All pro-democratic political movements form part of the pan-liberal spectrum of thought and so pan-liberalism as the foundational philosophical spectrum in liberal-democratic open societies therefore needs to be anchored in many different perspectives, viewpoints and worldviews so as ensure sustainably successful democratization and liberalization in emerging democracies.
All democratic political ideologies subscribe to different versions of the originally Catholic ideology of liberalism which emerged from Catholic natural law which of course itself has an Hellenistic pedigree. Democratic political ideologies therefore represent a wide spectrum of various versions of liberalism and often variously hybridized with different worldviews. A liberal democracy therefore typically only survives as long as a majority of representatives belonging to the wider liberal spectrum wins elections.
This is how German liberal democracy collapsed when Nazis and Stalinists in 1933 together won the majority of mandates in the Reichstag, the parliament of the Weimar republic. The conservative and centrist parties in the Reichstag understandably considered the Nazis a lesser evil than the Stalinists considering the tremendous geostrategic threat posed by the Soviet Union against the liberal-democratic Weimar republic and the fact that the German Communist party in the Reichstag consistently acted as puppets of the Soviet totalitarian dictator Joseph Stalin. This severe political mistake on the part of center-right democratic political parties in Germany sealed the fate of the Weimar republic and its liberal democracy.
Liberalism bases itself on the notion of natural rights, the idea that some principles stand above political disagreements as part of Catholic natural law as even international law has its historical origin in Catholic natural law. This is indeed the historical basis of the spectacular phenomenon that is liberal democracy which is vibrant in its polyphony yet also very vulnerable to the possibility that illiberal anti-democrats will win a national election whether a presidential election or a parliamentary election.
Had however Germany retained its constitutional monarchy would there had been a possibility of protecting German liberal democracy from totalitarian enemies of open society (Nazis and Stalinists) who had a won a significant majority of mandates in the German parliament in 1933. There was in other words no longer a guardian of the guardians. (Many readers of Plato’s “Republic” have wondered who will guard the guardians of the state.)
Why then are liberal democracies so vulnerable to collapse? The most important reason is that executive presidential offices tend to endanger nascent liberal democracies as executive presidential offices tend to incrementally transform elected presidents from democrats into dictators. If pan-liberalism is not strongly anchored in public opinion (and this tends to less be the case where politicized forms of traditional religion have too high a profile in civil society) then this may mean that there is not sufficient respect for the liberal-democratic rules of the political game and so this may lead to the collapse of nascent liberal democracy in an entire nation state.
However, there is a deeper problem with liberalism in frankly being too tolerant of the intolerable. Tolerance is of course an essential cornerstone of liberal democracy, but there is too much toleration of clearly extremely, extremely unethical choices of citizens. This is because superficially secularized forms of liberalism revolted against parts of the Christian value system from before the 1789 French revolution and onwards and so being tolerant of choices considered immoral by organized religion came to be seen as cornerstone in parts of the pan-liberal political spectrum. Yet, liberalism remains strongly influenced by Catholic dogmatism in considering certain dogma as inviolable as axiomatic dogmatism is indeed the very foundation of the pan-liberal value system.
Halakhah, Rabbinically Jewish religious law makes a distinction between 1) acceptable acceptable, 2) acceptable unacceptable and 3) unacceptable unacceptable. Although medieval elite Catholic intellectuals were well versed in Rabbinic Judaism, read Hebrew fluently and were knowledgeable in the Babylonian Talmud; this knowledge was not something that they spoke too openly about as being a Christian so called “Judaizer” was considered something quite bad and even shameful among many Catholic theologians. Indeed, the profound influence of Rabbinic religious literature over the development of Catholic natural rights whereby obligations towards the other (Hebrew mitzvot, singular mitzvah)) were discursively turned into individual rights therefore usually remained unacknowledged. Yet the above rabbinical legal trisection does provide a vital distinction and antidote to the inbuilt dogmatic tendency for self-destruction in many nascent liberal democracies and even in liberal democracies generally.
How do we therefore distinguish between the acceptable unacceptable and the unacceptable unacceptable? It is really quite simple. You shall do no harm unless you really have too, meaning that you really need to first make a significant intellectual effort to find alternative courses of action provided of course that there is time to do so. E.g. the Zionist movement’s and subsequently Israel’s 1947-49 mass expulsion of Palestinians was clearly most justified on military and humanitarian grounds in order to prevent a Second Holocaust considering the existence of an imminent threat of genocide against the Jewish people as openly threatened by Israel’s adversaries including indeed by the Palestinian leadership itself.
However, some prominent Zionist leaders like Israel’s first Prime Minister David ben Gurion (1886-1973) were knowledgeable in Palestinian social anthropology and were therefore well aware that most Palestinian hamulas (clans) are descended from Jews, Samaritans and Judeo-Christians who were involuntarily converted to Islam in medieval times. The mostly secular Zionist leadership refrained however from welcoming each individual Palestinian hamula to collectively revert to Judaism and the Jewish people as this would have been a most viable and realistic option indeed and certainly very much remains so even today despite over a century of armed conflict as Crypto-Jewish awareness is high in many Palestinian hamulas. The Zionist leadership therefore did not make the necessary intellectual efforts to explore other courses of action than defensive enforced mass population transfer.
An example of the unacceptable unacceptable is the global Animal Industry of Evil which is completely and utterly unnecessary and illegitimate and certainly should have no place in liberal democracies or anywhere else for that matter as that parasitism is sheer evil in being completely unnecessary and therefore utterly redundant. A basic fault with Liberalism is of course that it is originally a form of Christian Humanism and therefore a form of racial supremacism of the so called subspecies (i.e. race) Homo sapiens sapiens, also known in English as the “human race”. The original classification in 1758 by Carl Linnaeus as the species Homo sapiens was a concession to religious sensibilities of the then discursively hegemonic European Christianity and Linnaeus himself considered his own classification as scientifically unsupportable. Rather there are multiple contemporary human species and of course even more contemporary human subspecies. Liberalism as the ideology of liberty and liberation therefore must move beyond its Euro-Christian historical origins and embrace universal emancipation and therefore also the legal and practical emancipation of non-human persons.
There is no reason whatsoever why liberal democracies should tolerate totalitarian enemies of open society. All businesses must be legally obliged to act optimally ethical under virtually all circumstances. There are however exceptions to most important principles and even with regard to the strongest axioms at least hypothetically so. Such exceptions must however in themselves not be turned into rules.
The Israeli High Court of Justice in the 1980s accepted the “ticking bomb” legal doctrine according to which so called “moderate physical pressure” was considered legitimate in instances in which time was of essence in obtaining intelligence data in order to stop an imminent terrorist attack and thus save Israeli lives. This exception was systematically abused by the Shin Bet, Israel’s intelligence agency tasked with domestic security and which established torture centers in the disputed territories under Israeli military rule in which Palestinian suspects were routinely subjected to systematic torture. This of course was completely contrary to the ruling of Israel’s High Court of Justice which deemed so called “moderate physical pressure” legitimate under certain exceptional circumstances. This utilitarian ruling of the High Court was reversed by the High Court itself in the 1990s and the torture centers were subsequently closed down.
This is a case of slippery slope where allowing exceptions to the vital legal dogma prohibiting torture was violated. Although in theory one may imagine a real ticking bomb situation such as a nuclear device on a countdown in a major city threatening millions of lives of human citizens, it should be clear that the anti-torture dogma must not be violated and even a hypothetically perhaps legitimate exception must certainly not be turned into a rule. The prohibition on torture must obviously also extend to practices of torture for various purposes (economic, experimentation etc.) against non-human persons.
All totalitarian ideologies including that of the Animal Industry of Evil practice utilitarianism which in a sense is the very opposite of dogmatism albeit itself dogmatic on a few points. Utilitarianism is the notion that persons should be sacrificed in the interest of the so called “greater good”. The principle of proportionality in the laws of war is based upon this “principle” which justifies causing greater harm to enemy civilians in the interest of preventing lesser harm to one’s own side for the greater good of achieving military victory (military utility) in defensive war. Utilitarianism, the theory of sacrificing others for the so called “greater good” has thus found its way into international law due to in this case lack of axiomatic alternatives.
The notion of sacrificing other persons for the “greater good” is of course Christian in origin in the crucifixion repeatedly narrated in the Greek anthology known as the New Testament (which importantly includes Hellenistic mystery literature known as “gospels”) whereby a certain, later world-famous Pharisaic rabbi and Jewish revolutionary according to much later Hellenistic Christian theology is supposed to have sacrificed himself for the entire so called “humanity”. The Babylonian Talmud however informs us that this Pharisaic rabbi was rather stoned to death and it is clear from the Greek-language New Testament that he was anything but a Hellenist and certainly did not practice the Hellenistic Judaism from which Paulinian Hellenistic Christianity emerged and developed. Even the word “Christ” is Greek and there is no indication that the Pharisaic rabbi in question knew Greek.
While indeed tolerance in the pan-liberal consensus is clearly vital to liberal democracy, the toleration often goes too far in tolerating acts of evil that clearly belong to the category of unacceptable unacceptable. This is because the distinction between the acceptable unacceptable and the unacceptable unacceptable only exists in halakhah and not in international law and constitutional law. This distinction in Jewish law is clearly highly relevant for “secular” jurisprudence which tends to articulate unethical rulings through recourse to “secular” legal literalism. Indeed, this particular axiom in rabbinic law deconstructs the very dichotomy between dogmatism and utilitarianism.
What then are the acceptable unacceptable? First this applies to differing opinions but clearly not to fundamentally anti-democratic opinions of totalitarian enemies of open society. Second this applies to exceptional instances of necessity such as the the principle or self-defense in the laws of war.
Liberalism in the widest possible sense of the word (i.e. pan-liberalism including pro-democratic conservatives and pro-democratic socialists) is an ideology of distinctly Western European Judeo-Christian origins which claims to apply to all human beings similar indeed to the eschatological claims of Christianity. The lesson of European democratization is however that liberalism needs to be anchored in many different particular worldviews so as to ensure overwhelming public support for the political supremacy of pan-liberal dogmatism. The diversity inherent in pan-liberalism is therefore vital indeed for the very survival of nascent democracies and in fact for the survival of all liberal democracies more generally.
The Eurolect – Politics of the Para-Christian documentation project