Ever wonder how it is that so many self-proclaimed liberals and “progressives” don’t seem to care about preserving liberty?

Especially in the last decade or so, as the liberal wing of the Democratic Party has moved ever leftward and the assaults on liberty have cascaded, liberals seem more and more to divide into two camps: those who retain some love of liberty and those who do not.

The relative size of these two groups is unclear; my perception is that the first group is far smaller than the second. But the two groups exist, and what seems to differentiate them are (a) the person’s need to control others and/or society; and (b) the degree to which the person thinks government can do so effectively and get the desired results.

Many liberals state that their motives are “good”—that is, to do good. They say they want people to be happier, healthier, and in general just better. Some actually seem sincere in this, as well as being motivated by a self-serving need to feel that they are good people for wanting to do good. But some liberals and many many leftists, especially activist leftists, have a different motivation: anger, and the desire for power and control.

Back when Mayor Bloomberg of New York was heavily engaged in banning Big Gulps, a few liberals I know were offended by what Bloomberg had done, although many others were in favor. That was one of the strongest demonstrations of the sometimes-invisible dividing line between those liberals who still value liberty and those who do not, the latter being the outright and flagrant statists (don’t forget, too, that there are Republican statists as well, although far fewer).

You may recall Sarah Conly, author of Against Autonomy, an excellent demonstration of the statist impulse and the supposedly do-good one combining to create a vile synergy. And who better to explain it all than Ms. Conly herself:

I argue that autonomy, or the freedom to act in accordance with your own decisions, is overrated—that the common high evaluation of the importance of autonomy is based on a belief that we are much more rational than we actually are. We now have lots of evidence from psychology and behavioral economics that we are often very bad at choosing effective means to our ends. In such cases, we need the help of others—and in particular, of government regulation—to keep us from going wrong.

If you want to know how a person can justify such tyranny to themselves, that’s how. How they can be so stupid as to believe it a good idea (assuming that Conly does believe it rather than merely mouthing it in order to get a lot of publicity and maybe even power one day) is another, more mysterious question. It’s a question I have yet to see answered to my satisfaction, but let’s just say that I’m beginning to think the desire for liberty versus the desire to control others might just be something innate.

The sad thing is that even those remaining liberals who profess to love liberty are for the most part voting for people dedicated to ending it.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]