Sunday, July 08, 2007


Authoritarian (i.e., "liberal," fascist, or communist): The greater good ("social welfare") lies in the conformity of all (elites excepted, of course) to rules set down by elites.

Conservative: The greater good lies in conformity to well-established traditions -- modes of living together that have stood the test of time. Such norms must arise from society and not be imposed on it by elites, though leaders will arise whose wisdom and foresight helps to shape constructive changes in social norms.

Libertarian: There is no greater good; the welfare of individuals cannot be summed. Neither elites nor traditions should dictate how individuals choose to live, as long as they do not harm others by their choices. Individuals may choose to adopt broadly accepted social norms, but only insofar as those norms are consistent with their own (harmless) behavioral preferences.

Conservative libertarian: There is no greater good, but individuals are generally better off if they respect social norms that have stood the test of time. To violate those norms willy-nilly (as a libertarian would do) or to efface those norms through fiat (as an authoritarian would do) is to undo the bonds of trust that enable peaceful and prosperous coexistence and mutual self-defense of that modus vivendi.