Ever since the French Revolution, radical “equality” and conservative “liberty” have opposed each other as the defining agendas of Left and Right. For radicals, freedom is the power to redefine human destiny and has invariably meant, the surrender of individual autonomy to the radical project, to collective truth and the “progressive” idea. For conservatives, in contrast, liberty is relief for the individual from collective power. It is secured by “negative rights,” by limits to government. Liberty is made possible by the civilizing bonds of social order, and restraints on the coercive power of civil authority.The conservative goal is democratic, but it is also circumspect and modest (and so, deeply unsatisfying to the radical soul). Better to live with some injustices than, by seeking perfect justice, create a world with none. This is the political caution that has been etched in blood on the historical ledger of the last 200 years. It is the lesson the Left refuses to learn. It is this refusal that makes radicals the dangerous reactionaries of the post-modern world.
This very denial of history, however, also creates the political mask that allows leftists to appear as social reformers. Refusing to acknowledge any connection to the destructive consequences of their radical faith, the Left has been able to hijack the vocabulary of political discourse, to appropriate the terms “democratic” and “progressive,” and now even “liberal” and “market,” and to frame its agendas in the misleading imagery of “social justice.” The Left flies under permanently false colors. It is neither liberal nor progressive, and the justice it promises is achievable only through political coercion and totalitarian terror.
Despite the Left’s surface adjustment to historical realities in the post-Communist era, the character of its project remains stubbornly the same. This project, as before, is antithetic to the American paradigm and the stoic realism in which its liberties are grounded. The opposition is so fundamental that even those left-wing revisionists who have accepted a part of the democratic achievement, and call themselves “democratic socialists,” reveal a profound and dedicated hostility to the American founding and its political truths.
– The Politics of Bad Faith
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