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View Diary: Are you a liberal or a progressive? (120 comments)

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  •  thank you very much (0+ / 0-)

    i really appreciate you breaking it down for me.

    He argues that in the twentieth century and today, the welfare state, not the free market, is the best system for creating a society where people have the most freedom to pursue their destiny.

    hmm. i'm not sure what i think of that. maybe i have some pre conceived notions about what a welfare state is. but i sure would like a single payer health care system.

    thanks again.

    •  The best way to understand Wolfe's arguments (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zannie

      is to read his book. The review you linked to was by William Gairdner, a self-described "true conservative" whose reaction to the book was extremely predictable, based on what conservatives believe. Conservatives will naturally find fault with Wolfe's equating of classical liberalism with modern liberalism, because it challenges not only everything they believe, but also the conventional wisdom.

      I would have hoped that Gairdner would have actually addressed Wolfe's arguments. Instead, he rejects Wolfe's ideas at the outset because they contradict what he considers self-evidently true: welfare states inevitably curb freedom, therefore Wolfe's thesis is self-contradictory; liberty and equality are inherently at odds, therefore Wolfe's thesis is obviously wrong. I'm not even convinced that Gairdner read the book in full. For example, he states emphatically that "the American founding principle of equality had nothing to do with equalizing outcomes," but Wolfe never said it did; the book specifically explains that equality refers to opportunities, not outcomes:

      Milton Friedman...argued for inequality's inevitability while implicitly conceding how powerful the attraction of equality can be. He did this by making a distinction between equality of opportunity, which he held to be natural and desirable, and equality of outcomes, which he believed to be unattainable as well as wrong. For Friedman, the trouble with liberals is that they take equality of opportunity and transform it into equality of outcomes through the coercive mechanism of the state. This was not as telling a criticism of liberalism as Friedman might have imagined. Liberalism has always been about giving people the ability to control their lives, not about telling them how to lead them. Far from holding to some ideal of what the contemporary political philosopher Michael Walzer has called "primitive equality," or a society in which everyone's outcome is basically the same, liberals have long insisted...that people need equality of opportunity in order to ensure inequality of outcomes; it is only when we have roughly equal chances to choose what we want that we can choose to be different from each other.

      Since Gairdner mischaracterizes Wolfe's thesis from the start, the rest of his review has no chance of going anywhere. He also has a rather strange definition of the term "libertarian socialism," which in ordinary usage has nothing to do with Wolfe's political views.

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