Contemporary dimensions of liberal politics [29 September 2004]

Contemporary dimensions of liberal politics (the translated text is a fragment of the Ivan Todorov's text)

[…]The equality is a liberal value, which the left and the right liberals interpret in different ways.
The liberals are unanimous that in fundamental sense all human beings are equal and they should be considered in the same way, and the arbitrary inequality is morally repulsive at least. All humans deserve equal protection and respect of their rights and the only condition in witch the non equipollent attitude and protection are admissible, is then only, when the protection of the human rights as a whole is needed.
This basic consent marks the verge, after which the interpretation of the liberal equality takes on different ways. The main liberal debate, concerning the problem, is whether the protection of equality requires equalization of the opportunity of every member of the society to profit from the goods produced by this society or equalization of the results of efforts made in order this opportunity to be utilized. The classical liberalism is emphatically clear on this matter – equality at the beginning, inequality at the final ( or rather, during the lifetime). The neo-liberals such as von Mises, F.A. Hayek, R. Nozick support this idea. Generally speaking, they consider that the legal frame should be established, and within it limits every one should possess an equal opportunity to realize his potentials and qualities, and thence the free market mechanisms, the individual ambition and diligence and even the chance will determine his social position and material status. The contemporary social liberals such as J. Rawls, L. T. Hobhouse, R. Dworkin etc., on other hand, think that the free market elemental forces lead mainly to social injustice and unfounded inequality. They believe that the state should intervene in order to correct these detrimental social processes and to support those members of the society who are not able to cope alone… The main aim of the liberal social engineering, when it is implementing, is the support of the individual initiative and enterprise. Because the most important thinks in the social life are generated not by the state’s initiative, but by the individual imagination, will and enterprise. This is the liberal idea, and this is the conception that distinguishes even the left liberals from the social-democrats. […]
[…]If the current policy be continued the liberal democracy, which we enjoy now, gradually will transform in a social system, in which some particular groups demand rights and goods to be granted to them, which the majority of the people do not enjoy, without any work to be done or particular obligation to be fulfilled. Even if their enterprise and initiative could not be developed and encouraged at the moment, all the same this is the main idea of the just distribution of wealth and social support in a long-term plan. The pretensions of different minority groups are legitimized in the main by the fact that in the past or at presents these parts of the society, for some reason or other, were or are denied the rights or goods due to them. The demand for equal treatment of course is valid. But further the main feeling, which is used and on its base the society is manipulated, is the compassion, and mostly the sensation for guilt for the injustice, which had been done before. The trouble is that once when these individuals get used with receiving the goods, on this base, they do not use them for revealing and training of their skills, talents and enterprise, but this people become lazy and always complaining human beings, constantly bemoaning their fate, intelligibly joyless in the past, but more than bearable at the present. The aid, which they received, no matter whether as compensation for the previous unfairness or for encouraging their autonomous existence, gradually become to be accepted as a naturally deserved, and often as time goes by as insufficient. Every government seriously puts its own stability in jeopardy, if it try to restrict the aid given to particular groups, which has been given in the time when it was really necessary and which in the course of time has become a privilege. […]

Ivan R. Todorov

(on pictures:
- F. A. Hayek
- John Rawls)

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