Friday, November 19, 2004

Neo-conservatism

We are long time admirers of American neo-conservatives -- (in Irving Krystol's famous words) liberals mugged by reality.

Much like us.

Here is a terrific essay on ne0-conservatism on Hoover Institution's excellent website:

http://www.policyreview.org/oct04/lindberg.html

A notable section is excerpted here:

Because we favor freedom and equality, and as a consequence of our general support for efforts to extend freedom and equality, we must also oppose such demands for equality that impinge excessively on freedom and oppose such demands for freedom that impinge on equality.

Whether one wishes to call this position “neoconservative” or something else, it is both “neo” and “conservative” in the sense that what is being conserved is our liberalism — its extension in time and space. The distinction between this “neoconservative” position and a “progressive” position amounts to the weight one attaches to two sets of claims. One set, the “progressive,” manifests itself as the demand for expanded freedom or the demand for greater substantive equality in the particular case at hand (that is, in the object of a political dispute). The other set, “neoconservative,” concerns itself with whether a demand for greater freedom might impinge excessively on substantive equality or whether a demand for greater substantive equality might impinge on freedom.

If neoconservatism has a claim for the superiority of its outlook, it is that the desire for freedom and the desire for equality are always present in liberal societies and liberal politics (indeed, they are the raw material of liberal society), whereas the striking of an acceptable balance between the two is not a given but a matter to be worked out by politics — a politics that can go badly wrong when the balance is wrongly struck, potentially with disastrously illiberal consequences.

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