Tolerance in liberal society


Why political correctness is failing us

Tolerance is a key feature of any liberal society, and for good reason. It protects the democratic spirit that the West holds so dear, and it safeguards the rights and freedoms of the individual. So called ‘progressives’ – who inevitably aggregate on university campuses across the country –  are the champions of this liberal ideal. But while progressives are succeeding in extending fair tolerance to ethnic minorities and women, there is one demographic that they have intentionally left behind – conservatives. 

Our current political-correctness obsessed culture masquerades as a mechanism of tolerance, but actually weeds out intellectual diversity. Somehow, the very concept of political correctness has transcended politics and taken on a moral weight; because of this, young adults who are in the process of feeling out their political beliefs face a sort of punishment if they choose conservatism. If it is allowed to continue, the anti-intellectualism of our PC culture will prevent universities from acting as safe havens for free and critical thinking. 

One peer-reviewed study, which was featured in the New York Times, found that one-third of social psychologists admit that they are anti-conservative when it comes to the hiring process. The same New York Times article found that only 9% of social scientists identify as conservative while 20% identify as Marxists – this shows an enormous left-wing bias. 

If we assume that the lopsided political beliefs that exist amongst professors will eventually propagate amongst students, then the cycle of liberal closed-mindedness has potential to feed back into itself. Not only are students morally repelled from thinking conservatively, but they now they are being incentivized to think liberally. Such a systemic removal of a given political belief is eerily Orwellian. 

In order for Western liberals to truly achieve tolerance, a line must be drawn between blind crudeness and critical thought. Those who practice the former aim to offend, while those who practice the latter do not. 

Offense can sometimes be a knee-jerk reaction to non-conformist and paradigm challenging ideas, but we must learn to embrace it in these cases. We must recognize this difference as a liberal society; only then can we preserve the proper function of political correctness without letting it ruin the political process itself. 

Allow me to finish with a quick analogy: Monopolies are a form of market failure in the economy, in part because they remove the incentive for businesses to improve their product. Capitalism is at its best when competition brings the best out of all participants. 

The same can be said of political discourse. The brightest ideas are often reactionary; one brilliant thinker offers a challenge to another brilliant thinker and paradigm-shattering concepts and worldviews are born. Extending tolerance to conservative thinkers is in the self-interest of all who have a stake in the political process.