Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Defining Liberalism

John Gray, in a rather unfocused review of Mark Garnett's The Snake That Swallowed Its Tail, asserts that
even though we are all liberal, there is no agreement about what liberalism means. Some people will tell you that the core liberal value is personal liberty, but others insist it is equality. Some say that liberal values require multiculturalism, while others believe they demand a common culture based on personal autonomy. For some, liberalism is a strictly political theory that applies only to the structure of the state. For others, it is a whole way of life.

These are not just minor differences. They extend to the basic concepts of liberalism itself and to the underlying philosophical beliefs in line with which they are interpreted. If some liberals see freedom as mere absence of interference, others view it as a positive ability to act. For some liberal thinkers, justice requires protecting private property; for others, it means redistribution....
A person who cannot see the difference between process and outcome has no business reviewing a book about political philosophy. He needs a massive injection of Hayek -- stat!