Gary Hart on Liberalism

In this Sunday’sTimes book section Hart reviews both Alan Wolfe’s new book and Purdy’s Tolerable Anarchy.  He uses the review as an opportunity to wax stupidly on his own understanding of liberalism.  For instance: 

The closest Wolfe comes to a core liberal principle is this: “As many people as possible should have as much say as is feasible over the direction their lives will take” (somewhat a definition of democracy itself). 

Of course this bears no resemblance to a definition of democracy.  When voters in the Mid-West can decide how people in California love each other, that is a democratic decision.  When voters in Michigan and Ohio and Montana decide whom I can pay to help me in California, that is a democratic decision.  All of these electoral issues–and a thousand others–erode liberty.  In fact, Hart seems oblivious to the inherent tensions between liberty and democracy.  Nevermind his “as is feasible” proviso. Who determines that?

Hart continues:

…neither socialism on the one hand nor the ruthless markets of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman on the other guarantee any degree of equality of opportunity… 

Ruthless? Does not “guarantee any”? Hyperbole, I suppose, but these are the very points that classical liberals debate against the modern liberals of the Donk. Besides, Hart writes as if Obama weren’t elected. He writes as if the Donk didn’t control both houses of Congress. Was he assigned this review last September?


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