That one word, expresses my primary fear about President Donald J Trump. Yesterday I posted An Exile in Trumplandia Discovers Twitter which I hope partially illustrates our president’s response to some of the institutional pushback he is seeing. When I use the word “liberal”, I am not using the word to mean government control, as “liberal” has come to mean in typical usage in the political arena in the United States. My usage of the word liberal indicates a belief that the individual is of great worth as a human being. Because each individual human being is created in the image of God, each individual person is owed respect and dignity consistent with the image of God each person carries. No other way people may choose to categorize and subdivide themselves is more important than the simple fact that they are human and created in the image of God. Race, ethnicity, gender, income level, or any other categorization that people place on themselves is not as important as humanity qua humanity. Liberalism, properly understood, places a great importance on the individual. However, individualism need not be confused with selfish sinful behavior as is sometimes proclaimed from the pulpit. There is no reason to associate a proper individualism with individual sin. People sin in liberal democracies, illiberal democracies, democratic socialism, Communist regimes, or any other political structure we have devised. To blame individual human sin on a political system is to deny the root cause of humanity’s problems – our sinful hearts. When I say I believe President Trump is illiberal I am not paying him a compliment. I do not believe that President Trump has a high enough view of individual people – that he does not accord sufficient respect and dignity to groups (people who are not United States citizens–and some who are) of people. I am saying that his presidency has the potential to push the United States and western democracy in the direction most of us do not want to go.
In 1944, Friedrich von Hayek, published The Road to Serfdom. Based on Hayek’s observations on the European continent in the previous decades, The Road to Serfdom gave warning that the Socialist road Western democracies were taking would ultimately be the road to totalitarianism. The book was very popular and Hayek’s predictions did not come true. Hayek’s predictions at least partially were not fulfilled because Western citizens heeded his warnings.
The first chapter in the book is titled “The Abandoned Road”. At the time, because of policy based on separating people into economic categories or classes (socialism) Hayek observed a major unintended consequence of socialism.
How sharp a break not only with the recent past but with the whole evolution of Western civilization the modern trend towards socialism means becomes clear if we consider it not merely against the background of the nineteenth century but in a longer historical perspective. We are rapidly abandoning not the views merely of Cobden and Bright, of Adam Smith and Hume, or even of Locke and Milton, but one of the salient characteristics of Western civilization as it has been grown from foundations laid by Christianity and the Greeks and Romans. Not merely nineteenth– and eighteenth-century liberalism, but the basic individualism inherited by us from Erasmus and Montaigne, from Cicero and Tacitus, Pericles and Thucydides, is progressively relinquished. (emphasis added)
Hayek warned about socialism driving Western civilization down the road to serfdom–toward an authoritarian led totalitarian political economic system. Socialism divides and separates people according to economic class. People in the wealthier class are not provided with the dignity and respect with which creation in the image of God demands. In socialism, government takes from the rich to give to the poor. Political fascism divides people along religious, racial, and ethnic lines to lay the foundation for some of humanity’s greatest crimes against humanity. President Trump divides us according to nationality. The dividing lines are political. Economics is always inextricably linked to politics, but the base dividing line in Trumplandia is political. I shudder to think what might happen with our sharpened nationalism.
While much of what we talk about with respect to President Trump will necessarily relate to policy, ultimately my concerns go beyond policy. I will agree with some of President Trump’s economic (and other) policies. My Trumplandia policy concerns are manifest in immigration and trade. But the root of the concerns are based in the shift away from a properly understood liberal individualism that respects individual people as being created in the image of God.