissism. As a result of unprecedented affluence and luxury, preoccupation with one's psychological state, and a hedonistic culture, much of the West, America included, has become almost entirely feelings-directed.

That is one reason "feelings" and "compassion" are two of the most often used liberal terms. "Character" is no longer a liberal word because it implies self-restraint. "Good and evil" are not liberal words either as they imply a moral standard beyond one's feelings. In assessing what position to take on moral or social questions, the liberal asks him or herself, "How do I feel about it?" or "How do I show the most compassion?" not "What is right?" or "What is wrong?" For the liberal, right and wrong are dismissed as unknowable, and every person chooses his or her own morality.

A good example of liberal narcissism is the liberal position on abortion. For the liberal, the worth of a human fetus, whether it is allowed to live or to be extinguished, is entirely based on the feelings of the mother. If the mother wants to give birth, the fetus is of incomparable worth; if the mother doesn't, the fetus has the value of a decayed tooth.

There are not many antidotes to this lethal combination of naivete and narcissism. Both are very comfortable states compared to growing up and confronting evil, and compared to making one's feelings subservient to a higher standard. And comfortable people don't like to be made uncomfortable.

Hence the liberal attempt to either erase the Judeo-Christian code or at least remove its influence from public life. Nothing could provide a better example of contemporary liberalism than the liberal battle to remove the Ten Commandments from all public places. Liberals want suggestions, not commandments.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Fri, 10-22-2004 - 11:56am
Aww, that was cute! Prager sure does take his own opinions seriously ;) KJ
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Fri, 10-22-2004 - 12:17pm
Wow, gosh, he really has a way of insulting and demeaning an entire section of the U.S. population. Ridiculous!
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Fri, 10-22-2004 - 12:25pm

Don't waste time worrying about it. I think it's an odd approach to take anyway. Some of these people act like they're applying to a club: I need to act,think, be a certain way and they'll call me "x" and that is good.

It's all stuff and nonsense. I have lived my life, looked around, researched, seen what's what and what society chooses to call me is their business and if they decide it's "good" or "bad", well, that's their problem.

If I am a Liberal, then it's a good thing because my choices and my reasonings are sound.

Don't forget, this guy makes his living off of his opinions. It's a free country and he more than has the right to do so. The condescension in his tone more than indicates that he has fallen in love with his own myth, a hazard of that particular trade.

If people choose to buy into it (under the guise of thinking for themselves), that's their mistake to make.


iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Fri, 10-22-2004 - 12:47pm

By all means take his argument apart and debate it...that's why I posted it.

I think he was rather kind.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Fri, 10-22-2004 - 3:11pm

Crud. I had my response all beautifully laid out and my computer flakes. So you get the short version:

1. It does not logically follow that if someone believes in the basic goodness of humanity that they do not hold people accountable for their actions.

2. Just because someone would rather talk first than fight first doesn't mean they won't fight. I personally believe that fighting should be the last step to take.

3. Perhaps most importantly, this is again an over-simplification of what it means to be a liberal. Yes, liberals do believe that humanity is basically good. However, they also believe in progress and the autonomy of the individual. Those beliefs paired with an undauntable stand for the protection of political and civil rights are what defines Liberalism.

Defining liberals as naive children who actually believe people are good is akin to my saying conservatives are stubborn old fogeys who only want to preserve the establishment. Neither is a true statement.