Now that everyone says they are liberals, Catholics, fascists and communists, opening a debate on liberalism is not an out of order.
It is not a simple undertaking, but it is a theme that deserves to be explored: maybe in two successive episodes.
Let's start ab ovo.
1) If no one denies that from the point of view of more recent history, the institutions of modern liberalism were developed in England, the distinction between Anglo-Saxon liberalism, "empiricist and pragmatic", and Eurocontinental liberalism, "idealistic and abstract" is all other than peaceful.
Essentially, it is based on external criteria of mere prevalence. Above all, it has not been deepened enough to understand whether in both cases the cult of freedom can be considered truly observed on the level of a very rigorous logic.
The confirmation of the inevitable ambiguities on the concept of liberalism is contained in Michael Anton's recent essay “After the flight 93. Election: The vote that saved America” (Ed. Encounters books).
The American writer speaks of the "spiritual" identity (using a term which is in itself very ambiguous) of the West, referring, in a textual way, to three cities: Jerusalem, Athens, Rome and specifying, then better, Judaism, "classical" philosophy ”Greco-Roman, Christianity. In other words, the trinomial that would be at the basis of the European liberal "spiritual" identity would exclude, among the Middle Eastern religions, all equally monotheistic, only Islam and would expunge the non-classical, that is, pre-Socratic and above all empiricist philosophy from Greco-Roman philosophy atomistic and even monistic, to the full benefit of Platonic and Aristotelian idealism.
The author does not explain how the liberal order, a coveted landing place by every human being yearning for the freedom of the individual and the community in which he lives, can remain closed and protected in a port where the threatening waves of two religious authorities penetrate and break through ( Judaism and Christianity) and the philosophical one, equally absolutist as Plato and Aristotle, true despots of Academic culture.
Then, arguing with other authors, Michael Anton falls into a further deep contradiction (corroborating the Proustian thesis of Babel) by criticizing the cult of American multilateralism, as extraneous to the spiritual identity of American liberalism, without realizing that the theory of the export of democracy, on the other hand, is the most faithful interpreter of the proselytizing anxieties of the two Middle Eastern religions he mentions (Judaism and Christianity) as "pillars" of his "liberal idea".
The American writer shows he is unaware of how much the two religions, Jewish and Christian, have always been eager (even in a spasmodic way, especially the second) to increase the number of the faithful to fight and annihilate the enemies of God and how much the destruction of those who they did not believe in verba magistri, operated by the methods of the schola of Plato and Aristotle, was harsh and merciless in the life of the Academy.
With all due respect to Michael Anton, the "summa", religious and philosophical of despotism and irrational and equivocal "spiritualism" (landed with the immigration of the time in the free places of Rome and Magna Grecia) cannot be put based on liberalism.
The only possible framework for the affirmation of a truly liberal idea is that which the American writer bans: that of the empiricism and pragmatism of the Greek and Roman pre-Socratics, of a-religious monism or of tolerant and open paganism to any different I think.
Keeping away from any idea of conversion of infidels or submission of rebellious scholars to verba magistri is essential for a true lover of liberalism.
Sure. It is a contradiction to speak of liberalism in countries where the Bible is still sworn, where swampy rites are celebrated in universities to entrust the choice of the "elected" to proofs of academic fidelity to the Master, where a false and bigoted Puritanism still allows for annihilation with the help of a press influenced by economic power, political leaders guilty of having made love decades and decades earlier, outside the sacrament of marriage with women (today happy grandmothers). Perhaps liberalism has not yet been born.
And this is one more reason, to make it born better, relying only on reasoning, on intelligence, on logic, on respect for the freedom of others that does not go beyond the prevarication and the recognition of equal rights in every human being, on absence of violence or scams.
The Romans of the Republic, true and unique creators of a profound and radical liberalism, had created rules (reasonably permissive or exemplary punitive) such as neminem laedere, matrimonia libero esse antiquitus placuit, carpe diem, which only true liberals could conceive and subscribe to.
It was the definitive triumph of Christianity that put a gravestone on the concept of freedom.
Of course, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since those distant times (and also from the years of the Inquisition and the more recent years of the Pope-King's gallows) but for a truly liberal individual, today, to attribute to a monotheistic religion the paternity of the idea of freedom is a "secular blasphemy".
2) The Eurocontinental liberals never wanted to accept, out of a sort of patriotic pride, the lesson of their Anglo-Saxon politicians of the same name; they elected the philosophers of the unhealthy and falsely salvific German idealism as masters of liberal thought (in Italy: Gentile and Croce).
This has not been without consequences for their political action.
The liberal forces, in Italy and in the continental part of Europe, have never exercised their right to move without the laces and snares of the mass parties, Christians of various denominations (Christian Democrats, Christian-social, popular) and social-communists or social-democrats . And this, precisely because of the deterministic dependence, therefore completely unaware, of the Germanic idealistic philosophy.
It was enough to read the documents of all the Italian political forces to realize that free thought sooner or later would stumble and find the stumbling block of a religious or ideological faith.
Europe, stubbornly and obstinately ignoring the teaching of Niccolò Machiavelli, has always confused the practical activity necessary for the conduct of the polis, with morality and, worse still, with religious precepts and ethical axioms.
Basically, if today the western world has split in two, this is due to the fact that liberalism assumed as a recognition code of the democracies of this part of the world is far from unitary and homogeneous, relative to its philosophical inspiration of basis.
As a consequence of this, while the Anglo-Saxon pole follows Machiavelli's doctrine about the distinction between politics and morality, and the other, that is, continental Europe is unable to separate one from the other, not freeing itself from ideological subjection to Judaism, Christianity, Platonism and German idealism, ideologies full of postulates defined as "moral".
In other words, while the Anglo-Saxon countries are induced to seek solutions aimed at solving, without false screens, the concrete problems of their respective communities, the other European peoples appear oriented towards the dutiful and uncritical observance of abstract ethical, secular or religious. Obviously, the suspicion of the fake would be, for some observers, more than natural.
It is no coincidence, therefore, that for many political scientists, only in the Anglo-Saxon part of the Western world does pure liberalism appear destined to persist, still alive and vital.
The "liberal democratic" systems of the origins, characterized by pragmatism, utilitarianism, the ability to guarantee a good social coexistence for citizens in continental Europe, would have a difficult life, due to the absence of political forces truly oriented towards the utmost respect for the ideas of freedom ( from those of thought to those of economic initiative).
In Italy, even excluding fascists and communists, "infrequent" for lovers of freedom, even in the seats of non-fanatic and self-styled liberal parties one meets individuals conditioned by asserted truths that cannot be demonstrable or even denied by experience: Catholics, Jews, Protestant Christians, Freemasons.
Liberalism was never an abstract doctrine, it was not born from an idea, it never posed a vague, chimerical ideal to pursue: it was born from the need to solve the concrete problems of human existence, both personal and collective, in the willed respect, as rigorous as possible, of the freedom of the individual. It has always been based on experience. It should rely exclusively on pragmatism and respect for the freedom of all associates.
In ancient times, it fed on Greco-Roman empiricism, pagan religious permissiveness; in more recent times, after its clear disclosure due to the pen of Lucretius Caro (idest: at the "discovery" of De rerum natura), it has taken root in the England of Hume, Berkeley, Locke, Hobbes, favored by Anglican Calvinism of which Somerset Maugham, in The Painted Veil, makes one of his characters say: “If he belongs to the Church of England, it means that he believes almost nothing”.
In continental Europe, starting from the alleged Judeo-Christian roots and the unknown Greco-Roman origins, liberalism has not been able to see the light; in other words, he was never born.
These environmental conditions could not put any obstacle to the vocation of the inhabitants to "make a flock", to place themselves under the guidance of a leader, be it theocratic, monarchist, oligarchic, tyrannical or even just very authoritarian.
This was the effect of two thousand and more years of thought tamed by faith or by a metaphysical philosophy, which, like the first, was just as irrational, imaginative, imaginative.
The Italians of the so-called "Judeo-Christian" civilization, after the decline of the (truly such) "Greco-Roman" one, have lost the path of logic, reasoning, meditated reflection: they only move on emotional impulses, deriving from beliefs irrational as well as on the (cunning) push towards conformity (comfortable refuge, which does not create problems of autonomous choices); they cannot even complain that there is no worse misfortune than remembering, in misfortune, a glorious past. The latter dates back too long to serve as an alternative for comparison.