Kant once wrote that liberalism leads to a more “pacific union” of states, as liberals believe in and work towards the creation of republics that are cosmopolitan in nature. Kant, however, is long dead. And while his works were foundational to modern ethics, his view of liberalism is perhaps, well… wrong. One need only examine the nature of the modern liberal state, which places emphasis on the importance of human rights, social justice, and unbridled free trade, all seemingly commendable features of a state, but look a little deeper, past the facade of presidents and prime ministers shaking hands and signing trade deals, and you see that what is a seemingly egalitarian political ideology is, in reality, just another vehicle for the desires of corporate interest and the hegemony of a specific class of people.
America, in all its wonder, is a prime example of the inherent flaws within liberalism. This is not an indictment of this country, far from it. America is a country I’m proud to be a citizen of and provided my family opportunities we wouldn’t have had somewhere else – here’s to you, pre-Celtic Tiger Ireland! And we shouldn’t forget that liberalism, and liberals in general, have accomplished a number of incredible things. These include the United Nations (sort of an accomplishment, more on this later), an abundance of friends globally that work with and for the US, and of course, my favorite, Noam Chomsky. Yet for every accomplishment, there is a laundry list of blunders and mishaps that have had lasting effects on people – at home and abroad. NAFTA and CAFTA, Vietnam (the war, not the state), the bizarrity that is the One China “policy/principle”, the 2008 global recession, the TPP, the list goes on and on, a veritable rap sheet of all the times liberal ideologies lead politicians astray. Perhaps, then, it might be better to understand how this seemingly perfect, “completely” pacific ideal has caused so much harm.
To start, let’s talk about this weird obsession liberal states have for the use of free trade as another tool in their belt. Free trade, to me, means one thing: capitalism. And while I know no one wants to hear another rant by a privileged college student, I promise to keep it short. Free trade and capitalism, a real dynamic duo, are, by their nature, exploitative of workers and require mass levels of consumption to sustain themselves. Like some intense, super literal reading of de Tocqueville, the dynamic duo believe that destruction gives way to life. Much to my own dismay, and many other people whose political views tend to be more red, they have done just that. But they have done so by contradicting themselves. The behemoth that is the American market has risen to such a height through the exploitation of workers across the world and the destruction of the Earth (aka, where we all live). Trade deals like the ones mentioned above work to benefit a specific class of people, that being the wealthy business exacts and politicians who craft and push forward these policies on the unsuspecting droves of hardworking industrialists; the farmer who wakes up early to sow his crop, the assembly line workers welding and bolting American cars, all types of people who relied on these jobs to put food on their table and a roofs over their head, put second to the profit of faceless corporations and LLCs.
The death of the American working class, as it seems, came at the hands of globalization – a feature of liberal economics that stresses the importance of moving production and trade around the world to develop a nation; however, like many other features of liberalism, it exists for the benefit of the ruling class. What’s most interesting is where the methods of production ship off to, places like China, Vietnam, Slovenia, and Mexico, a list of Donald Trump’s favorite places to complain about stealing our jobs…and also where most of his products come from. But it’s interesting because these states have very relaxed workers rights, like Slovenia’s monthly minimum wage of €790 (~$832 at the time of writing), and who could forget China’s prison work camps. That iPhone’s not so incredible when you find out it was built by a political prisoner making little to no money. The trade deals we cut hurt our fellow citizens the most, look at the Rustbelt states that voted with such fervor for Donny, look at places like Michigan, which used to be alive with workers on the assembly line. Now, instead of cars, Detroit gives us Eminem. Also, I’m pretty sure that city has been on fire for the last twenty years and I don’t think it’s from the Marshal Mathers LP. Pretty sure it’s just real fire now.
But enough on the horrors of free trade, let’s look at the really scary stuff: peace. Liberals constantly pat themselves on the back for their work in peacebuilding and social justice. Just look at how far they’ve come: they created, and then destroyed, East Berlin, saved everyone from the evils of Communism in Vietnam, and applause are of course due for their work in the Middle East. Liberals rely heavily on the democratic peace theory, which postulates that liberal states will always be peaceful in interactions with one another but no so much with everyone else. And these past few decades can attest to that. For all the glory the American liberal believes they have earned, it falls short when we examine Rwanda, Bosnia, and more recently Syria. Liberals have a grand tradition of putting their own interests over the safety of others, and nothing shows this more than the UN operations within Rwanda or Bosnia, where soldiers were unable to act justly in the face of grievous humanitarian crises because of regulations put in place to “respect the autonomy” of the state (Sad!).
Human rights are an important part of the liberal ideology, which perceives itself to be cosmopolitan in nature with its relations to foreign policy. But, at least in my lifetime, American statecraft under liberals has faltered. One need only examine the Obama years, where promises of active dialogue between Israel and Palestine were put on the back-burner and left there to simmer. And like most things left on back-burners to simmer, they burnt. America’s abstinence from the most recent vote by the Security Council on Resolution 2334 is a fine display of a liberals tendency to overcompensate when they realize they’ve failed on keeping their promise. This isn’t to say I don’t support this move, and while this piece isn’t about Israel(another liberal state) and Palestine, the settlements in Palestine are one of the greatest threats to a peaceful two-state solution.
Getting back on track, when the US refused to follow its historical policy and not veto in defense of Israeli actions into Palestine, it put an excess of strain on an already tensing relationship that America and Israel are crafting under the Netanyahu and Obama administrations. The list, however, continues. Guantanamo Bay, literally everything the CIA did in South America during the 1970s and 80s, and, most strikingly, the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts that managed to make an already unstable part of the world even more unstable.What’s perhaps more alarming is how candidly these operations were disguised as intervention for the promotion of democracy, when in reality it was just more American imperialism abroad. Y’all know Dick Cheney and Halliburton/KBR made close to $38.9 billion during the Iraq war, right? For all its glory, the Democratic Peace theory works one way, and only on the terms and for the benefit of liberal states dictate.
And now, if I may, could I please direct your attention to the poster child of liberal ineptitude: the United Nations. For what it’s worth, the UN has provided a forum for dialogue that has likely resolved many conflicts peacefully, but aside from a few regional discrepancies, what more? At its core, the UN lacks any true power to enforce its non-binding resolutions, and more so, the ones that may have a meaningful impact on a specific issue (look at Syria). This could perhaps be remedied by removing the veto power of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, you know, China, Russia, France, England, and the US, but the last time someone floated that idea, they all threatened to withdraw funding. Not to mention that these five made their permanent residency on the Security Council a stipulation for them even considering joining back in 1945.
Furthermore, the UN’s Security Council is a vestige of a time when diplomats had guts and gusto, when clever policy and closed door meetings were done to accomplish something other than increasing profit margins for those involved. In essence, unless we all come together and submit to a supranational government or the Security Force is given power to substantively intervene into conflicts, the UN is likely to keep puttering on at its same slow space, putting out policy that has no real benefit. I mean, Mauritania officially outlawed slavery in 1981, but their government is arresting anti-slavery protesters and denying they have some 10-20% of their population still in shackles, hows that for a kick in the gonads, Mr. Ban Ki Moon?
But all this is in vain if I don’t explain this rant. I understand that national liberalism is different from its international cousin, but I am so sick of being called a liberal because I don’t care what bathroom someone uses and I think it’s a pretty fucked up some old white guys in D.C. can tell women what they can and can’t do with their bodies. Sharing a similar progressive agenda doesn’t mean someone endorses or agrees, tacitly or not, to the many different aspects of liberalism that have – if this essay has done even the slightest in proving – caused tremendous amounts of chaos and conflict.
The modern American liberal is, categorically, white, middle class to upper class, and likely voted for Clinton in the primary. There is a certain smugness of self-proclaimed liberals, often toting how godless they are and the infallibility of their near scientific method when it comes to their rhetorical skills, i.e. complain and do nothing. But please don’t let this post make you think I support conservatism, or Republicans for that matter. I don’t want people thinking I support conservatism because 1.) I experience empathy for other human beings and 2.) my parents raised me right. And I definitely am not a republican. Definitely. Not.
…Anyway, as we venture down these next four years, with Donny and his gang of swamp drainers – I think they’re using a syphon because they’re collectively worth $4.5 billion, and that’s without his two final picks – can we please stop lumping everyone who didn’t vote for an orange Cheeto in with liberals and democrats? Maybe you guys could take a look at the Green Party, American Socialist Party, and, hell, maybe even the Libertarians if they can get rid of Gary Johnson.
Honestly, I don’t really care who you voted for, it’s your right and duty to vote. Just please, please, next time we’re talking politics and I say “The Don is a racist, egomaniac who has no sense of how politics works”, could you not call me a Liberal?