Notes on a Dangerous Mistake (Michael Waltzer, Liberties Journal)

Several groups of rightwing intellectuals hover around the Republican Party, defending a stark conservatism. But there is a very different group, definitely rightwing, that is equally disdainful of Republican conservatives and Democratic progressives — who are all at bottom, its members insist, liberals: classical free-market liberals or egalitarian liberals, it’s all the same. These ideological outliers call themselves “post-liberal,” and they aim at a radical transformation of American society. Their overweening ambition is based on a fully developed theology, Catholic integralism, but the political meaning of this theology has not yet been fully worked out or, better, not yet revealed. A small group of writers, mostly academics, constitute what they hope, and I hope not, is the vanguard of a new regime and a Christian society. They have mounted a steady assault on liberal individualism and the liberal state, but so far they haven’t had anything like enough to say about life in the post-liberal world — not enough to warrant a comprehensive critique.

I wrote at the beginning that I would provide my own defense of liberalism. The description above of the post-liberal state and society — that is my defense of liberalism. Individual choice, legal and social equality, critical thinking, free speech, vigorous argument, meaningful political engagement: these are the obvious and necessary antidotes to post-liberal authoritarianism. Above all, we must treasure the right to be wrong. The post-liberals are actually exercising that right. They shouldn’t be allowed to take it away from the rest of us.