Liberalism’s Identity Problem

This week Tim Farron, the leader of the British Liberal Democrats, resigned  because he found his Christian faith incompatible with leading his party. Apparently, the problem was that while he agreed with the Liberal Democratic position that homosexual relations and same-sex marriage should be legal, he also believed, like many Christians, that homosexual relations were wrong.  Many party colleagues found the combination of these two positions intolerable.

But this kind of combination traditionally defined the essence of liberalism, supposedly the guiding light of Farron’s party.  Liberalism was exactly the view that government had no business regulating actions or beliefs unless they could be demonstrated to cause concrete harms to a third party. As a result, liberals have supported legalizing all sorts of matters that they may have believed immoral or imprudent. In my view, the best test for a liberal is the willingness to tolerate behavior of which he morally disapproves.

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The Contours of a Compromise on Illegal Immigration

The next administration and Congress need to reach a compromise on immigration. The continuing battle on the status of illegal immigrants is leading to enormous political divisions and fueling the identity politics of multiculturalism on the both the left and right.  For me the compromise must reflect four imperatives. First, it should recognize the reality that we cannot deport millions of people without turning ourselves into a temporary police state—harmful not only to illegal aliens but to our citizens. Second, it should make sure there is a substantial penalty for those who broke the law.  Third, the compromise must secure the border of the United States against further such immigration on a massive scale and contain a trigger to verify that security has taken place before those who broke the law benefit from the compromise. Fourth, the compromise should make it easier for highly skilled immigrants to come to the nation, because welcoming more such immigrants will benefit America, not least by continuing our tradition of assimilating talent from overseas.

First, ultimately the compromise will have to provide a legalized status to many aliens who entered illegally so long as they have not violated other laws. Catching all those who have come here illegally is impractical.  It would also require a law enforcement presence so heavy as to affect adversely many law abiding citizens, particularly those who share the ethnicity of immigrants who have come here illegally. Moreover, since many of those who came here illegally have had children born here who are citizens by virtue of the 14th amendment, mass deportations would result in the tearing asunder of children from parents.

Second, the legislation should make it clear that coming into America illegally was wrong.  Fines will not prove adequate to make this point either expressively or practically.

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Why the Left Favors Immigration but Opposes Trade

The American Left generally welcomes immigration, but opposes foreign trade. There are exceptions of course, but generally the further left one moves this combination of policy preferences is even starker. Bernie Sanders seems wholly opposed to free trade and yet favors immigration. Indeed, he wants to make citizens of immigrants, even if they have come here illegally.

What explains this divergence? It cannot plausibly be concern for low-wage workers in the United States. It is true that trade, while being generally beneficial, can depress the income of low-wage workers (at least in the short term), because they must compete more with low-skilled workers elsewhere. But the effect of low-skilled immigrants  is the same. It puts pressure on the wages of low-skilled Americans.

It can’t be concern for the poor abroad.

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The Disappeared: A Conversation with Roger Scruton

disappearedRoger Scruton discusses with Richard Reinsch in this edition of Liberty Law Talk his newest novel, The Disappeared. The story revolves around sex-trafficking in a northern city in present-day England, similar to the horrific disclosures of the recent Rotherham Report. It is also about the kind of society Britain has become. Interwoven in the novel is the fallout from the enthronement of multiculturalism, the welfare state, the cult of autonomy, and the loss of religious faith, all of which have brought a host of (unintended?) consequences. Many things have disappeared.

A Conversation with Roger Scruton on How to be a Conservative


This conversation with Roger Scruton engages his defense of the conservative disposition. Scruton’s just-released book, How to be a Conservative, might be said to take on the challenge Friedrich Hayek issued in his famous essay “Why I Am Not a Conservative.” There, you will recall, Hayek argued that conservatism does not offer a program, or any substantive content that would affirm a free society. It is always in prudential retreat. This conversation explores Scruton’s Burkean-informed notion that tradition and habit aren’t blind guides, but are teachers and modes of social knowledge by which the perennial problem of social coordination is…

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Lord Ahmed’s Bounty

Songs of Innocence and Experience: I Don’t Like Mondays

 The silicon chip inside her head

gets switched to overload

and nobody’s gonna go to school today

she’s gonna make them stay at home

And Daddy doesn’t understand it

He always said she was good as gold

And he can see no reason

Cos there are no reasons.

What reasons do you need to be told?


Tell me why.

I don’t like Mondays

I want to shoot

The whole day down


Oh, for a Tardis time-machine to transport me back to the lost innocent days of 1979, when, for several weeks that summer, Bob Geldof’s song I don’t like Mondays stood at Number 1 in the UK Pop Charts.

Now, the fictitious shooting spree about which he then sang has become only all too agonizingly familiar a phenomenon world-wide.

None to date, however, has produced more fatalities, or been potentially more portentous, than that for having gone on which one fateful day last summer in Norway, Anders Behring Breivik is currently undergoing trial in an Oslo courtroom which opened a week ago — last Monday.

Breivik freely admits that July day having shot dead 69 young people on the small island of Utepo where they had been attending a summer camp held annually there for Norwegian Labour party activists. He had been allowed onto the island, dressed as a policeman and bearing an assault rifle, ostensibly to protect his victims along with the several hundred other young activists whose deaths, he explained in court last week, he also hoped to bring about by causing them to flee in panic into the sea and drown after he began firing.

Earlier that same day, he had provided the pretext for their need of police protection by causing the Norwegian government to declare a state of emergency after he had detonated in the Norwegian capital a large car bomb that he placed outside government offices.

Breivik freely confessed in court last week his original intention had been to confine his killings to the occupants of that building by bringing it down with his bomb. In the event, because, when he arrived there, the parking space he needed for that purpose was already taken, he had been obliged to leave the car containing the bomb where the building was able to withstand the blast, although it did cause eight fatalities, most of them passers-by.

Only for having caused their deaths has Breivik expressed any regret. However, he did tell the court that, had his bomb succeeded in bringing down the government building and thereby killing many of its several hundred occupants, he would not have felt need of having to drive out to Utepo to carry on his killing spree.

Breivik freely admits to all the killings but is pleading not guilty to charges of murder and of terrorism on the grounds that, in carrying them out, he had been acting out of necessity in self-defense. His claims he was obliged to carry out the killings to protect himself, his country, and Europe more generally from the sustained assault on their cultural identity each has undergone in recent times from the multiculturalism to which each has become exposed as result of mass immigration of Muslims. It is because Breivik considers the Norwegian Labour Party the prime movers in effecting their mass entry into his country that he considered its members, even its young ones, to be legitimate targets.

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