The problem with liberalism, explained

From a speech by William Voegeli at Hillsdale College on October 9, 2014:

The problem with liberalism may be that no one knows how to get the government to do the benevolent things liberals want it to do. Or it may be, at least in some cases, that it just isn’t possible for the government to bring about what liberals want it to accomplish. As the leading writers in The Public Interest began demonstrating almost 50 years ago, the intended, beneficial consequences of social policies are routinely overwhelmed by the unintended, harmful consequences they trigger. It may also be, as conservatives have long argued, that achieving liberal goals, no matter how humane they sound, requires kinds and degrees of government coercion fundamentally incompatible with a government created to secure citizens’ inalienable rights, and deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.

I don’t reject any of those possibilities, or deny the evidence and logic adduced in support of each. But my assessment of how the liberal project has been justified in words, and rendered in deeds, leads me to a different explanation for why, under the auspices of liberal government, things have a way of turning out so badly. I conclude that the machinery created by the politics of kindness doesn’t work very well—in the sense of being economical, adaptable, and above all effective—because the liberals who build, operate, defend, and seek to expand this machine don’t really care whether it works very well and are, on balance, happier when it fails than when it succeeds.

Pious preening is just so satisfying.

Voegeli’s latest book is The Pity Party: A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion.

  • One Hand Clapping

    I too was impressed by Voegeli’s speech. “All conservatives are painfully aware that liberal activists….have successfully weaponized compassion. ‘I am a liberal,’ Garrison Keillor wrote, ‘and liberalism is the politics of kindness.’ Obama said, ‘Kindness covers all of my political beliefs.’ ”
    Being “cruel, greedy, and callous” is a hard sobriquet for conservatives to dispel.