REALity – Volume XXXIV Issue No.9 September 2015
Author: William Gairdner
Published by Encounter Books 264 pages Cost: $25.99 $ 13.19 Kindle edition
The Great Divide: Why Liberals and Conservatives will never, ever agree With ground-breaking books such as “War Against the Family”, “What’s Wrong With Canada?” and “The Book of Absolutes”, William Gairdner now focuses on the different world views of liberals and conservatives. Because of irresolvable differences, it is true that both sides will never agree, yet he attempts to clarify core ideas so that we can, first, know on which side we belong on a variety of core issues, and secondly, enrich the quality of debate beyond superficial posturing.
The book can be read in sections depending on your specific interest. For example: one can go deeply into the foundations of liberalism in the French Revolution and what is called the Enlightenment, or one can examine the major characteristics of the conservative philosophy of life. Sections of particular interest are: equality and inequality, morality, the desire by the liberals to overcome nature, God and religion, abortion, homosexuality and gay marriage, and euthanasia. There are 14 topics covered, where Gairdner illustrates conflicting understandings about human nature, reason, democracy, freedom, equality and inequality.
Ideological clashes between a liberal modern individualism and a conservative concern for the common good are reflected at every level – in legislatures, the courts, academia, the rise of socialism, high taxation, the family.
The liberals believe the purpose of the state is to perfect economic and social equality, but conservatives accept that human beings are fallible and imperfect by nature and there is a natural difference in people i.e. some more talented and intelligent. The conservatives defend this kind of natural inequality as a vibrant and certain sign of a free and flourishing society. They also defend the conviction that the strong have an obligation to help, to teach, and to lead the weak, the less gifted, and the vulnerable. The liberals on the other hand, believe simply put, that the state must erase these inequalities among people.
That is, the examined “great divide” reveals the liberal utopian abstraction vying with a conservative defence of organic reality. The egalitarianism of today’s libertarian socialism opposes the flourishing of natural inequality, Gairdner claims. The liberal abstract plan for egalitarian perfection is contrasted with ageless conservatism and its respect for traditions, customs and the “religious and moral principles gifted to us by our predecessors.”
Personal choice and liberty are sovereign to liberals. Thus the privatization of morality is the foundation of recent liberal imperatives from courts and governments on abortion, marriage re-definition, euthanasia and transgenderism. This contrasts with the conservative view that morality is a public matter which affects the whole community or the public good. Radical progressivism contrasts with a conservative approach which holds that customs and traditions must always be assumed true unless shown to be otherwise.
The author reminds us that the war against the family is a war against nature, and is an attempt to eradicate all natural differences. It is also a war against biology since biology threatens equality of liberty. This is clearly seen in the gender wars, underlying abortion, marriage re-definition and transgender activism. Gairdner is conscious of a “concealed theology” in political discourse today.
Not to be missed is the discussion of sex-ed in the chapter on homosexuality and gay marriage, which cuts through modern obfuscation and clearly defines what sex and marriage are not.
Gairdner exposes the false reasoning behind the “harm principle” which holds that all is acceptable as long as no one else is harmed. He points to the often overlooked fact that majority opinion does not determine the right or good of a law. He notes that the abstract plan of liberals for egalitarian perfection is a common factor in liberal movements of the 20th century, supposedly to create a heaven on earth. He elaborates on his observation that equalizing laws to eradicate discrimination are themselves a form of discrimination. He also makes a good case for the similarities between slavery and abortion, both based on the willful determination that the person does not exist legally.
Major themes in the book are illustrated with tables listing how liberals and conservatives differ in their understanding of basic issues such as human nature and democracy. One table shows the different values held in the Canada of 1950 and today, on health care, property rights, free speech, official surveillance, taxation, divorce, transgenderism, prostitution and others.
“Where do you stand?” tables clarify the differences between the modern liberal view and the conservative view on main topics of interest. The book is informative and is a book of self-discovery as well.
The book can be ordered at www.williamgairdner.com or at major bookstores and online books for sale.