The Attempt To Create A "New Man"
The Western Democratic Tradition by LJM Cooray (1985)

Western society which was influenced byliberalism and Christianity is in the process of rejecting this heritage and influence. What is it rejecting that base in favour of? The answer is that Western societies from the latter part of the 19th century have very gradually moved to attempt through law to make man good to create a new man— to create heaven on earth. The importance in the common law tradition of the fault principle is outlined above. The purpose of the common law was to focus on wrong doing— to stop individuals from sin. This reflected the influence of liberalism and Christianity, which reached roughly the same positions from different perspectives. The liberal influence sought to give the autonomous individual the freedom to live his life and to order his own affairs, within an area of legal regulation based on fault which placed restrictions on human conduct. The Christian influence pointed to a concept of righteousness which was to be achieved not through the law, but through man in relationship with God. The common law dealt with wrongs (sin) and was intended to keep men out of sin. The modern law after statutory reform now attempts to make man good. The earlier law's purpose was more limited to prevent sin. Goodness was to be achieved through man's relationship with God in the Christian tradition. The importance of the autonomy of the individual was emphasised in the liberal tradition.

Christian and liberal positions come into tension on issues such as censorship, abortion, pornography, obscenity and decriminalisation of homosexuality.

This attempt to create a "New Man" was seen at its extreme in communist countries, but it has also been evident in western societies. What is meant by saying that law attempted to make man good?

There was commencing from the 19th century, but becoming more powerful in the 20th century, a change in philosophical outlook which was mainly the result of the new sense of human mastery over the environment, which in turn was inspired by the fabulous scientific and technological achievements of the 19th and 20th centuries. This euphoric sense of human capacity quickly permeated every field of human learning and radically changed the way in which human problems were regarded, thus giving rise to the predominant social theories of our times.

It did not take long for leaders around the world (of all political persuasions) to succumb to an illusion of their capacity to fashion the destiny of human kind. This overpowering sense of capacity led them to think that the limited range of government power and authority were the main obstacles to the achievement of socially desirable goals. Given this feeling, few leaders feared the consequences of the imperceptible growth of government power capable of both use and abuse.

As Western nations grew immensely wealthy and the bounty of democratic governments expanded immeasurably it seemed that all social ills were curable given the political will. This new faith provided the foundation of the greater part of intellectual discourse, and theories upon theories were built to support the new concept of all-embracing government. All this involved a subordination of Western societies to new secular philosophies and theories. Relativism, marxism, Communism and socialism all of which proceed on the basis that God did not exist or ignored God. Man and woman under the influence of secular philosophies thought they could solve human problems and end human suffering. Man began to play God. Man forgot original sin. Fallen man tried to reach out to perfection on earth— Man tried to build heaven on earth. He forgot God. Therein lies the roots of the crisis of the western world.

The roots of the economic, social, political and moral problems of the west stem from the movement away from limited government and moral and spiritual responsibility.