Top legal blogging chap, Jack of Kent, has – in his glory and pomp – issued a definitive definition on his blog. Not to do with the law but an answer – nay a revelation – “what is liberalism?” Forget about the great minds of the past who have pondered the meaning of liberal and liberalism – Jack has given us the definition. In short, easy to digest sentences:
Flowing from this priority placed on human autonomy then come the more practical applications of liberalism: due process, equality and diversity, freedom of expression on public matters, a private space on personal matters, free movement of peoples, internationalism, free trade, an evidenced-based approach to policy and law making, and so on.
Now because I’m a good boy and not as clever as Jack, I’m going to accept his definition of liberalism (even though I don’t entirely agree). Which is why I know Jack isn’t a liberal. He wrote this:
The ongoing economic crisis is a good moment to test this faith in the Market deity
It is as if the invisible hand has let us all go and started slapping us instead. One really must now have doubts that the Market is omnibenevolent, even if it retains the other two usual attributes.
No-one who claims to be a liberal should hold these views. You cannot be selective in your choice of liberal viewpoints and it is as illiberal to reject the free market as Jack does here as it is to reject freedom in sexuality, worship or diet.
But then, even in his glorious defining statement, Jack falls back on that old leviathan:
The liberal endorses an individual's autonomy unless there is a greater public interest in interfering with that autonomy.
So I can do what I want so long as the Government (or Jack) doesn’t think I shouldn’t do that something. I hate to tell you, Jack, that ain’t liberalism. It's social democracy.
But then, what do I know, I’m not a liberal!