I read with interest the recent Telegraph Op-ed, “The ‘Enlightenment’ keeps on winning,” and frankly I was astounded at the mischaracterizations alluded to by author-journalist James A. Haught attempting to force through his thesis. Where do we begin?
The errors commence at the beginning with ancient Greece and proceed with the Enlightenment and end with his list of the “historic record.” First of all, democracy began with ancient Greece, not with the Enlightenment (I recommend Pericles’ Funeral Oration during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C., as well as Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Politics). Nor did the liberals versus conservative conflict of today begin with the Enlightenment; it originated later in the 19th century, consequent to the upheaval of the French Revolution, fomented with Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto (1848), and crystallized with the meeting of left-wing socialists and communists at the First International (1866).
The political-philosophical arguments of the Enlightenment involved the support for mercantilism, divine rights and royalist prerogatives by the “old” conservative monarchists; whereas classical liberals fought for natural rights, personal freedom, free trade, freedom of worship and limited government — concepts largely anathema to today’s socialist, collectivist, progressive and intolerant modern liberals, who are anti-religion, believe in big government and worship the state. Classical liberals are more in tune with today’s conservatives and libertarians, and are the philosophical complete opposite of the modern liberals and progressives, who are at heart, socialists. Just ask Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
The word “Democracy” is bandied about, but the word is nowhere mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, whereas “a Republican form of government” is guaranteed to the American states in the Union (Art. IV, Sec. 4). It is true conservatives tend to dislike change and agree with the axiom of Aristotle (384–322 B.C.) that the experience of the ages should not be disregarded, as such they have militated for preserving traditional institutions that have benefited mankind, but in the end conservatives have also discarded iniquitous institutions and policies that have been found unworkable.
Unfortunately, because of the author’s confusion about the polar opposites: classical and modern liberalism — his “historical record” of the supposed victories of liberalism over conservatism is seriously flawed — with all the historic evils of humanity ascribed to conservatives while the liberals are the (false) knights in shinning armor. The parody, I admit, made me chuckle — until I recall the end result of unrestrained liberalism, socialism, the evils of communism — and the 100 million hapless victims of collectivism, exterminated by their own government in attempting to create egalitarian workers paradises, where like in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” some pigs are always more equal than others.
References are available at the author’s website.
Miguel A. Faria, M.D., is an associate editor-in-chief of Surgical Neurology International and the author of “Cuba in Revolution — Escape from a Lost Paradise.”