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Friday, October 19, 2007

Liberal Principles

Linda Hirshman has finished her mid-wifing trilogy (part 1, part 2, & part 3) of liberal political philosophy for the re-birth of the left. To that end, her interest has been to answer the question of what should liberals believe about what is important about being human and how such humans should live together. Ms. Hirshman's answer is four principles:

1. People are political animals--Why else would we have both speech and reason?
2. Political altruism--It's the redistribution, stupid.
3. Minimal altruism for everyone else--Helping others shouldn't be a suicide pact.
4. A prudent foreign policy--Easy virtue bad.

As I've noted before, I can't agree with her conclusions, or her assessment of conservatism. Nevertheless, there is plenty to take away from this process. Here's her closing truffle passage:

I was a big James Carville fan at the time, but turns out it wasn't the economy stupid after all. The Clinton administration was just a passing fancy. If Democrats are going to move back into the hearts and minds of a meaningful majority of American voters, they are going to have to do it with a vision of our personhood and our obligations to one another more robust than the anemic social contract tradition that went out of fashion in other advanced western societies years ago. The picture of individuals agreeing to cooperate and abide by the majority's votes, so beloved of our commenters at TPMCafe, are both too strong and too weak for functional liberal politics. Too strong, because its majoritarianism is boundless all the way to social tyranny and too weak because its individualism is crippling all the way to callous heedlessness.

Liberal Principles is an effort to put the principles before the policy, before the cart-driven horses run into another smashup.
I still say the right could use a similar effort.

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