For a while now, I've been hearing the phrase "liberal elite", and haven't really thought much about it. It's use is almost entirely pejorative, but I recently stopped to think about its meaning. Along the way, I thought I'd pull up actual definitions for other oft-used words and phrases.
Liberalism: A political or social philosophy advocating the freedom of the individual, parliamentary systems of government, nonviolent modification of political, social, or economic institutions to assure unrestricted development in all spheres of human endeavor, and governmental guarantees of individual rights and civil liberties.
Conservatism: The disposition to preserve or restore what is established and traditional and to limit change.
Elite: The choice or best of anything considered collectively, as of a group or class of persons.
- Alternatively, a group of persons exercising the major share of authority or influence within a larger group.
Secular: Of or relating to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred; temporal.
Humanist: A person having a strong interest in or concern for human welfare, values, and dignity.
Atheist: A person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.
Communism: A system of social organization in which all economic and social activity is controlled by a totalitarian state dominated by a single and self-perpetuating political party.
Socialism: A theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.
Fascism: A governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.
Democracy: Government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.
Republic: A state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.
A note on the usage of Democracy vs. Republic as it pertains to the United States:
A distinct set of definitions for the word republic evolved in the United States. In common parlance, a republic is a state that does not practice direct democracy but rather has a government indirectly controlled by the people. This understanding of the term was originally developed by James Madison, and notably employed in Federalist Paper No. 10. This meaning was widely adopted early in the history of the United States, including in Noah Webster's dictionary of 1828.
In case there was doubt as to whether the U.S. is a republic or democracy, simply look at the recent election - The majority of the people who voted, voted for Clinton and yet the electoral college (the voting representatives) elected Trump.
What do these definitions mean to me?
I think it should be clear at this point that I am a liberal, and I think it is really the only way toward the future. A future in which there is more enjoyment, more peace, more intelligence and knowledge, and more freedom. If we yielded to conservatives, we'd still have slavery and segregation, women wouldn't be allowed to vote, and workers (including children) would still be dying in factories and mines because that's the way it was before (you know, back in the good-old-days).
We should all strive to be elite in our endeavors. We should also demand that our representatives are the best in their fields. To do otherwise could be catastrophic (Why would a rational person appoint someone who is opposed to the department they will head? - this is worse than just having someone who is mediocre in energy policy).
I think that most likely, the second definition of Elite is most often the intended usage. I would suggest that these come down to the same thing though. The leaders should be the best qualified, chosen to represent the people; therefore, both definitions align (theoretically).
So yes, I am (or at least strive to be) part of the liberal elite. I am a believer in intellectualism, science and reason. These things are central to making sound decisions which impact any number of people - from one (the individual) to multiple billions (World Population: 7.4 billion) and every level in between (including the U.S. - 324.7 million), and that an anti-intellectual person, one who has no regard for (or understanding of) science, has no place leading policy discussions at any level.
Secular-humanist is another phrase that I've heard used on occasion, sometimes negatively but other times self-applied. Secularism doesn't necessarily imply atheism - that is, a religious person can see the logic and reason in not creating religion-based laws (Canon law, Sharia, Halakha, etc.). I am a secular (I believe that our decisions must be based on logic and reason and not superstition and tradition) and I am a humanist (I elieve that we must care about the well-being of all our neighbors). Again, these should be obvious if you've read my other posts.
It seems to me that, in the US at least, the definitions for Communism and Socialism have been conflated and demonized, at least by politicians and the media. I am not an advocate of communism; a totalitarian regime has no place in a modern, enlightened, liberal society. I am however, open to the ideas of socialism at the small-scale, community level; a community which is invested in its products (whether for community use or for sale/trade with others) and infrastructure is motivated toward success. An organizations which has motivated workers, will produce better results than one whose workers are apathetic (who are just there to do a job). However, I'm not convinced that socialism will work at the large-scale of a nation's government. I feel that somewhere in between there's a point where a democratic organization is needed.
Like Communism, I'm firmly against Fascism. It's another term that gets bandied about frequently in relation to political figures. In some cases, it's justified, but not in all. There are a couple of points in the definition that I feel align well with our incoming president.
- "forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism": Trump's blacklist
- "emphasizing an aggressive nationalism": Trump's flag-burning comments
- "... and often racism": Trump's attack on Mexican judge
These are just a few examples of his behavior unfortunately. Time will tell how he acts once he's in office - whether they fade out or more points come into alignment.
So, there you have it, a short(ish) post with some terms I thought should be defined here and where I fall in relation to them. Please, tell me what you think, where you land, or how you identify.
Have a Happy Christmas and enjoy your time with family and friends.