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Posted by on Feb 27, 2013 in Culture, Politics | 14 comments

Challenges to liberalism

In the light of the previous post and resulting thread, let’s have some open discussion of the problems for individual liberty in the West. What ideologies or concepts stand most in the way of competent people (mature adults and sufficiently mature minors) being able to live and express themselves as they see fit? Set aside issues to do with poverty (an important problem in its own right, and one that certainly restricts people, but not what I’m getting at here). I mean your ability to say what you want, however you want to express it, and essentially to do what you want… all within the limitations of your economic resources and the restriction of the harm principle.

Is the biggest problem the coercive power of the state – which is often used, in current times, to restrict freedom of speech, impose paternalistic requirements, and so on? Or is it social pressure of one kind or another, whether from the relatively silent but often censorious majority, or from articulate minorities that are able, one way or another, to exert power to restrict us as individuals? Is it from powerful non-state institutions such as business corporations or religious organisations? Or some combination of these?

Have we moved backwards or forwards during, say, the lifetime of an average baby boomer (i.e. about the last 50 to 60 years)? Or is it a mixed bag? How much do you think this differs from country to country, or perhaps between the US and other Western countries with more social democratic assumptions?

All of these aspects are up for debate. These sorts of questions form the sub-text of much of what I’ve been writing about lately, and if you go back you’ll find it’s the sub-text of much that I’ve been writing about over the past seven years that this blog has been going in one incarnation or another. It is certainly a large theme in one of my forthcoming books (i.e. Humanity Enhanced). So let’s discuss it explicitly with whatever examples you like.