Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Lind on Starr on liberalism

Michael Lind praises Paul Starr’s new book, whose principal arguments are summarized here. My sense is that Starr overemphasizes the continuity between what he calls "constitutional liberalism" and "modern democratic liberalism." The latter is much less focused on individual rights and responsibilities and much more willing to use the power of the state on behalf of equality. If in America there is inevitably a tension between equality and liberty, Starr seems unaware of it or blithely willing to resolve the tension on behalf of equality.

Stated another way, like the liberalism of many of his colleagues, Starr’s liberalism is pragmatic and unwilling squarely to confront the "unnatural" expansion of state power required to accomplish the aims he holds dear.

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An analysis and definition of contemporary liberalism that does not include the words "abortion" or "right to privacy" or "self-expression." Instead, repetition of old FDR economic arguments we've all heard endlessly, but divorced from any discussion of set-backs to actual government programs that have claimed the liberal label. Oh, and some critizism of Bush-era foreign policy in favor of vague-oh "liberal internationalism." Apparently Starr is a calm and pragamatic (because economics-focused) sort of liberal, but he has given us an unserious analysis of the part of the political landscape he inhabits. Yet another disappointing article in which a liberal writer promised to define liberalism, but didn't deliver.

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