Reading time: 4:00min | Quoted from my article The big theft. They have human faces: Marc Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page and many more. And they all lean politically towards a liberal, progressive view on the world. It might be worth to assess what liberal and progressive means.
How come that I as a European don’t consider them as liberal? That has a lot to do with the term liberal and what it means to me. We, in Europe, understand liberal in two contexts. There’s the term liberal in an economic sense, and there’s the word liberal in an attitude sense. I like to take a closer view of the attitude side.
A liberal attitude means to me to be an open-minded person in all areas of social life. A liberal person is tolerant, open to democratic processes and respectful towards minorities. Liberal also means that education is understood as the key to resolving many social issues and hence belongs best to the public domain. It also means that the government should take care of the people in certain areas that need greater protection, e.g. medicare, pensions, traffic, and civil safety, such as gun control, crime protection and the military forces. That does not mean a vast welfare state or even a deep state is required — on the contrary. In Europe, liberal people believe in self-responsibility and think favourably of the market forces when socially constrained. They believe in the sciences’ power and have an affection for the arts and culture in general. Liberals regard religion and sexuality as a private matter, which is, of course, of no one else concern.
There are many similarities to the typical American or British idea of liberal thinking. But being liberal doesn’t mean being left as it does in the States. In Germany, you can be liberal and a leftist, standing up for social equality. You can be liberal with a bias to conservatism and entrepreneurship. And you can be a liberal green who cares about climate, environment and nature conservation. Or be a mixture of all three.
But liberal people would never think of themselves being superior to others (unless they suffer a personality disorder). However, in the discourse with conservatives, liberals are often denounced of being intolerant. That is contradictory to what liberalism means. The conflict and the notion that liberals are intolerant happens when conservatives come in conflict with the don’ts of liberalism which are racism, sexism, intolerance in general, you name it. For liberals, tolerance towards others is a core value, if not the most important human value. Not so for far-right conservatives and neither for the far-left. Conservatives like to speak of values when their intolerant opinions thwart meaningful developments and trigger the rebuke of liberals.
Which brings me to progress. There are three different positions to progress in society.
- Now is good for me. Developments that could risk my status quo must be avoided; thus, progress is bad.
- Now is only good for a few. Progress towards an equal society must be fought for.
- Progress is part of nature’s forces and thus unavoidable but should be directed in a meaningful direction.
These three stances towards progress define the political position one takes in society. The first example describes a classic right-wing conservative who see progress as bad. As is progressing climate warming, which cannot be human-made, even can’t exist despite scientific evidence. As progress is always be seen as a bad thing, obnoxious attitudes such as racism or sexism prevail – to the advantage of the ruling class. The same applies to gayness and many other issues that concern minorities and require progress to be resolved.
The second example is the attitude of the left. The left sees today’s society as overdue (always has done that for centuries), and social changes must be realised towards a bright future. For the radical left, this future is a communist state which is, by nature, authoritarian and totalitarian. When the extreme left and the far-right merge we get national-socialism, in short nazis.
The third example is a pragmatic view of things and is neither politically right nor left. Liberals, by definition, don’t see things through the looking glass of their advantage or of an ideology but with pragmatism for the greater good. Which, again, makes them suspicious to conservatives who, by definition, want things to stay as they are to their advantage.
And this is why the billionaires mentioned above are not liberals. Their advantage drives their point of view on things. Thus, all their support of typical liberal topics such as gender and race equality disguise their real intentions: as much wealth and power as possible. And since they have it all, things must stay as they are. That’s what they are fighting for.
Theses tech industry’s leaders were all for progress, called themselves progressives from the heart, back then in the early 2000 years and were celebrated as heroes of liberalism. But that’s now a tale from the past. The truth is, liberalism’s mantra of equality as a principle is undoubtedly not their motivation of action, never was. Entitlement and superiority, even supremacy is their inner-self. And that’s the reason why Mark Zuckerberg did so well in Trump’s America as did all the others of his ilk.
One question remains: why then to support liberal core values such as gender and race equality? The answer is as easy as it gets: a large margin of their clientele is liberal city dwellers. Their liberalism is only an empty brand. How spineless.