Tag: Classical liberalism

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.


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.


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.


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:


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.”