Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rumblings about Politics & Liberalism

The death of Richard Rorty (who I know very little about) has yielded an interesting discussion between Damien Linker, Matthew Yglesias, Ross Douthat, Daniel Larison and Andrew Sullivan. And while I don't have anything to say about that discussion aside from the fact that Sullivan again misstates his opponents argument.

But it did prompt a few thoughts. Firstly, it is interesting how the political philosophies discussed by Linker, Sullivan and Yglesias all ignore the central problem of political philosophy- the problem that creates the need for political philosophy, in fact- that of coercion. Any government rules at least in part by force. Establishing the moral basis for this use of force is an essential task, and one that originally liberalism attempted to answer.

Both social contract liberalism and Rawlsian liberalism attempted to address this problem. Social contract theory failed due to the innate fictitiousness of the supposed contract. Rawls' effort, while noble, required everyone to shuffle off their particular principles and beliefs before considering the requirements of justice, producing consent only by our theoretical selves, rather than our real selves (If I were other than I am, I would agree to x, therefore I must agree to x is not a compelling argument).

Tories have a simple solution to this problem- we believe that God ordered society to be subject to government, and all powers proper to government are thereby legitimate. A simple answer, but the best one and the correct one.


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