An Open Letter from ‘Liberty And Justice For All’


Liberty And Justice For All is an academic and intellectual enterprise focused on making sure that what has happened in the American academy—and which has now spilled out into American streets—does not take over and destroy our free and decent polity.

By now, the American academy is in some respects a lost cause. Tenured radicals who got their toehold by appealing to demands for diversity have largely taken over and discarded any pretense of intellectual diversity. They deny the legitimacy—and sometimes the humanity—of those who disagree with them. They have built a left-wing intellectual monoculture that increasingly persecutes conservatives and is now threatening liberals and any others who resist what George Orwell prophetically called “smelly little orthodoxies.”

Those who have signed the Open Letter below—a mix of conservatives, liberals, and unclassifiable academics and writers—are putting their names to a statement that both articulates what is under attack and offers an intellectual defense of those necessary ideals and institutions on which a free society depends. We do so in the hope that a silent majority of the American people remains committed to our inheritance, and that others can be persuaded to renew that commitment in this new time of troubles.

You can join us here.

An Open Letter to Our Fellow American Citizens

We stand at the crossroads.

Over the next several years, the noble sentiments and ideas that gave birth to the United States will either be repudiated or reaffirmed. The fateful choice before us will result either in the death of a grand hope or a recommitment to an extraordinary political experiment whose full flowering we have yet to realize. The choice will involve either contempt and despair or gratitude and the self-respect worthy of a free people who know long labors lie before them and who proceed with hope toward a dignified future.

In the name of justice and equality, those animated by contempt and despair seek to destroy longstanding but fragile American institutions through which justice and equality can be secured. Destruction of these imperfect but necessary institutions will not hasten the advent of justice and equality but rather accelerate our collapse into barbarism and degradation.

Groups of Americans who today advocate endless racial contempt, who systematically distort our history for political gain, who scapegoat and silence whole groups of citizens, who brazenly justify and advocate violence and the destruction of property invite us not to justice and equality but to an ugly future whose only certainty is fear.

In the face of this threat, the American institutions we must now reaffirm are these:

  • Free speech. Too many of our media outlets have become shameful caricatures intent on purveying one-sided narratives rather than on wrestling with difficult issues about which reasonable citizens will disagree. They inflame rather than inform. They contort public debate rather than contribute to it. Rather than defend freedom of speech and association, they have become instruments of a despicable “cancel culture,” bereft of forgiveness and intolerant of opposing views.
  • Representative government. Our Constitution establishes a democratic republic. Our elected representatives are tasked with making laws for the common good. If citizens are dissatisfied with the results, they must elect different representatives rather than take the law into their own hands. Abandoning representative government does not hasten equality; it invites tyranny. “Defunding” (as opposed to intelligently reforming) the police, who uphold the laws our political representatives make, does not hasten justice; it invites anarchy and abandons the most vulnerable to the worst depredations.
  • Federalism. Our country is diverse. We cannot produce a unity amidst diversity by forcing all citizens to fit the singular mold that politically correct speech imposes. A diverse polity can exist only within the framework of federalism, which allows true pluralism to thrive.
  • Market commerce. The United States was conceived as a middle-class commercial republic in which entrepreneurial citizens can succeed and fail—then succeed again. This arrangement, however imperfect, has produced remarkable prosperity and lifted millions out of poverty. Naïve calls for state control of industry and the abolition of private property, if implemented, will return us to the nightmare that hundreds of millions endured in the last century. The middle class and those who wish to join it are threatened today by two additional obstacles: crony capitalism, which concentrates wealth in fewer and fewer hands, and woke capitalism, by which the political left extorts corporate support for social justice causes, thus deflecting entrepreneurial energy away from the important task of producing truly useful products and services. Policymakers and concerned citizens must emphatically resist these trends and instead promote avenues to help the poor join the middle class.
  • Education. The necessary task of preparing the next generation to preserve and expand our inheritance has been replaced by the morally bankrupt task of repudiating those figures and accomplishments of our past which do not pass ideological purity tests. Rather than learn the difficult moral lesson that amidst the imperfections of the human heart there are noble longings for goodness, truth, and beauty, our young people are taught that any imperfection repudiates those noble longings. By this we teach our children to search out and honor grievances rather than greatness. This is not education; it is indoctrination, and its result is to make life small, petty, and hopeless.
  • Family. An affirmation of the traditional family—the belief that men and women should be encouraged to marry and have sons and daughters—cannot be thought a crime. Civilization perishes unless such unions are encouraged. The noble longing for a plural society, in which not all are cast in the same mold, must not be realized by belittling the family. Strong families headed by married couples have been the key to success in black America ever since slavery was abolished a century and a half ago, and this remains the key today for all Americans.
  • Religion. Civilization is fragile. If religious institutions and beliefs are marginalized and mocked, the indispensable civilizational supports for a free and decent life will quickly vanish. In a plural society like America, people are free to pursue their own paths to truth. But a truly plural society cannot abide the deliberate attempt to undermine, and even destroy, churches and synagogues. A pluralism that denies the legitimacy of religious faith and practice will not produce a “diverse” America; it will, instead, produce a tyrannical America in which the freedom of conscience is lost, the inherent dignity of the individual is denied, and the strongest support for just and moral living is erased. As Alexis de Tocqueville noted, despotism can do without religious faith, but freedom cannot.

Those who attack these American institutions insist that their foundations have been corrupt from the beginning. They insist that racism, injustice, and oppression are inextricably linked to our national identity, and therefore everything born of the American experiment is tainted by sin. In their revolutionary fervor, they wish to sweep aside everything identified with our history and establish a new social and political order on novel and untainted foundations. They show no humility or self-restraint. They display limitless contempt for opposing views. They sympathize with vile tyrannies, disdain the rule of law, attack market commerce, hide behind the privilege their university indoctrination has authorized, excoriate the family, and attack those very religious traditions which have produced a moral horizon transcending tribalism and given rise to the concern for justice and equality for all. Their philosophy of pure negation cannot sustain a political order that affirms liberty, human dignity, and moral and civic equality, rightly and humanely understood.

This crisis is acute, and the hour is late. Like our forebears, we aim both to conserve and reform our institutions in light of enduring principles of justice. That is the task of self-governing people who know they live in an imperfect world and yet are not deterred by its challenges.

We invite all citizens of good will to join us so that together we can strive for liberty and justice for all.

Jeremy Beer — The American Conservative
Daniel J. Mahoney — Assumption University
Joshua Mitchell — Georgetown University
Mark T. Mitchell — Patrick Henry College
Robert Woodson, Sr. — 1776 Unites

William B. Allen — Emeritus Dean and Professor, Michigan State University
Brian Anderson — City Journal
Hadley Arkes — Founder and Director, James Wilson Institute
Andrew J. Bacevich — Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
Michael Barone — American Enterprise Institute
William J. Bennett — Former Secretary of Education
Johnny Burtka — The American Conservative from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute
Victor Davis Hanson — Hoover Institution
Rod Dreher — The American Conservative
Mary Eberstadt — Faith and Reason Institute
Michael P. Farris — President, Alliance Defending Freedom
Jon Gabriel — Editor in Chief, Ricochet
Allen C. Guelzo — Princeton University
Os Guinness — Senior Fellow, Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics
Yoram Hazony — Edmund Burke Foundation
Charles Kesler — Claremont McKenna College
Roger Kimball — Encounter Books
James Howard Kunstler — Author and blogger
Glenn C. Loury — Brown University
Rich Lowry — National Review
Harvey C. Mansfield — Kenan Professor of Government, Harvard and Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution
Daniel McCarthy — The Fund for American Studies
Wilfred M. McClay — University of Oklahoma
John McWhorter — Columbia University
R. Albert Mohler, Jr. — Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
John Podhoretz — Editor, Commentary
Jeff Polet — Professor of Political Science, Hope College
James Pontuso — Patterson Professor, Hampden-Sydney College
Julie Ponzi — American Greatness
James Poulos — Executive Editor, The American Mind
Stephen B. Presser — Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus, Northwestern University School of Law
Paul Rahe — Hillsdale College
Lawrence W. Reed — President Emeritus, Foundation for Economic Education
Alfred Regnery — President, Republic Book Publishers
Robert Reilly — Author, America on Trial
Richard Reinsch — Editor, Law and Liberty
Gabriel Rench — Host, CrossPolitic Show
R.R. Reno — Editor, First Things
Robert Royal — President, Faith and Reason Institute
Roberta Schaefer — President Emeritus, Worcester Regional Research Bureau
David Schaefer — Professor of Political Science, College of the Holy Cross
William Schambra — Hudson Institute
Diana Schaub — Professor of Political Science, Loyola University Maryland
Terry Schilling — Executive Director, American Principles Project
Nathan Schlueter — Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Hillsdale College
Daniel P. Schmidt — The Giving Review
Garrett Ward Sheldon — Professor Emeritus, University of Virginia
Fred Siegel — The Manhattan Institute’s City Journal
Thomas W. Smith — Palm Beach, FL
Thomas Spence — Regnery Publishing
James R. Stoner, Jr. — Louisiana State University
Lee J. Strang — John W. Stoepler Professor of Law & Values, University of Toledo College of Law
Carol Swain — Professor of Political Science and Professor of Law, Vanderbilt University
Mark Tooley — Institute on Religion and Democracy, and Editor, Providence
Warren Treadgold — NEH Professor of Byzantine Studies, Department of History, Saint Louis University
Lee Trepanier — Political Science Department, Samford University
Steven J. Twist — Adjunct Professor, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University
Geoffrey Vaughan — Professor of Political Science, Assumption University
Robert Anthony Waters, Jr. — Ohio Northern University
Bradley C.S. Watson — Professor of Politics and Philip M. McKenna Chair in American and Western Political Thought, Saint Vincent College
George Weigel — Ethics and Public Policy Center
Ryan Williams — President, Claremont Institute
Bradford P. Wilson — Executive Director, James Madison Program, Princeton University
Douglas Wilson — Christ Church
Frank Wolf — U.S House of Representatives (VA), retired
Christopher Wolfe — University of Dallas
John Wood Jr. — Braver Angels
Martin D. Yaffe — Department of Philosophy and Religion, University of North Texas
Jean Yarbrough — Professor of Government and Gary M. Pendy, Sr. Professor of Social Sciences, Bowdoin College
Scott Yenor — Boise State University
John Wesley Young Ph.D., — Author, Totalitarian Language

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  1. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty

    Is this what Mark Steyn refers to as Conservative Inc?

    • #1
  2. FloppyDisk90 Member

    Where and how will this letter be distributed?

    • #2
  3. JennaStocker Member

    This is a good concept. It seems similar to the statement of Sohrab Ahmari  and various other religious and intellectual leaders as published in First Things, with an implication for broader influence in coalescing the modern conservative movement. Hopefully this transcends politics – recognizing the consequences of ceding the culture are killing a healthy, congenial society. Is there anything beyond adding a signature that us common-folk can contribute? Thank you for publishing this.

    • #3
  4. drlorentz Member

    Much as I respect a couple of the signatories, this letter is a futile gesture. There’s something simultaneously sad and risible about it. Who are the intended recipients? Antifa, BLM? Or is it people who are on the fence about riots and overthrowing the government? “Gee, I wasn’t so sure about this whole ‘constitution’ and ‘freedom’ thing but that letter sure turned me around!”

    Daddy, what did you do during the Second Civil War?

    Son, I wrote a letter.


    • #4
  5. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist

    I am heartened to see some people in high places putting it on the line in otherwise politically unsafe spaces — Northwestern, Princeton, Brown. . . If we’re going to overcome this left-wing takeover of the country, people are going to have to make sacrifices, up to and including their careers. 

    For those of us not occupying the intellectual and academic commanding heights, though, I have a shorter message: Vote Trump/Pence 2020. It’s important. Last chance.

    • #5
  6. Jim Kearney Contributor
    Jim Kearney

    The press release includes a preamble:

    In order to preserve the American ethos of e pluribus unum, a new academic and intellectual enterprise Liberty And Justice For All has announced a public defense of our country’s longstanding but increasingly fragile American institutions and principles of justice.

    Over a quarter-century ago, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.—a committed liberal and partisan Democrat—and Allan Bloom—a conservative, of sorts—wrote very different books that came to similarly disturbing conclusions: that the mind of the American university was closing and that it would result, as Schlesinger put it, in the “disuniting of America.” Their shared prophecy is now playing out in our streets in ways that neither would probably have imagined.

    Helps set the context.

    The letter itself is a worthy effort. I agree with most of the principles, and hope that it somehow finds an audience.

    The tone is a little grand and majestic. Somewhere midway between this letter and a typical Trump speech there’s a happy place to communicate these ideas to a thoughtful mass audience.

    Personally, I’d have asked for a couple of content-related edits before signing on.

    First, I’d omit the line singling out black America under the Family bullet point.

    Second, under the Religion bullet point, lose the last three sentences. Pluralism must be as inclusive of the individual’s secular freedom from religion as it is inclusive of the free exercise thereof. I write this on September 11, a date when we remember the danger of religious fanaticism, even as nightly in our streets rioting zealots wave the red and black banners of their own unaccredited faiths.

    • #6
  7. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    Much as I respect a couple of the signatories, this letter is a futile gesture. There’s something simultaneously sad and risible about it. Who are the intended recipients? Antifa, BLM? Or is it people who are on the fence about riots and overthrowing the government? “Gee, I wasn’t so sure about this whole ‘constitution’ and ‘freedom’ thing but that letter sure turned me around!”

    Daddy, what did you do during the Second Civil War?

    Son, I wrote a letter.


    I might be wrong but I sort of think the point is to show right thinking people that they are not alone.  Tyranny operates to a large degree by isolating dissenters so they are either silenced or, if not silent, can be picked off one at a time secure in the knowledge that there will be little objection to their destruction from a cowed population.  Very often the antidote has simply been the realization that the tyrants are a tiny minority exercising outsized power.  In other words, it helps to demonstrate that the emperor has no clothes.   I’m sure this letter isn’t the be all and end all in that effort, but I support all such efforts to publicly stand with American institutions and against the rising totalitarian impulse on the radical left.

    • #7
  8. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty

    Cato Rand (View Comment):
    Tyranny operates to a large degree by isolating dissenters so they are either silenced or, if not silent, can be picked off one at a time secure in the knowledge that there will be little objection to their destruction from a cowed population.

    Sounds like Rich Lowry defending the removal of Confederate statues.

    • #8