Giles Fraser: illiberal Guardianista?

He gained major respect when resigning over Saint Paul’s handling of the Occupy saga, and his secular opposition to council prayers and support for gay marriage was startling. But now The Guardian’s new columnist informs us that Cologne’s ban on religious circumcision is ‘ridiculous’, and the liberal focus on freedom of choice is an impoverished perspective from which to approach such issues. In an embarrassing follow-up he intensifies the attack further, equating liberalism with selfishness, a lack of social obligation – things he judges inherently incompatible with socialism.

Norman Geras is incredulous. As am I. I consider myself both a liberal and a socialist, so he better be wrong. Fraser has somehow made the mistake of thinking that in prioritising the value of freedom, liberals necessarily commit themselves to rampant vulture capitalism; a blind egoistic commitment to one’s own interests. But nothing could be further from the truth. The best liberals, in my view, think that recognising the value of freedom yields vast obligations to one’s fellow citizens to cultivate a social environment in which we can all enjoy favourable conditions for free living. I support an extensive welfare state because I’m a liberal. I don’t want anybody to suffer the oppression that is poverty. What I object to isn’t a government that intervenes to promote freedom, but one that hijacks public institutions in order to push a contentious agenda saying that this is the best way to live. I want a government that gives us all the legs to run without picking the paths we will then take.

This isn’t difficult. But apparently you can write a column reeking with such ignorance and still frequently write for Comment is Free.

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