There was a time, not that long ago when measured against the scale of human civilization, but perhaps an eternity ago when measured in political years, when liberals held a number of beliefs associated with the word “free.” Free love, free speech, free press, free to be what you want to be. Oh, and free thought. That last was amplified by the psychedelic culture, where pot, acid, mescaline, and other recreational substances helped people “free their minds” and expand their world views.

This was the Counterculture Left, the hippies, the free spirits, the acolytes and spiritual descendants of the Beat generation, whose run-ins with and rejections of authority cracked a culture that was, in many ways, puritanical and conformist.

I think that crowd would look upon their modern counterparts and be a mix of bewildered and horrified. These counterparts, occupiers of the same portion of the political spectrum, have more in common with “The Man” that sixties liberals mocked and decried than with any love of freedom. Outwardly, we can find parallels, in personal expression through clothing, hair, and body art, but that sense of independence and nonconformity is literally only skin deep. Within far too many of them exists an authoritarian attitude that is the polar opposite of the liberalism of just half a century ago.

Twice, in the past week or two, I’ve encountered the word “neoliberalism.” Wikipedia defines it in economic terms: “generally associated with policies of economic liberalization, including privatization, deregulation, globalization, free trade, austerity and reductions in government spending;” a definition that drips of libertarian thinking and philosophy. No surprise; libertarianism is the descendant of classical liberalism, with an expansion into individual non-economic liberty.

I found the emergence of the word “neoliberalism” a bit odd, given that its tenets run contrary to contemporary liberal/leftist economic thinking, but the context of my encounters with the word has been disparaging, in that those described as neoliberals are being criticized rather than lauded. This started to make more sense when I considered it in connection with the modern Left’s groupthink and another phrase growing popular in the political sandbox: The Great Reset.

The Great Reset is a worldview/philosophy embraced and advocated by statists and Best-and-Brightest types, wherein the purported sins of capitalism are actively tempered by realigning economic activity around the concept of “stakeholders,” to shape an economic recovery and the future direction of global relations, economies, and priorities. In other words, just another form of a handful of powerful people imposing their will upon the masses, presumably on behalf of those “stakeholders.”

What is a stakeholder, you might ask? Investopedia defines it as “a party that has an interest in a company and can either affect or be affected by the business. The primary stakeholders in a typical corporation are its investors, employees, customers, and suppliers. However, with the increasing attention on corporate social responsibility, the concept has been extended to include communities, governments, and trade associations.”

In other words, it is whoever can make a claim “I was affected by an economic transaction between John and Jane,” no matter that they have zero financial connection with either John or Jane. If John sells Jane a car that runs on gasoline, a stakeholder might argue that the car’s emitting of carbon dioxide contributes to global warming, global warming has a potential negative impact on the stakeholder, therefore the stakeholder has a legitimate right to be involved in that transaction. And, of course, can demand that government act as his proxy in that involvement.

The Great Reset is just a repackaged form of socialism, not necessarily in an according-to-Hoyle public ownership of the means of production. but in practice via heavy-handed control of private business by politicians and bureaucrats. Those heavy hands accompany earnestness and white-knighthood. As C.S. Lewis noted, this is the worst form of oppression:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

That “liberalism” has been modified to a form contrary to this Great Reset is interesting, in that it speaks of a divergence on the Left from its past affinity for freedom, even thought that freedom was centered around personal rather than economic matters (and yes, our hippies and Beats were far more of a socialistic mindset than one of economic liberty). The dominant voice on the Left nowadays (in volume and ubiquity, if not in numbers) is conformist, authoritarian, and very comfortable with the wielding of punitive power, both by the State and by its membership, and would be be OK with a Kent-State-esque show of force against dissenting protestors of the wrong political stripe.

Many self-identified liberals of today are uncomfortable with the excesses of the progressive zealots, the woke-warriors, and the democratic socialists who co-occupy their side of the political aisle. That many dare not voice that discomfort openly is its own tell-tale.

We have witnessed, these past four years. a political bifurcation on the Right, between adherents to Trumpism and an amalgam of traditional conservatives, Reagan Republicans, the few remaining Goldwater-ites, and a sprinkling of neocons. There has been much ink spilled over which will dominate the next few years, whether the Trumpists will remain loyal to Trump’s combination of protectionism, nativism, and politics-of-convenience (or of whim), whether we’ll witness the resurrection of more traditional right-ist views, or whether a new right-of-center olio emerges.

Today, however, the matter of greater relevance is the Left’s fracturing. The election’s message was relatively clear, as such go: the country opted for a change, but not a big one. The swamp-rat lifer Biden won out over a field of “more progressive than thous,” the Democrats actually lost a few seats in the House, and as of now apparently fought to a 50-50 split in the Senate, with Kamala Harris’s tiebreaker likely to battle Senator Joe Manchin’s moderate leanings. Manchin is a Democratic Senator from West Virginia, which is a solidly red state, and consistently ranked the most conservative of the Democratic senators.

The mandate is for mainstreaming and moderation, but ou wouldn’t think so if you listened to the Justice Democrats and other progressive-socialistic voices, who are demanding, possibly to the point of threat, that Biden et al move the country boldly leftward.

Will the more traditional liberals and Democrats move with the progressives? Will they step aside and let the socialists set the agenda? Will they elevate party solidarity above policy disputes? Or will they reject the latters’ excesses?

Will the word “liberal” become ‘dirty’ in the eyes of the prog-woke-folks?

Will the people whose public behavior is all rage and hatred, even as they purport to stand for tolerance and inclusiveness, drag those of a more traditionally liberal mindset along with them?

Or will we witness a schism on the Left, that mirrors what we’ve witnessed on the Right these past few years? What will Bidenism entail?

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

If you'd like to help keep the site ad-free, please support us on Patreon.


Like this post?