A full and free life?

So let’s say you have a town that is taken over by a fundamentalist sect that excludes all peoples not of the faith, forces women into burka-like clothing, imposes a theocratic legal code, and ostracizes gays and lesbians. You might say that everyone is there voluntarily, but, even so, there is no liberalism present in this social arrangement at all. The brutalists will be on the front lines to defend such a microtyranny on grounds of decentralization, rights of property, and the right to discriminate and exclude—completely dismissing the larger picture here that, after all, people’s core aspirations to live a full and free life are being denied on a daily basis.


The key word here is free. To the liberal, an individual ought to be free to live as he likes so long as he remains an individual—so long as he does not become a part of something more than himself.

There are people who believe that the full life demands a theocratic legal code and so on, and who take up arms toward this goal. How can anyone believe that the full life prohibits it, without retreating into psychoanalysis? (This psychoanalytic mode, of course, has two options: it can either presuppose that actual disagreement, actual difference, is impossibleall are like us, but some just haven’t realized it yetor establish a hierarchy under which those who are like us are normal/superior and those who are not are defective.)

‘Libertarian humanitarianism’ is liberalismand liberalism reveals itself here as a set of object-level principles contrasting with the meta-principles of ‘brutalism’. Some believe that liberalism is value-neutral, and liberalism sometimes markets itself as such, but the phrase “a full and free life”as if the two could never be contradictory!demonstrates that it’s not.

It probably doesn’t even realize it.

Added: Relevant.

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