Liberals want to destroy America

Nostalgia? Longing to immerse yourself in the crowd and sing about freedom? In the midst of the second wave of pandemics, a winter of isolation and enforced restrictions, the images of the concert seem unreal. The freer the better: this is the formula that is overwhelmingly popular in Western societies. Or, to speak with the middle-of-society bard Westernhagen: "Freedom is the only thing that matters."

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On the one hand.

On the other hand, the pandemic proves that the greatest possible freedom and liberalism are not always the solution. That there are restrictions for the individual in order to protect the many.

It didn't take a pandemic to realize that liberalism was not thought through to the end. It will never be. Freedom is not a state that can be ascertained and then secured. But "a foundation that is not well-founded," as the philosopher Ágnes Heller wrote. The conditions for freedom have to be constantly renegotiated. It is necessary to take care of liberalism, not to take it for granted, to make it better, more defensive.

From Trump to Xi Jinping, from Orbán to Erdoğan, from the AfD to the Identitarians: These are more than mere anomalies that disappear on their own. The authoritarian right is fighting Western liberalism as their main enemy. In the rhetorically radical, undifferentiated and fear-inducing din about refugee policy, imagined foreign infiltration or Islam, it sometimes goes under that it is fundamentally freedom that attacks the right. The right-wing thought leader Arthur Moeller van den Bruck wrote the following sentence: "Liberalism will perish the peoples." And the anti-liberals of today have an advantage: They hardly know any obstacles when it comes to the brutality and cunning of political means. Russia is ruled with repression and authoritarianism, in the big data surveillance state of China there is nothing left of freedom in some places. And in Hungary Viktor Orbán openly propagates his "illiberal democracy" and restricts fundamental freedoms.

His opponents have recognized the weaknesses of liberalism and exploit the mistakes more and more skillfully. What exactly are the weak points?

Liberalism as the dictatorship of the ego

The fact that freedom is coming under pressure in many parts of the world is not only due to the brutality of the right, the right-wing populists. This is mainly due to liberalism itself. Populism is a sign of the weakness of liberalism, says Slavoj Žižek. Edward Luce observes a "retreat of liberalism", Timothy Garton Ash an anti-liberal counterrevolution and Patrick J. Deneen declares that liberalism has triumphed to death. What the philosopher and anarcho-Marxist, the British journalist, the historian and the conservative US professor, what these very different intellectuals understand by liberalism is very different. But they all make a diagnosis that is not new, but with ever more serious consequences:

Liberalism in its current form, which has been dominant since the end of the Cold War, market liberalism, primarily wants the self-determined, creative, atomized individual. Narcissists, egomaniacs, and self-exploiters. And if you don't make it, it's your own fault for not using your freedom. Selfishness remains from the promise of freedom. The trust in institutions and people, which is so important for free societies, is falling apart. This is particularly evident in the pandemic, when freedom is only understood as the right to be ruthless. And in the end freedom degenerates into an advocacy of free enterprise, as the economic sociologist Karl Polanyi foresaw in 1944. The state has less and less room for maneuver; it is viewed as secondary, pushed back. And because this emptied and exaggerated, egomaniacal individualism is primarily defined by demarcation, rejection and conflict, it also leads to hatred of "those up there".

Freedom as excessive demands

For many, freedom has become a burden, a duty, for some even a threat. This is where the existential dimension of the problem reveals itself: What defines our way of life at its core no longer generates above all optimism, no longer above all future orientation, but increasingly fear and anger. The voters of the Trumps, the Orbans, the AfD expect them to exercise their freedoms, to restrict basic rights and thus allegedly make their lives easier. They want borders, walls or less freedom of the press.

A decisive battle rages on: Is it the fear of freedom or the fear of freedom that dominates in the end? Does the pain of freedom predominate or the urge for freedom? Can freedom above all inspire or is it feared above all? As long as there are liberal societies, this struggle will continue. It would not end until the fear-fed authoritarianism prevails.

Freedom for those who are already free

Liberals often do not want to know that freedom for personal development can usually only be enjoyed by those who are already free. Liberalism today is also a means of maintaining power for the powerful. Privilege turns into domination. And instead of greater equality of opportunity, a new plutocracy is emerging. The rich, young and agile serve as a display and self-affirmation of the system. What remains are no liberated individuals, but many lonely, powerless people. It's not just a side note that, say, 22 percent of millennials in the US say they have "no friends." The fairy tale of equal opportunities has a worse effect: Anyone can make it, anyone can float upstairs if they just kick hard enough. This performance-based approach overlooks how unequal and unfair the starting conditions are for fat to float up by itself. That it's the privileges of the one that hold the other down.

In the storm of digital globalization, some of the disillusioned, powerless and insecure yearn for guidance and protection. And more and more towards the authoritarian state. The self-destructive forces of liberalism are growing. The stronger he becomes, the more he reveals his self-contradictions. Freedom therefore tends to abolish itself. The need for certainty arises from their unreasonable demands. And the path from the longing for certainty to nationalist fundamentalism, for example, is short.

Liberalism immunizes itself against criticism

Liberalism is often criticized. Too often, however, this criticism is dismissed as ideologically motivated. Those who criticize their excesses are branded as the enemy of freedom. Of course, liberalism itself is nothing more than a political ideology. He's just very clever at hiding it. He seems far too normal, far too lacking in alternatives, far too versatile. Like the air to breath. Liberalism presents itself as a prerequisite for society to thrive. As if it were a law of nature, objective reason, some kind of natural phenomenon. The only thing that matters. He claims to provide a neutral field on which anyone can play as they please, as it seems beneficial. And if there are problems, the state is an arbitrator who protects the individual and property. Most of all, it remains invisible most of the time.

Liberalism's confidence in predicting the future is grotesquely exaggerated

The hope that an economic and emancipatory force will always develop from the withdrawal of the state has turned out to be a political utopia with the financial crisis of 2007/08 at the latest. The "end of history" turned out to be a departure into the unknown. Nevertheless, liberalism is still too often glorified as the natural model for all human societies. A smug, naive hubris, which means that the status quo that the liberal West has fought for, worked out for, earned, is perceived as something that no longer needs to be dealt with much. Differentiated analyzes then appear unnecessary.

The freedom-loving socialist George Orwell believed that liberalism is focused on human imperfections: "It is an ongoing reform program to alleviate the cruelty we see around us." But for the reasons mentioned, this reform program is failing at the moment. This is the only way to explain that there is such great dissatisfaction in the system that has produced the measurable increase in prosperity over the past few decades. This can be seen not only in the election success of populists, but even in the increasing number of suicides, for example in the USA. In conversation with the sociologist Heinz Bude: The "feelings of society" are more important than the statistics. Also and especially when the salvation promise of liberalism, namely that less state automatically leads to more personal prosperity, remains an empty one for more and more younger people.

So what is to be done? What helps? What not? How can liberal values ​​be revived?

Two suggestions for discussion:

Liberal democracy has to readjust in the area of ​​tension between individual freedom and the common good

A stronger state is necessary to save freedom. In such a state, redistribution would not be a dirty word, and Article 14 of the Basic Law would not be an empty phrase: "Property obliges" (...) "Its use should also serve the common good". Because one thing is clear: a liberalism that satisfies the basically conservative desire for security and solidarity must be different from the ego-liberalism of today. What if terms like bond