LIBERALISM AND “THE ECONOMIST”

Armando Ribas,

September, 2018


I am glad to see that The Economist is wondering the liberal principles that changed the world and starting with it wrote: “Liberalism made the modern world, and the modern world is turning against it”. That sentence is a real description of what happened in history, and what is actually happenning. In the first place is the recognition that the ideas of liberalism were the base on which wealth was created for the first time in history, only about 200 yers ago. And in that sence it is also true that it seems that the left has monopolized the ethic in the western world based on the fallacy of looking for equality. That is the role of socialism that prevails in the European Union. And comming back to the liberal principles let’s keep in mind the sentence of Richar Epstein written in CATO: “The principles included in the classical liberal constitution are not that operate in this or that era. There are principles for the era”.

On the other hand it is clarifiying the confusión liberalism and conservatism prevailing in the United States. There the Americans call the socialists liberals and the liberals conservatists. But then let me remind that liberalism started in England with the ideas of John Locke, who started by recognizing the need to control political power . In the British case by reducing the prerogatives of the Kings who were men also.

Following that main priciple he reconized the need to respect private property rights and also the right to the pursuance of happiness, which he considered the main principle of liberty. In his Letter of Toleration he also recognized religion freedom and he wrote: “I do not think that anyone can go to heaven with a religion in which he does no believe”.

There is no doubt that the other thinker that recognized the ideas that changed the world was David Hume who started by recognizing human nature and he said: “It is impossible to change or correct anything material in our nature, the utnost we can do is to change our circunstances and situation”. And respecting private property he said: “It would be a greater cruelty to dispossessess a man of anything than not to give it to him”. And in that respect he made an important conclusion: “We have now run over the three fundamental laws of nature, that of the stability of possession, of its transference by consent, and of the performance of promises”.

And then came Adam Smith who brought the idea of what he called the invisible hand and he wrote: “By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it”. This has been a basic principle of the creation of wells in the world. And obviously it is also based on the the right to the pursuance of happiness. History has shown that when it is the government to pretend to distribute wealls there is more poverty, what has been shown by the communist governments in the world. And another principle that has been a principal one in history is what he said about justice: “When the judicial is united to the executive power, it is scarce possible that justice should not frequently be sacrificed to what is vulgary called politics”.

All those principles were carried out by the Founding Fathers in the United States, and in so doing, under the banner of liberty it became the first economy in the world. It was mainly James Madison who recognized the above principles in the letter 51 of the Federalist Papers where he wrote: “But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external or internal controul on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is no doubt the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions”.

In that long sentence we find the principles above mentioned. They never mention the authors of them, I sould say because Hume was agnostic and the Americans were religious. And in this issue we find again Adam Smith when he said that there will be religion freedom when there were multiplicity of the sects. That was the case of the United States where the protestans had multiplicity of sects.

The other important principle recognized by the Foundingg Fathers was the respect for the individual rigths: “Life, liberty, property rights and the right to the pursuance of happiness”. And in that sence Alexander Hamilton said: “A dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people”. Hence individual rights are not the same than the prevailing myst of human rights. And in that sence Hamilton concluded that the zeal for the rigts of the people has been the road to the introduction of despotism.

And coming back to the need to control government the Americans introduced a fundamental principle of the Rule of Law, that was called the Judicial Review. That principle was also reconized by Hamilton who wrote: “A Constitution is in fact , and must be regarded by the judges, a fundamental law... No legislative act therefore contrary to the constitution can be valid”.

Those priciples were originally establish by Judge Marshall in the case of Marbury vs. Madison where he decided: “All those who have framed written constitutions contemplate them as forming the fundamental and paramount law of the nation, and consequently the theory of every such government must be, than an act of the legislature, repugnant to the constitution, is void. It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department, to say what the law is”.

I dare to say that those principles of the judicial review have been ignored in the rest of the world. And that was recognized by Ayn Rand, who said that the Anglo American political Philosophy and the German French one are as different as the day and the night. And that is the reason why there is no doubt tha the so called Western Christian civilization is a fallacy in history. That is why Peter Drucker wrote: “As diffused and falacious as the believe that the Enlightment generated the liberty in the XIX century is the believe that the American Revolution was based on the same principles that the French Revolution and that it was effectively its predecessor”.

The French Revolution was the origen of totalitarianism, that is, the rationalization of despotism through the so called the Goddess Reason. And coming back to political philophy allow me to make some quote of the German-French one. Rousseau: “Just as nature gives each man absolute power over the parts of his body, the social pact gives the body politic abolute power over its members; Sovereignty”. Kant: “From this there follow the proposition that the sovereign of a state has only rights in relation to the subject, and not cohersive duties. Indeed, even the actual constitution cannot contain any article which might make it possible for some other power within the state to resist or hold in check the supreme executive in cases where he violates the constitutional law”. Hegel: “The state is the divine idea as is manifested on earth...War is the ethical moment of society”.

Finally came Karl Marx who after recognizing that: “The bourgeoisy, during is rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more collosal productive forces than have all preceding generations together”. He ethically disqualified the capitalim for being the explotation of man by man. Then came communism and later Eduard Bernstein who in his book The Preconditions of Socialism wrote: “Democracy is both men and end. It is a weapon in the struggle for socialism, and it is the form in which socialism will be realized”. Then came the democratic socialism that is prevailing today in the European Union. And in accordance with the actual perception of The Economist, in a recent article of Foreign Affairs Fareed Zakaria wrote “Populism is on the March”. Populism of the left: socialism and of the right: nationalism.

Last but not least let me congratulate The Economist for its perception of the political situation in the world and its defence of the liberalism principles as the origing of the modern world.