Tag: Classical liberalism

Ayaan speaks with Dave Rubin about the future of liberalism. Can it be saved and if so, how? They discuss faith, religion, and the pseudo-religion of wokeism. Plus, they explore whether or not we still have a free press.

Dave Rubin is an author, comedian, and TV personality best known for his political commentary. He is the host of The Rubin Report, a top-ranking talk show recognized as one of the most influential spaces for candid conversations about complex issues and current events. Dave is known for his iconoclastic and honest approach to big ideas and his unwavering support for free speech.

A Machine for Preventing Civil War


Scott Alexander, in a 2017 post at Slate Star Codex:

People talk about “liberalism” as if it’s just another word for capitalism, or libertarianism, or vague center-left-Democratic Clintonism. Liberalism is none of these things. Liberalism is a technology for preventing civil war. It was forged in the fires of Hell – the horrors of the endless seventeenth century religious wars. For a hundred years, Europe tore itself apart in some of the most brutal ways imaginable – until finally, from the burning wreckage, we drew forth this amazing piece of alien machinery. A machine that, when tuned just right, let people live together peacefully without doing the “kill people for being Protestant” thing. Popular historical strategies for dealing with differences have included: brutally enforced conformity, brutally efficient genocide, and making sure to keep the alien machine tuned really really carefully.

Amity Shlaes joins Brian Anderson to discuss a classical liberal perspective on the coronavirus shutdown, the similar responses of U.S. mayors to violent disorder in both the late 1960s and in 2020, and the shift in what’s considered acceptable economic thought in journalism. Read Shlaes’ latest book, Great Society: A New History, to learn more.

Patrick Deneen’s Delusions


In the Wall Street Journal’s most recent “Weekend Interview” feature, columnist William McGurn spoke to Professor Patrick Deneen, a political theorist at Notre Dame, about his influential 2018 book Why Liberalism Has Failed. McGurn, himself a Notre Dame graduate, takes Deneen to task for selling the Founders “short” by supposedly exposing their weak moral and social foundations in his book. “Liberalism has failed,” Deneen provocatively claims, “not because it fell short, but because it was true to itself. It has failed because it has succeeded.”

In Deneen’s view basic liberalism necessarily goes astray because it treats the atomistic individual, shorn from his or her social and religious context, solely as a rights-bearing entity. Deneen thus attacks the Framers worldview with its strong protections  of individual rights, free and fair elections, and an independent judiciary.  Writing even before Trump was elected, Deneen argues that it is “evident to all that the political system is broken and social fabric is fraying, particularly as a growing gap between wealthy haves and left-behind have-nots increases, a hostile divide widens between faithful and secular peoples, and deep disagreement persists over America’s role in the world.”

It is one thing, however, to identify a broken social culture; it is quite another to offer a diagnosis and cure for the condition. Deneen does neither. The book’s flap description leads with its chin: “Of the three dominant ideologies of the twentieth century—fascism, communism, and liberalism—only the last remains.” Ridding the world of both fascism and communism will never come soon enough, given that both forms of government necessarily degenerate into police states. The same must be said today of socialism, which produces tyrannies in countries such as Russia, China, Cuba and Venezuela.  Even the worst form of liberalism is far better than these mutant forms of social organization.

Richard Epstein traces the origins and evolution of his libertarian thinking over a half-century in the spotlight.

Should Conservatives Create the Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness Party?


life-liberty-and-happinessIf a rump Le-Pen-style Republican Party emerges (oozes out?) after this election, freedom-loving Americans like me will knock the dust of the GOP off our sandals and start anew. What would be a good name for the next conservative party?

I know it’s long but what about the Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness Party?

We could trade the “Republicans” label for “Pursuers” or “Lifers”? What about “Liberals”? This LLPH Party could be the official name and use “Liberty Party” for short and then go about reclaiming and rehabilitating the (classical) “Liberal” label.

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See, I don’t think I’m a true conservative.  I have been a reader of National Review for a long time, but I read the online version and haven’t paid for a subscription.  Hardly conservative of me. I am not socially conservative in many ways, but I find the idea of the Western Canon and traditions […]

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The Abandonment of Conservative Principle


On Laura Ingraham’s website, Lifezette, Edmund Kozack laments the “Constitution worship” of those opposing the populist movement within the GOP:

The Constitution worship of those like Shapiro and Sen. Ted Cruz reveals that the mainstream conservative movement has largely forgotten the principle of imperfectability. The Constitution alone cannot guarantee some sort of political utopia. Man is fallen — a city on a shining hill cannot be guaranteed by a mere piece of paper. The fact that within a decade of the documents’ adoption the government was already trying to subvert it should be a clear indication of that reality.

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Donald J. Trump is the Republican Nominee in the 2016 General Election. This is a fact. Now those of us who care must begin to plan the alternative; to plan a new party. This must not be a hastily done matter, and requires great thought and consideration; there is no chance that a new party […]

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This post is an elaboration on a theory I presented in a discussion had in a previous post discussing the origins of Classical Liberalism.  Classical Liberalism, Libertarianism, Conservatism. There is a lot of debate about where the borders of these groups start and end, who is in what sphere,  who is banished from what sphere, and […]

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On the Origins of Classical Liberalism


usalbibliotecaSome argue that classical liberalism (now conservatism), as a philosophy, began in the Enlightenment (late 17th century into the 18th century) with the works of thinkers such as Hobbes, Locke, Smith, Bastiat, and Hume. As Friedrich Hayek categorized it, classical liberalism had a French and British branch.

Conservatism, according to this narrative, was rather a unique and radical idea in comparison to all previous philosophies. In other words, what the English did in the Glorious Revolution was the result of a new Protestant paradigm shift from the old and defunct schools of thought which permeated a still predominantly Catholic Continent.

Usually such a movement in the “Enlightenment” is pitted as rational Protestants in England and the Netherlands, along with more secular French and German thinkers, against the superstitious and ritualistic Catholics from Spain and France. As if such areas were entrenched in some permanent medieval paradigm.

Virtue: More Than Its Own Reward


shevekI recently read the Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, an excellent novel that I highly recommend. The dialogue to the right got me thinking. The first speaker is from a decadent, stratified society, while the latter is from an extremely egalitarian, quasi-utopian one.

That the latter speaker — the protagonist, Shevek — is overstating his case is not lost on Le Guin, who’s quite honest about the shortcomings of Annarian society. But it suggests an important truth we often miss: Being virtuous isn’t just right; it’s usually smart, too.

I’m not saying that humans are inherently good and that we should all follow our instincts and the whims of our hearts. The best of us are broken, selfish, and prone to sin and vice. (The rest of us are far worse.) Temptation is a constant and inseparable part of the human condition, both in individuals and societies.

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Conservatism made sense once upon a time when we were trying to conserve liberal values against a creeping progressive agenda. But now the progressives are the conservatives, and those of us who still believe in individual liberty, small government, freedom of contract, and free markets have to rediscover our liberal roots. Liberals wrote the Constitution, […]

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Responding to Classical Liberalism’s Critics


shutterstock_164117816As has been noted here at Ricochet, my former University of Chicago colleague, Cass Sunstein, recently authored a review of my new book, The Classical Liberal Constitution: the Uncertain Quest for Limited Government, in the pages of The New Republic. The review itself is thoughtful, though you’d never know that from the titles chosen by the editors of The New Republic. The print version is headlined “Tea Party Constitutionalism: The Unexamined Dogmas of the Libertarian Right.” Online, it’s even worse: “The Man Who Made Libertarians Wrong About the Constitution: How Richard Epstein’s highly influential, highly politicized scholarship cemented Tea Party dogma.”

The magazine’s hysterics aside, Professor Sunstein’s criticisms still fall short in my view. As I note in my column this week for Defining Ideas at the Hoover Institution:

Sunstein’s review never challenges any of the particular places where I claim that the classical liberal approach is superior to its progressive alternative, as both theories relate to government structure or individual rights. Instead, Sunstein notes that many contemporary thinkers have rejected my basic constitutional orientation. He even invokes the authority of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. to push for popular democracy: “If my fellow citizens want to go to Hell I will help them. It’s my job.” After expressing some sympathy with some of my (unidentified) positions, he concludes emphatically that “a judicially engineered constitutional revolution is not what America needs now.”

Repressive Tolerance


In the ’60s, the philosopher Herbert Marcuse proposed a new standard for tolerance that specifically excluded perspectives the Left deemed repressive. Giving air to conservative perspectives was “repressive tolerance,” in Marcuse’s coinage. Far from an underground radical viewpoint, this degenerated view of speech is becoming mainstream in academia.

A recent Harvard Crimson op-ed reprises Marcuse’s theme well: “If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of ‘academic freedom’?” And we are already aware of the Inquisition-like tactics used in the climate debate. “When we’ve finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we’re in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards—some sort of climate Nuremberg.”