Monday, 16 December 2013

Popper's theses on gov't (7) - liberalism is evolutionary, not revolutionary

Principles of Liberalism may be described (at least today) as principles of assessing, and if necessary of modifying or changing, existing institutions, rather than of replacing existing institutions. One can express this also by saying that Liberalism is an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary creed (unless it is confronted by a tyrannical regime).

In Karl Popper’s penultimate Liberal Thesis, he delineates tradition’s role: the means for an institution to evolve as situations change, or – perhaps more sinisterly – as the Establishment’s view of the institution’s purpose changes.

Sir Richard Mayne - click to learn more
One of several institutions I could mention in illustration is the police. While Sir Richard Mayne (right) defined police work in 1829 as "the prevention of crime [and] detection and punishment of offenders if crime is committed", as mass immigration changes our national makeup police become increasingly the enforcers of last resort when British culture opposes that of the Establishment’s favoured ethnicities. Thus, we see the English flag described as "racist" and a Christian preacher arrested for saying what has been in the Bible for millenia.

(I’m not criticising rank-and-file police, merely illustrating how Establishment opinion drift causes institution mission drift.)

read more about Democrat quote
In qualifying liberalism’s evolutionary nature with the caveat that it can become revolutionary when confronted with tyranny, Popper recognises the contributions liberal philosophy and politics made to the American, French and various humanitarian revolutions. It’s necessary to remember, though, Public Opinion and Liberal Principles appeared in 1956, before liberal leaders worldwide prostituted the movement’s vitality to the left, causing Ronald Reagan (left) to say "I never left the Democrats, the Democrats left me".

But Popper’s unquestioning acceptance that liberalism’s evolution will be in a socially positive direction contradicts a point made elsewhere in Conjectures and Refutations wherein he takes Hegelians and Marxists to task for assuming the same, through mistaking Kant’s triadic layout of his categories for a statement that syntheses will always be preferable to the conflicts they resolve. That, as institutional mission drift shows, depends on the Establishmentarian agenda regarding the conflicts.

I think Popper would reply that in the open society we can’t afford to make any thinker carry the cross of infallibility.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

This series:

Popper's theses on gov't (1): state a necessary evil

Popper's theses on gov't (2): democratic government can be got rid of without bloodshed

Popper's theses on gov't (3): democracy confers no benefit on citizens

Popper's theses on gov't (4): we're not democrats because the majority is always right

Popper's theses on gov't (5): institutions are insufficient without traditions

Popper's theses on gov't (6): Utopia is an impossibility

Popper's theses on gov't (7) - liberalism is evolutionary, not revolutionary


History of Policing - Metropolitan Police

Motorist told flag could be racist - Charley Morgan, This is Wiltshire, May 2008

Christian preacher arrested for saying homosexuality is a sin - Heidi Blake, Daily Telegraph, may 2010

"Why Reagan Was 'The Great Communicator' - Craig von Buseck,

No comments:

Post a Comment