Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a Liberal? Do Words Mean Things?

That there is a major labor uprising in Canada right now that is either ignored or maligned by progressives, who tell you they stand with working people, coupled with the fact that the left (and I mean here the so-called left) is not up in arms about the way labor is being portrayed (as racists and whatnot), tells you just about everything you need to know about the authenticity of the left today. The truth of today’s left is this: it is aligned with corporate power and the administrative state.

A crowd of protesters take part in the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa.

You should find remarkable that a party calling itself the Liberal Party could be so profoundly illiberal as to mandate that truckers self-isolate upon crossing the border. The demand is damned unscientific, too. The virus is in Canada. What do these politicians think they’re keeping out? Of course, unscientific thinking is characteristically illiberal, as well. What we are witnessing is why I am so particular about language. You cannot be this illiberal and still call yourself liberal. I’m not having it.

I explained this in my recent essay The Democratic Party is Not the Party of Liberal Politics, but I want to take another whack at it (and I am almost certain this won’t be my last whack). A liberal is an strong advocate of liberalism. Here we can trust the Internet: liberalism is “relating to or denoting a political and social philosophy that promotes individual rights, civil liberties, democracy, and free enterprise.” (We might qualify democracy as specifically republicanism, but this is basically it. I deal with the free enterprise question in my January 2017 essay The Contradiction in Liberalism. That something is internally contradicted does not make it relative.)

A politician’s stance with respect to censorship is a useful test of authenticity. Censorship is an illiberal desire or action. It indicates authoritarianism. By definition, a liberal wouldn’t support censorship. Free speech is quintessentially liberal. You cannot have an authoritarian attitude and be authentically liberal. There are many others tests of authoritarianism like this. If you believe in vaccines mandates, then you are not a liberal. If you believe in privileging some persons over others on the basis of skin color, then you are not a liberal. Justin Trudeau is not a liberal.

As I pointed out in the November essay, some folks say that liberalism changes like any political ideology. No, liberalism doesn’t change in that way. It evolves, sure. More importantly, it colonizes a person’s lifeworld and ethnical sensibilities—if the person welcomes it in. There were slave owners who expressed liberal views. Slavery obviously stands in contradiction to liberalism. If they quit slavery because of their liberal views, then they became more liberal. Principle and values don’t change because persons and parties change. If a person who claims to be liberal advocates or tolerates slavery, then the person is not fully liberal.

Think about it this way: Christianity is not what self-professing Christians say it is. A Christian is a defender of the faith. Those of you who are Christians know people who claim to be Christian but are not really. They wear the tag but not the commitment. This is not a perfect analogy since Christianity has different sects, doctrines, etc., whereas liberalism is a more monolithic set of principles, but I think the comparison still works to convey the point that it will not do to just say you are Christian if you reject the teachings of Jesus or the core Christian doctrine of salvation.

BLM’s mansion

It’s like the BLM leaders who talked proletarian lingo and then took the money and bought a mansion. They’re fakes. To be sure, their cause was fake, too. But that is beside the point. They weren’t even true to their own ideology.

We have to recognize that what a person says about himself is not the truth. People make all sorts of claims about themselves. People lie and deceive (sometimes they lie to and deceive themselves). People are ignorant. People are wrong. The truth has its own integrity. We judge authenticity based on commitment to the truth of the thing not personal convenience or whimsy. Justin Trudeau is one or more of these things. But he is not a liberal.

It’s not the liberal who’s the authoritarian thorn in our side. It’s the progressive. It’s politicians like Trudeau. Progressivism is the ideology of corporate statism, or the administrative state of the technocracy. Progressives do not believe in individual rights, civil liberties, democracy, or free enterprise. Progressives are illiberal. Liberals have a completely different view of government and corporate power.

So here’s my ask: stop calling progressives liberals. It’s not a benign misuse of language. It perpetuates a lie about the current order of things. It participates in the campaign of confusion the elites push. If you are really a liberal, then you will oppose lockdowns, mandates, and masks. You will defend the rights associated with a free state of existence.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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