Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What is Liberalism?

I think E.J.Dionne makes a crucial distinction in his A Wave of Populism, a Test for Obama:
"Conservatives have argued for decades that the sins most dangerous to our society were rooted in lust when in fact they were rooted in greed."

Then I found these paragraphs in a New York Times book review, Just Another Word

The closest Wolfe comes to a core liberal principle is this: “As many people as possible should have as much say as is feasible over the direction their lives will take” (somewhat a definition of democracy itself). Further, liberalism’s purpose is “helping people to achieve control over their lives.” Empowerment is the contemporary version of this principle, which originated with John Locke, not Franklin Roosevelt.

This is not a vision of the state telling people what they can and cannot do. This is government helping people to maximize their potential. Consequences, whether involving gender, race, ethnic derivation or economic condition, flow from this principle. Barriers have to be removed, and ladders of opportunity must be built. If markets remove barriers and build ladders, so much the better. If they do not, a principled liberal state has no choice but to act.

I agree with both Dionne and Gary Hart. For all the anti-statism voiced by Rush Limbaugh and even smarter conservatives, I always noted they were happier with more police doing more to invade the liberty of my privacy. In fact, the only thing where they seemed not like to government to go was into the economic field to regulate companies like AIG and Bear Stearns.

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