I used to think of myself as a liberal, of the bleeding heart kind until I read ‘Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind’, or rather listened to the audio book by Yuval Noah Harari. What made me stop and think, figuratively rather than literally as I was driving at the time, was that liberalism included the belief that humans have a special place in nature and that there are natural rights which all should respect.
I don’t subscribe to either of these points. I don’t believe that humans have a special place on earth. One day we will go the way of all species and suffer extinction. We do have special abilities that allow us to dominate today’s world, such as the ability to communicate and to manipulate our environment. I also don’t believe that humans, or any other animals, have natural rights.
According to Wikipedia, Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but they generally support civil rights, democracy, secularism, gender and race equality, internationalism and the freedoms of speech, the press, religion and markets. I generally support all of these but my version does not quite fit the bill.
What then do I believe?
No person has any natural rights but they should have. Civil rights, freedoms of speech, rights of association and freedom of thought are ideals we should strive for.
No person is born equal. We are all different and absolute equality is impossible, yet inequality is the main driving force for disquiet in the human world and so we should strive at all times to reduce inequality.
No person has the right to rule over another and no person should be subservient to another. Democracy should reflect the political will of the electorate. It should be universal, proportional and cover all positions of public authority.
I do not believe in gods yet I respect the beliefs of others. Who am I to say that they are wrong? No person, however, should have the right to impose their beliefs on others.
I believe in the rule of law, that all people should be equal before it and should have equal access to it. The law should be based on fairness.
I believe in the freedom of speech yet I don’t accept that people can divorce themselves from the consequences of what they say.
We live in society, a natural association, one that does not give us inalienable rights. It is up to us as humans to make sure that we strive for these things. Does this make me a Liberal?