The Undermining Of Freedom And Responsibility
The Western Democratic Tradition by LJM Cooray

Why and how has the evolutionary balance between freedom and responsibility in the western tradition been undermined?

The original values and institutions of the tradition were subjected to challenge, notwithstanding the overall wealth and development that the system and the market economy have generated. How and why has this happened. Some of the tensions engendered by the challenge are analysed above.

The original values and institutions of the western democratic order can accommodate some of the concerns for, and the analysis of, human problems and suffering which move the reformists. The tensions arise because: (1) the reformist ideas and policies often are based on unachievable standards and an absence of understanding of "common sense ", the rationale of the original tradition and human interaction, and (2) the emphasis on the power of law to achieve those ends.

The supporter of the original tradition may often agree with the reformist in his analysis of problems but would argue that an attempt to use law made by imperfect humans and administered by imperfect bureaucrats and judges is often counter productive. Thus, for example, a supporter of freedom may be equally as concerned as a regulationist about discrimination against women but would see the need for education rather than regulation. He would doubt the wisdom of special legislation (targets, quotas) and suggest the better enforcement of the general law because, legislation in such situations will lead to discrimination and create more problems than it solves.

Equality of opportunity (not equality of outcome) and provision for the genuinely underprivileged are within the rationale of the original tradition. The emphasis of the reformists is no longer on merely providing for the really poor and reducing inequality. The emphasis is no longer on extending avenues for equality of opportunity, but is directed towards equality as a goal — towards providing equality of outcome. The movement is for equality and for the elimination of economic and social privilege, disparity and exploitation, which has very fundamental implications for freedom and enterprise. This is accompanied by the resounding clichetic phrases and arguments which accompany the egalitarian message, and the envy and hatred of success, capitalism and wealth, even when privilege is based on effort and ability.

The fundamental problems in recent decades has een the attempt by the reform tradition to provide legal solutions for problems to which there are no legal solutions or which cannot be adequately dealt with by the legal system.

The consequences of the challenge have led to:

Space does not permit the exploration of all these issues. Some of them have surfaced during the above analysis. The following analysis focuses on some other aspects of why and how the traditional western system was undermined and has declined.