In defense of liberalism
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - October 11, 2018 - 12:00am

The broad definition of liberalism is that it is a political and moral philosophy based on liberty and equality espousing civil rights, democracy, secularism, gender and race equality, internationalism and the freedom of speech, the press, religion and markets.

At the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, Francis Fukuyama, an acclaimed American political philosopher prophesied what he called the “end of history” – a belief that, after the fall of communism, free market liberal democracy had won out and would become the world’s “final form of human government.”

That was the time the Berlin Wall had fallen and Russia had opened to the West. Even China was seemingly adopting capitalism and observers were predicting that capitalism would eventually force China to adopt liberal democracy. Even the Philippines had overthrown a terrible martial law regime and  won back its democracy through  People Power. 

Today, liberal democracy seems to be in a crisis all over the world; and even Fukuyama wonders about its future. In an interview, he said: “ Twenty-five years ago, I didn’t have a sense or a theory about how democracies can go backward. And (now) , I think they clearly can.” 

In its recent issue celebrating its 175th anniversary, the Economist main article was a ten-page essay titled: “Reinventing liberalism for the 21st century.” The magazine admitted that it was championing a creed that was clearly on the defensive and needed to reinvent itself. However, there are four key elements that need to be retained.

“The first is that society is a place of conflict and that it will  and should remain so; in the right political environment, this conflict produces competition and fruitful argument.” That is why liberalism espouses a market economy and democratic elections. It does not favor either communism or crony capitalism.

“The second is that society is thus dynamic; it can get better, and liberals should work to bring such improvement about.” It should champion social change.

“The third is a distrust of power, particularly concentrated power.” Liberalism encourages independent democratic institutions that provide checks and balances such as an independent judiciary. 

“The fourth is an insistence, in the face of all power, on equal civic respect for the individual and thus the importance of personal, political and property rights. 

Unlike Marxists, liberals respect the rights of the individual. However, unlike conservatives, who want to maintain the status quo,  liberals strive for progress in economic, social and political areas. 

Globalization and technological change has allowed the concentration of wealth and power  in the hands of fewer and fewer people. Technology, like facial recognition systems and data science has allowed governments to exercise greater control on society.

In the past, liberals have been typically known and seen as reformers agitating for social change. Today, liberalism has become more identified with the elites and the status quo. Many former activists have become either employees of the elites or even part of elite. Reforms and social change are now being espoused either by the communists on the Left or the populists on the Right.

The Economist says:  “...liberal reformers at their best have shared a dissatisfaction with the status quo and a determination to attack established interests. That sense of urgency and boldness is missing now. Liberal reformers have become liberal insiders, satisfied beneficiaries of the world they have helped to build.”

Liberalism is still the best alternative to communism, fascism, socialism, or populism. But those who truly believe in liberalism must find a way to rekindle their reforming spirit. 

Prayer of a Filipino Teacher

I recently received a message from Br. Armin Luistro FSC, former DepEd Secretary and the present president of De La Salle-Philippines composed of the 17 Lasallian educational institutions throughout the country. These are prayers he composed in celebration of World Teachers Day 2018. He wrote: “It is my hope that these prayers could help our teachers rediscover the nobility of the teaching profession and reignite in each of them a passionate love for those whom they serve.” Here are two of the prayers he sent:

 Most loving God, in your goodness you led me to this profession to serve as a Teacher in the Philippines. I am profoundly grateful that you entrusted me with this precious gift so I can be an instrument of your truth and your love to the world. I humbly ask for your forgiveness for those times when I was unable to fulfil the mission to which you sent to me. I ask for the grace to overcome these shortcomings today and to give of myself more zealously to those confided to my care. Bless me with wisdom and patience, prudence and generosity as I fulfil my responsibilities today. May all my actions be filled with love – from the most insignificant and routinary to those required during great and exceptional times.

O Divine Master, may I consider it my greatest joy to serve my students as far as I shall be able and as you will require of me. May I put their needs ahead of my own as I give unconditionally, generously and cheerfully. May I have a special affection for those who come last, search untiringly for those who are lost, and give preferential attention to those who are the least. May I be open to the surprises and lessons that I could learn from my own students and never lose faith in them. May I be energized with the joy of seeing myself grow in wisdom and grace together with the students under my care. 

Creative writing classes for kids and teens

Young Writers’ Hangout on Oct. 13 (1:30 p.m.-3 p.m.; stand-alone session) at Fully Booked BGC.  For details and registration,  email



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