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Liberal Pluralism Explains Ethnocide of Europeans

John Rawls, 1937

This is a transcript of the talk I gave at the 2023 American Renaissance Conference. This talk is based on a long article published at The UNZ Review this past July.


I don’t think anyone here will doubt that the most important political question of our times is why Europeans are embracing diversity and destroying their ethno-cultural identity. The answer to this question, I am going to argue today, is to be found in the unique ideology of Western liberal pluralism and its principle that all humans are alike in their innate freedom to decide for themselves their values and lifestyles. Liberalism does not advocate any moral doctrine about the meaning of life, the fundamental nature of reality, or what is best for humans. It advocates only for a political setting within which every person is equally free to make decisions about the “good life” based on their conscience as long as they don’t seek to undermine the political setting within which this pluralism is possible.

Blaming cultural Marxism is a preferable option among dissidents, because the dissident right, lacking an ideology of its own, an alternative doctrine with fully developed concepts and moral values, is fundamentally dependent on liberalism, believing it can return to an earlier version of this ideology when it co-existed with ethnic-nationalist prejudices, as testified by its acceptance a few decades ago of white-only immigration policies.

According to Paul Gottfried, one of the popularizers of the term cultural Marxism, the Left managed over the 20C, almost imperceptibly, to create a whole new form of governance, a “therapeutic” state with a capacity to engineer progressive souls via multiple educational and social programs imposed from above, along with regulations and speech codes, with trained bureaucrats exacting major penalties against those in violation of politically correct mandates.

We will see that this betrays a misunderstanding of the inherent moral ideals of liberalism.

Traditionalists – I am thinking of Alain De Benoist, Kerry Bolton, and Alexander Dugin — have been the only ones to insist that liberalism remains the dominant ideology in the West and that it is responsible for undermining every collective (racial and sexual) identity in the West. But traditionalists tend to view liberalism as an economic doctrine of capitalist individualism without adequately appreciating its ideal of the equal right of human beings to decide for themselves their own values, without being told by a state what to think, what religion to practice, or what choices to make in life.

The conception of liberalism I will be putting forth follows closely John Rawls’s theory of political pluralism. Rawls is recognized as the most substantial and influential political philosopher of the twentieth century. Yet, in the abundant writings of dissidents, Rawls rarely gets a mention, never mind a study. The focus is invariably on Frankfurt intellectuals, postmodernists, globalists, feminists, critical race theorists, spiteful mutants, or politicians of the moment.

Strictly speaking, Rawls “theory” is not about how society ought to be organized, but a systematic treatise on the best way to think about the nature of contemporary pluralist Western cultures. The theory aims to show that the institutionalized principles of political pluralism, if properly understood and acted upon, provide the best moral framework for Westerners to coexist in a state of relative concord despite their political differences.

Rawls’s theory says that, given the moral equality of humans as agents capable of deciding their own lifestyles, they should never be subjected to the political power of another agent without their consent. The public sphere should be characterized by value-pluralism, with everyone enjoying the following “basic liberties”: freedom of belief on all subjects, freedom of association, equal right to participate in politics, equality under the law, and fair equality of opportunity.

When Rawls writes that in our current times these liberties are “fixed” and “correctly settled once and for all”, he means that they are accepted as indisputably true in the mainstream world of Western politics. Doctrines that directly threaten this pluralism will be rightfully suppressed or kept on the margins without much influence.

For all the enforcement upon citizens of politically correct beliefs and behaviors, the essential aim of liberalism remains the emancipation of individuals from all collective constraints, including the removal of unfair conditions for freedom, such as lack of economic opportunities, racial and sexual discrimination, which are believed to curtail the equal expression of basic liberties among citizens, even if this requires regulating speech and behaviour.

Liberalism to this day explicitly rejects a collective conception of the good life. Rawls observes that, under conditions of freedom, divergent individuals will always endorse incompatible religious, philosophical, or moral world views, about what they sincerely think is the best way to find a purpose in life. Respect for the decisions of individuals about their own conception of the good life and the pursuit of happiness is what liberalism is ultimately about. In a liberal society, there can be no shared doctrine or way of life other than a shared conception of the “inalienable” nature of the basic liberties.

Western nations have shown themselves to be fair, Rawls believes, insofar as the public domain within which people express their views has been characterized as “freestanding” wherein the government abstains from imposing the truthfulness of any doctrine, but instead justifies itself to citizens as a neutral arbiter in charge of ensuring the equal right of everyone to express their views under fair conditions.

Rawls makes a crucial distinction between “reasonable” and “unreasonable” doctrines. Doctrines are reasonable insofar as they are committed to fairness in the political domain, even if such doctrines hold illiberal religious views or Platonic metaphysical views about what constitutes “human perfectibility”. Doctrines are unreasonable if they seek to impose collective or illiberal values upon the political domain, or express views that challenge the autonomy and equal liberties of ethnic minorities, women, or LGBT members. Individuals are free to hold doctrines that affirm traditional values about family life, the “five pillars of Islam”, or a strict Hasidic lifestyle. They are also free to create their own private spaces, clubs, engage in group sex, join motorcycle gangs, play video games all day, or become hermits — so long as they do not infringe on the rights of others, or advocate illiberal views that aim to undermine the pluralist liberal domain.

Classical liberalism grew along with, but in growing opposition to, the civic liberal republicanism of ancient Greece and Rome, which did not recognize the equal liberty of individuals but instead insisted on the privilege and duty of citizens with a naturally higher status to participate in the politics of the states. The essential idea of this civic/republican form of freedom, articulated from Aristotle through to Cicero, was that man’s highest nature was realized through his participation in the political life of his community and that only some men were naturally gifted with the honor and self-control to prefer the public good over private/domestic self-indulgence.

During the Middle Ages, this aristocratic-civic liberalism was substantially influenced by the Christian idea that “every human being had been made equally by God”. Republican notions of the public good and the importance of government championing civic virtues, selflessness and benevolence, continued to be held by modern classical liberals through both the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 and the American Revolution of 1776.

But with the expansion of trade and manufactures through the 1700s, and the realization among a new generation of thinkers that the general wellbeing of the society could be improved within competitive markets where self-interested producers are obligated to be efficient and respond to consumer demand, the emphasis of classical liberalism on the benefits of the private pursuit of wealth came to displace the old republican ideal that only civic values could improve the common good.

There is more, however, to classical liberalism than a theory of free markets. The central figure in classical liberalism is John Locke, and the central idea in Locke is not laissez-faire, but the idea that all men, by virtue of their capacity to reason, are born with an “equal right to natural freedom”, and that among the fundamental rights to freedom are “life, liberty, and property”, and that the authority of governments springs from the consent of individuals born with these rights, and that, therefore, governments have an obligation to respect the liberties of individuals, and citizens a right to rebellion if these rights are violated.

John Locke

Locke is also the source of the cardinal principle of liberty of conscience, which is at the root of the liberal pluralism that Rawls accentuates, which says that men, by virtue of their natural rights, have a right to decide for themselves what doctrines they wish to follow. The classical liberalism of Locke was indeed a reaction against the violent, authoritarian impulses of Christendom witnessed during the religious wars of the 1600s, when governments sought to enforce religious uniformity as a way of terminating religions divisions believed to be the cause of civil war.

Since the Glorious Revolution of 1688, liberalism has been marching through every institution in the West leading to the world we inhabit today. Let’s take England, with some references to the US and Canada, as a demonstration of this march. The 1688 revolution enacted a new conception of liberty not valued by the ancients or present in English common law: the right to hold and profess what principles we choose, liberty of conscience, which is the foundational stone of liberal pluralism.

The Toleration Act (1688) started a trajectory that eventually terminated the authoritarian Christian unity of the Middle Ages by extending toleration to nonconformists who did not belong to the established Anglican Church who had pledged loyalty to the British monarch. In the language of Rawls, we can say that it launched a new conception of the public sphere as a “freestanding” domain freed from any collective creed wherein individuals who are “deeply divided by cultural, religious, and moral beliefs” may coexist in a state of tolerance and reciprocity.

With the American Declaration of Independence, notwithstanding the persisting influence of civic republicanism among the founders, we have a more definitive statement of the Lockean doctrine of natural rights. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The Bill of Rights (1791) explicitly limits the government’s authority to infringe on citizen’s right to religious freedom, thought and assembly, and distinctly states that citizens have a right to hold property free from usurpation by the government without compensation, and to equal rights under the law.

A common argument among dissidents wishing to counter the claim that the US was founded on universal values for the benefit of humanity is that the founders, including many of the authors of canonical texts of liberalism, had racial views or held slaves themselves. They point to John Jay’s statement that Americans are “a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs.”

It can’t be denied that there existed a “racial subtext” or a taken-for-granted awareness that only white people, or British descendants, were parties to the social contract. But while the American founding principles did not prohibit slavery, they did provide the principles for its abolition, and for equal civil rights regardless of sex and race.

By the time Lincoln came along, as he himself wrote, “the liberal party throughout the world” disapproved of slavery and thought that it contradicted the values endorsed in the Constitution. There was no need for a new constitution; “amendments” to the original founding documents were enough to set blacks free, grant them citizenship and the vote by 1870. For a long time, the Supreme Court did justify the legality of segregation; nevertheless, slowly and inevitably, the Court would reach the conclusion that race can never be a legitimate ground for legal distinctions, deciding unanimously in 1954 that segregation was contrary to “the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment” and that “separate educational facilities are inherently” illiberal.

Relying on the spirit of Locke, the British would go on to reject in 1829, with the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act, Locke’s prejudicial view that Catholics cannot be loyal, or that men who don’t believe in God are unfit for society. Civil and political rights would henceforth be extended: in 1832 the English Reform Bill reduced property qualifications for voting to include small landowners and shopkeepers; in 1833 black slavery was abolished in the colonies as an inhumane practice that violated the equal moral worth of humans; in 1846 the Religious Disabilities Act was enacted, removing the last restrictions against religious liberty, and in 1858 Jews were granted full equal civil rights.

The free trade mentality of the Corn Laws, the early classical liberal notion that property owners have a right to use their property as they pleased, came under criticism in regards to the employment of children and women, as witnessed in the Factory Laws of 1842 and 1847, which prohibited females and boys under ten years old from working underground in coal mines, and restricted the working hours of women and young persons (13-18) in textile mills to 10 hours per day. The liberal rationale was that such working conditions were damaging to the “moral state” of children, and their ability to develop their faculties to be truly free persons.

John Stuart Mill, who entered Parliament as a Liberal in 1866, would go on to renounce all remaining property qualifications for voting, on the grounds that when a segment of the population, in this case the working classes and women, are excluded from representation in the government, their interests and ideas as individuals with the same natural rights cannot find equal expression. He also advocated for state intervention to bring about a more equitable distribution of wealth and improve thereby the material well being of the greatest number so as to ensure the development of faculties essential for all citizens to actualize their self-autonomy.

John Stuart Mill

He valued unlimited liberty of thought as a way of encouraging humans to employ their rational capacities away from the constraints of social taboos and dogmatic traditional norms. He accepted Harriet Taylor’s feminist argument that in a liberal society it was immoral for men to decide for women their role in society as if they were unequal in innate rights. The Frankfurt School argument that patriarchal families engender “authoritarian personalities” was already implied in Mill’s view that the Victorian family was “a school of despotism”.

The Reform Bill of 1867, put through by the Conservative Party, granted the vote to industrial workers. By this time, across Western Europe, traditional conservatism, as a short-lived ideology that emerged in the wake of the French Revolution of 1789 in defence of clericalism, aristocratic privilege and the divine right of monarchy, had been thoroughly defeated by liberalism. Conservatives would henceforth accept all the fundamental premises of classical liberalism, and its progressive implications, even as they moved at a slower pace. Conservatives and progressives alike had reached the conclusion that democracy is fundamental to give voice to every citizen and to allow them to express their political beliefs freely.  Soon the consensus would be, including among conservatives, that without some “socialist” distribution of economic power, or fairer equality of opportunity, the right to vote amounted to a mere juridical equality without substance.

The realization that the expansion of government services is essential to the actualization of liberal ideals can be seen in the Elementary Education Act of 1870, which established a national system of free public schools for children aged between 5 and 13; the Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1906, which provided compensation to workers for injury during employment; the Old Age Pension Act of 1908, the Minimum Wage Act of 1909, and the National Insurance Act of 1911, which gave benefits to workers during sickness and unemployment.

Legislation in the next few years was aimed at giving women an equal right to seek any civil profession, with divorce and contraception made easier, on the grounds that it was a contradiction to have a constitution affirming the equal rights of all citizens without rendering the wife a fully responsible individual capable of making her own decisions. The post WWII decades would see an expansion of these “new liberal” programs, aimed at ensuring a minimum level of subsistence for all, “from the cradle to the grave”. The National Health Act of 1946 provided free medical services to all, “from duke to dustman”.

The West at large would witness similar legislation aimed at creating equality of liberty. “True individual freedom”, FDR would tell Congress in 1944, “cannot exist without economic security and independence”. By the mid-20C, everyone had come to agree that it would be most unreasonable, that is, illiberal, to advocate for the elimination of minimum wage laws, health and safety laws, product safety provisions, and public-funded education.

In 1965, the Race Relations Act banned racial discrimination in public places and made the promotion of hatred on the grounds of ethnicity an offence. The Equal Pay Act of 1970 prevented discrimination, “as regards terms and conditions of employment,” between men and women. The Race Relations Amendment Act (2000) made it “unlawful for any public authority to discriminate on racial grounds”, and mandated governments, schools and the police, to promote “equality of opportunity and good relations between people of different racial groups”. The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allowed people to legally change gender. The Same Sex Couples Act 2013 made same-sex marriage legal.

The imposition of immigrant multiculturalism across the West was not orchestrated by cultural Marxists, or by high liberal ideals on their own. The classical liberal idea that all individuals are born with a natural disposition for security, liberty and the pursuit of happiness irrespective of cultural background is a perfect fit for capitalism. Capitalism, as Marx explained, abstracts individuals from all social connections, traditions and national identities other than those created through contractual arrangements for the pursuit of gain. During the 1950s/70s capitalism took on an increasingly transnational character, controlled, in the worlds of Sam Francis, by a global elite “detached and disengaged from — and actually hostile to — any particular place or group or set of beliefs that supports particular identities”.

The elections of Thatcher, Reagan, and Mulroney should be seen less as a return to a laissez-faire that never really existed than a concerted effort by business elites to institute a new regime of accumulation known as “post-Fordism” involving globalized financial markets and free trade zones making it easier for businesses and laborers to move across borders in search of lower wages, job opportunities, and less regulated standards. The aim was a new form of capitalism dedicated to a global market producing standardized products for rootless consumers without deeply ingrained local preferences on the basis of price, quantity, reliability and delivery.

There is an elective affinity between this globalized capitalism and the leftist goal of creating “post-national” citizens. Leftists want cosmopolitan individuals without “xenophobic” ethnic attachments, “emancipated” from pre-given sexual, cultural, and racial identities, that is, individuals who construct their identities completely out of their free choices.

As fertility rates dropped across the West, where it was prohibited to ask the native white population to create bigger families, both the left and right would instruct citizens that mass immigration was essential to avoid permanent labor shortages, a declining GDP, lower tax receipts, and declining government services. This convergence of the left and right was most visible in their agreement to redefine Western nations as inherently “immigrant” and “multicultural”.

For the corporate world, the only way to keep the workforce, consumer demand, GDP, and earnings in a state of expansion was through mass immigration. It did not matter whether immigration would have the effect of increasing GDP per capita for the native population, improve access to hospitals, schools and recreational facilities, or make housing more affordable. Leftist politicians were only to please to augment their power by calling for increases in spending to remedy these problems, including the problem that most of the total income gains generated by the expansion of GDP across the West since the 1970s/1980s, right as immigration was intensified, have accrued to the top percentiles of households, that is, to the major owners of capital.

Immigrant multiculturalism was justified by liberal scholars for its enhancement of the liberal principle that the government should not mandate any cultural values other than inclusiveness for the divergent choices of citizens. Just as the religious wars of the 17C proved the deadliness of religious uniformity, WWII demonstrated the deadliness of nationalist cultural uniformity. Immigrants would be allowed to retain their cultural identities, rather than be forced to assimilate to the dominant white culture, as long as they did not seek to impose traditional illiberal customs upon the rest of society.

White-only immigration regulations were rejected in the 60s/70s as unconstitutional, because making distinctions among potential immigrants on the basis of race, religion, and nationality stood against the principle that “all human beings” across the world “are born free and equal in dignity and rights…endowed with reason and conscience”.

I don’t deny there are differences between right and left liberals, and that many conservatives today oppose “critical race theory”, which they identify with cultural Marxism. But right-wing critics of “PC intolerance” defend open inquiry under the assumption that it is the best way to protect and validate the progressive liberalism of the West, while ultimately agreeing with the left that “illiberal” findings that invalidate pluralist values, even if scientifically based, such as studies demonstrating that in-group favouritism would be a good evolutionary strategy for Europeans, should be relegated to the margins or portrayed as “the product of bad science”, creating thereby social pressures “towards conformity”. This view is akin to Rawls’s exclusion from the public sphere of views which seek to undermine the already “settled” principle of equal freedom for all humans.

The liberalism of the 1940s through to the 1970s, roughly speaking, worked relatively well in the degree to which it continued to be sustained by healthy sentiments and instincts rooted in human nature, acceptance of male/female distinctions, collective norms of “motherhood”, countless small towns with rooted family businesses, high church attendance, customary regulation of sexual behavior, respect for ancestors, symbols and authoritative hierarchies. In other words, liberalism “worked” because it was still sustained by important nonliberal qualities. The post 1960s, however, saw a final push by liberalism to discredit, mock, devalue, and identify as oppressive, these remaining traditions, leading to the liberal world of today populated by increasingly unmarried and isolated individuals with barely any community ties, in charge of “reimagining” themselves and their societies as their “free” creations.

The dissident right has no choice but to find an alternative ideology. I believe it has to be some form of traditionalism, as Dugin has been arguing, a “fourth theory” beyond fascism, communism, and liberalism. It is called a “fourth theory” for it does not advocate specific principles and policies for mankind as such, but calls upon different cultures/civilizations in the world to find within themselves their own alternative paths to modernity. In the case of the West, transcending liberalism will be an immensely difficult task, for this ideology is epigenetically rooted in the psychology of whites, inscribed in every institution, advocated by almost every intellectual, and supported by global liberal capitalism. But a solution must be found or Europeans will perish as a world historical people.

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