Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Sunstein redefines "Liberal"

Cass Sunstein has a lovely New York Times essay that tries to give us back the word "Liberal." I hope it works. 

"Liberal" from "Libertas" means, at bottom, freedom. In the 19th century, "liberals" were devoted to personal, economic, and increasing social freedom from government restraint.  "Conservatives" wanted to maintain aristocratic privileges, and government interventions in the traditional way of doing things. The debate was not so obvious. Conservatives defended their view of aristocratic power in a noblesse-oblige concern for little people that the unfettered free market might leave behind, in a way quite  reminiscent of today's elites who think they should run the government in the name of the downtrodden (or "nudge" them, if I can poke a little fun at Sunstein's earlier work). 

But by the 1970s, the labels had flipped. "Liberals" were advocates of big-state interventionism, in a big tent that included communists and marxists. It became a synonym of "left." "Conservatives" became a strange  alliance of free market economics and social conservatism. The word "classical liberal" or "libertarian" started to be used to refer to heirs of the enlightenment "liberal" tradition, broadly emphasizing individual liberty and limited rule of law government in both economic and social spheres. 

But broadly, "liberal" came to mean more government intervention and Democrat, while "conservative" came to mean less state intervention and Republican, at least in rhetoric.  

But a new force has come to the fore. The heirs of the far-left marxists and communists are now, .. what shall we call them.. perhaps "censorious totalitarian progressives." Sunstein calls them "post liberals." The old alliance between center-left and far left is tearing apart, and Oct 7 was a wake up call for many who had skated over the division. 

Largely, then, I read Sunstein's article as a declaration of divorce. They are not us, they are not "liberals." And many of you who call yourselves "conservatives," "free marketers" or even "libertarians" should join us to fight the forces of illiberalism left and right, even if by now you probably completely gave up on the New York Times and read the Free Press instead. 

Rhetoric: Sunstein is brilliantly misleading. He writes what liberalism "is" or what liberals "believe," as if the word were already defined his way. It is not, and the second part of this post quotes another NYT essay with a quite different conception of "liberal." This is an essay about what liberal should mean. I salute that. 

It's interesting that Sunstein wants to rescue the traditional meaning of "liberal," rather than shade words in current use. "Classical liberal," is mostly the same thing, but currently shades a bit more free market than he'd like. "Neoliberal" is an insult but really describes most of his views. People have turned insults around to proud self-identifiers before.   "Libertarian," probably has less room for the state and conservativism than Sunstein, and most people confuse "libertarian" with "anarchist." It's interesting he never mentions the word. 

Well, let's rescue "liberal." 

Here are some excerpts of Sunstein's 37 theses. I reorganized  into topics. 

What is "liberalism"? 

1. Liberals believe in six things: freedom, human rights, pluralism, security, the rule of law and democracy....

6. The rule of law is central to liberalism. ...It calls for law that is prospective, allowing people to plan, rather than retroactive, defeating people’s expectations. It requires conformity between law on the books and law in the world. It calls for rights to a hearing (due process of law)....

Liberalism requires law evenly applied, not "show me the man, and I'll find the crime." It requires a legal system in which each of us is not guilty of "Three Felonies a Day," unprotected unless we are trouble to those in power. 

10. Liberals believe that freedom of speech is essential to self-government....

11. Liberals connect their opposition to censorship to their commitment to free and fair elections, which cannot exist if people are unable to speak as they wish. ...They agree with ... “the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”   

It's freedom, individual dignity, equality before the law and the state. 


On economic matters, "liberalism" starts with the basic values of the laissez-faire tradition, because the right to transact freely is one of the most basic freedoms there is:

15. Liberals prize free markets, insisting that they provide an important means by which people exercise their agency. Liberals abhor monopolies, public or private, on the ground that they are highly likely to compromise freedom and reduce economic growth. At the same time, liberals know that unregulated markets can fail, such as when workers or consumers lack information or when consumption of energy produces environmental harm.

On the latter point, Sunstein later acknowledges room for a variety of opinion on just how effective government remedies are for such "failures" of "unregulated markets." I'm a free marketer not because markets are perfect but because governments are usually worse. A point we can respectfully debate with fact and logic.

16. Liberals believe in the right to private property. But nothing in liberalism forbids a progressive income tax or is inconsistent with large-scale redistribution from rich to poor. Liberals can and do disagree about the progressive income tax and on whether and when redistribution is a good idea. Many liberals admire Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society; many liberals do not.

I endorse this as well, which you may find surprising. Economics really has nothing to say about non-distorting transfers. Economists can only point out incentives, and disincentives. Redistribution tends to come with bad incentives. "Liberals" can and do argue about how bad the disincentives are, and if the purported benefits of redistribution are worth it. Cass allows liberals (formerly "conservatives") who "do not" admire extensive federal government social programs, because of their disincentives. Me.

17. Many liberals are enthusiastic about the contemporary administrative state; many liberals reject it

I also agree. I'm one of those who largely rejects it, but it's a matter of degree on disincentives, government competence, and the severity of the problems being addressed. "Liberals" can productively debate this matter of degree.  Liberalism is a framework for debate, not an answer to these economic questions. 

Integrating Conservativism

Integrating "conservative" into "liberal" is one of Sunstein's charms, and I agree. He is also trying to find a common ground in the "center," that tussles gently on the size of government while respecting America's founding enlightenment values, and unites many across the current partisan divide. 

2...Those who consider themselves to be leftists may or may not qualify as liberals. You can be, at once, a liberal, as understood here, and a conservative; you can be a leftist and illiberal. 

22. A liberal might think that Ronald Reagan was a great president and that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was an abomination; a liberal might think that Roosevelt was a great president and that Reagan was an abomination.   

"Conserativism" properly means conserving many of the traditions of our society, rather than burning it down once a generation striving for utopia, and having it dissolve into tyranny. Sunstein's "liberalism" is conservative

 24. Liberals favor and recognize the need for a robust civil society, including a wide range of private associations that may include people who do not embrace liberalism. They believe in the importance of social norms, including norms of civility, considerateness, charity and self-restraint. They do not want to censor any antiliberals or postliberals, even though some antiliberals or postliberals would not return the favor. On this count, they turn the other cheek. Liberals have antiliberal and postliberal friends.

26. .. if people want the government to act in illiberal ways — by, for example, censoring speech, violating the rights of religious believers, preventing certain people from voting, entrenching racial inequality, taking private property without just compensation, mandating a particular kind of prayer in schools or endorsing a particular set of religious convictions — liberals will stand in opposition.

The latter includes, finally, a bit of trends on the right that "liberals" do not approve of, and they don't. 

28. Some people (mostly on the right) think that liberals oppose traditions or treat traditions cavalierly and that liberalism should be rejected for that reason. In their view, liberals are disrespectful of traditions and want to destroy them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Consider just a few inherited ideals, norms and concepts that liberals have defended, often successfully, in the face of focused attack for decades: republican self-government; checks and balances; freedom of speech; freedom of religion; freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures; due process of law; equal protection; private property.

29. Liberals do not think it adequate to say that an ideal has been in place for a long time. As Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. put it: “It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV. It is still more revolting if the grounds upon which it was laid down have vanished long since and the rule simply persists from blind imitation of the past.” Still, liberals agree that if an ideal has been with us for a long time, there might be a lot to say in its favor.

A lover of freedom can also admire rule of law, tradition, and custom. Why do we have private property? A illiberal, like many college students fresh to the world, might start from basic philosophical principles, and state that all of the earth's bounty should be shared equally, and head out to the ramparts to seize power. As a philosophical principle, it can sound reasonable. 

But our society and its laws, traditions, and customs, has thousands of years of experience built up. A village had common fields. People over-grazed them. Putting up fences and allocating rights led to a more prosperous village. The tradition of property rights, and their quite detailed specification and limitation that evolved in our common law, responding to this experience,  along with well-educated citizens' conception of right and virtue, the moral sense of property right that they learn from their forebears, can summarize thousands of years of history, without us needing to remember each case. 

This thought is what led me in the past to characterize myself as an empirical, conservative, rule-of-law, constitutional and pax-Americana (save that one for later) libertarian, back when the word "liberal" meant something else. 

But, as Holmes points out, a vibrant society must see that some of this laws and traditions are wrong, or ineffective, and thoughtfully reform them. Property rights once extended to people, after all. 

Most of all, the 1970s "liberal" but now  "illiberal" view has been that government defines the purpose and meaning of life and society, be it religious purity, socialist utopia, or now the vanguard of the elite ruling on behalf of the pyramid of intersectional victimization. The role of the government is to mold society to that quest. "Conservatives" have thought that the purpose of life and society is defined by individuals, families, churches, communities, scholars, arts, culture,  private institutions of civil society, via lively reasoned debate; society can accommodate great variety in these views,  and the government's purpose is just to enforce simple rules, and keep the debate peaceful, not to define and lead us to the promised land. I read Sunstein, correctly, to restore the word "liberal" to this later view, though it had largely drifted to the former.  

Who isn't liberal? The progressive left

Who isn't a "liberal," to Sunstein? If you've been around university campuses lately, you know how much today's "progressives" ("post-liberals") have turned politics into a tribal, warlike affair. This is who Sunstein is really unhappy with, and to whom this essay is a declaration of divorce: 

5. ...liberals ... do not like tribalism. ... They are uncomfortable with discussions that start, “I am an X, and you are a Y,”... Skeptical of identity politics, liberals insist that each of us has many different identities and that it is usually best to focus on the merits of issues, not on one or another identity.

I would add, liberals evaluate arguments by logic and evidence, not who makes the argument. Liberals accept an enlightenment idea that anything true can be discovered and understood by anyone. Truth is not just listening to "lived experience." 

18. Liberals abhor the idea that life or politics is a conflict between friends and enemies.

23. Liberals think that those on the left are illiberal if they are not (for example) committed to freedom of speech and viewpoint diversity. They do not like the idea of orthodoxy, including on university campuses or social media platforms. 

Ad of course, 

30. Liberals like laughter. They are anti-anti-laughter.

Old joke from my graduate school days: "How many Berkeley marxist progressives does it take to screw in a light bulb?" Answer: "I don't think that kind of humor is appropriate." 


In case you think everyone agrees on this new definition of "liberal," the essay has a link below it to another one by Pamela Paul, "Progressives aren't liberal." Paul's essay also covers some of the history of how the word was used, but in the end uses it in a quite different way from Sunstein.  

In the 1960s and 70s, the left proudly used the word in self-description. 

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan, who often prefaced [liberal] with a damning “tax and spend,” may have been the most effective of bashers. ...Newt Gingrich’s political organization GOPAC sent out a memo, “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,” urging fellow Republicans to use the word as a slur.

It worked. Even Democrats began avoiding the dread label. In a presidential primary debate in 2007, Hillary Clinton called herself instead a “modern progressive.” She avoided the term “liberal” again in 2016.

I think Clinton was trying to position herself to the right of what "liberal" had become by 2016.  "Progressive" has come to mean something else. But I may be wrong. 

Never Trump conservatives tout their bona fides as liberals in the classical, 19th century sense of the word, in part to distinguish themselves from hard-right Trumpists. Others use “liberal” and “progressive” interchangeably, even as what progressivism means in practice today is often anything but liberal — or even progressive, for that matter.

In the last sentence she is right. Sunstein is not, as he appears, describing a word as it is widely used today,  but a word as it is slowly becoming used, and as he would like it to be used. 

liberal values, many of them products of the Enlightenment, include individual liberty, freedom of speech, scientific inquiry, separation of church and state, due process, racial equality, women’s rights, human rights and democracy.

Here you start to think she's got the same basic big tent as Sunstein.  But not so -- this essay is testament to the enduring sense of the "liberal" word as describing the big-government left, just please not quite so insane as the campus progressives: 

Unlike “classical liberals” (i.e., usually conservatives), liberals do not see government as the problem, but rather as a means to help the people it serves. Liberals fiercely defend Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, the Voting Rights Act and the National Labor Relations Act. They believe government has a duty to regulate commerce for the benefit of its citizens. They tend to be suspicious of large corporations and their tendency to thwart the interests of workers and consumers.

Sunstein had room for disagreement on these "fierce" defenses, or at least room for reasoned argument rather than profession of essential belief before you can enter the debate. "Tout their bona fides" above also does not have quite the reach-across-the aisle non partisan flair of Sunstein's essay. I don't think Paul welcomes never-Trump classical liberals in her tent. 

For Paul, the divorce between "liberal" and "progressive" is real, as for many other "liberals" since the October 7 wake up: 

Whereas liberals hold to a vision of racial integration, progressives have increasingly supported forms of racial distinction and separation, and demanded equity in outcome rather than equality of opportunity. Whereas most liberals want to advance equality between the sexes, many progressives seem fixated on reframing gender stereotypes as “gender identity” and denying sex differences wherever they confer rights or protections expressly for women. And whereas liberals tend to aspire toward a universalist ideal, in which diverse people come together across shared interests, progressives seem increasingly wedded to an identitarian approach that emphasizes tribalism over the attainment of common ground.

It is progressives — not liberals — who argue that “speech is violence” and that words cause harm. These values are the driving force behind progressive efforts to shut down public discourse, disrupt speeches, tear down posters, censor students and deplatform those with whom they disagree.

Divisions became sharper after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, when many progressives did not just express support for the Palestinian cause but, in some cases, even defended the attacks as a response to colonialism, and opposed retaliation as a form of genocide. 

This brings us to the most troubling characteristic of contemporary progressivism. Whereas liberals tend to pride themselves on acceptance, many progressives have applied various purity tests to others on the left, and according to one recent study on the schism between progressives and liberals, are more likely than liberals to apply public censure to divergent views. This intolerance manifests as a professed preference for avoiding others with different values, a stance entirely antithetical to liberal values.

Yes. But no Republicans, please. Unlike Sunstein, Paul's "Liberalism" remains unabashedly partisan. 

I hope Sunstein's version of the word prevails. 

In any case, it is nice to see the division between the Woodstock Liberals, previously fellow travelers, from the extreme progressive left, and it is nice to see this word drift back to where it belongs. 

This is an optimistic post for the future of our country. Happy Thanksgiving. 

Update: I just ran across Tyler Cowen's Classical Liberals vs. The New Right. Excellent. And I forgot to plug my own "Understanding the Left," which I still think is a great essay though nobody seems to have read it.  


  1. Sounds like Sunstein's argument is basically this is what I believe and I am liberal therefor this is what liberalism is and parenthetically liberalism is good. Moreover, most of the principles outlined above are way to general to solve concrete problems. So is it liberal to permit abortion on demand or to protect the rights of the unborn? Is it liberal to protect pornography on demand or human dignity? Is it liberal to favor the individual right to protect person and property through private gun ownership? Is it liberal for the government to "nudge" people in a particular direction that government experts think best, say Covid vaccines and masking. And so on.

    1. Jack, Liberalism does not aspire to answer all questions. It aspires to undergird a civil society capable of debating and finding some answer to questions like the ones you identified. Liberalism is under severe attack right now, from right and left, and must be defended, even if it cannot (and does not claim to) solve everything. Because without it, we're living in MAGA-land or DEI-land, which is not where I or most readers of this blog want to be.

    2. What would MAGA-land look like? If it looks like Florida I think that's OK.

    3. I am curious, what did Trump do that disqualifies him for supporting Liberalism. I have not problem with your use of the term just don't understand how Trump is not liberal. Is it nationalism which is the only thing I would think upsets you. the rest of his actions were Conservative Liberal in nature.

    4. > what did Trump do that disqualifies him for supporting Liberalism?

      Gee, I don't know. How about lying endlessly about an election being stolen? Advocating that his political advocates be jailed without identifying any crime they had committed? Advocating political violence, including calling for the deaths of Mike Pence and Mark Milley?

      I imagine you'll say, "Trump did none of those things. He really believed he won the 2020 election! He's advocating only that the rule of law apply to his opponents! He never advocated violence against Pence or Milley!" to which I can only respond that I do not believe these objections are made in good faith. The meaning behind Trump's speech and behavior is clear.

    5. Bottom line: Cass is a faux liberal; see: https://priorprobability.com/2023/11/27/why-cass-sunstein-is-faux-liberal-part-2/

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  3. John, can you, or anyone, recommend an organization dedicated to advancing the ideals described as "liberalism" in Sunstein's essay? The things that you and he agree on? I would very much like to join and support it. Liberalism is under severe attack from both the left and the right, and I'd like to help defend it if I can.

    1. Well the Hoover institution’s motto is “ideas defining a free society” so it’s a good place to start!

    2. Thanks, John. I certainly appreciate your blogging on the subject (both this post and several others in the recent past relating to academic freedom and university policy, culture, and practices).

  4. Could also use a bit about how "progressive" policy is more often than not regressive insofar as it rests upon so many old, already-failed ideas.

  5. "As a supreme, if unintended, compliment, the enemies of private enterprise have thought it wise to appropriate its label [liberalism].”--Joseph Schumpeter.

  6. "I endorse this as well, which you may find surprising. Economics really has nothing to say about non-distorting transfers. Economists can only point out incentives, and disincentives. Redistribution tends to come with bad incentives. Liberals can and do argue about how bad the disincentives are, and if the purported benefits of redistribution are worth."


    "Economic progressivism is a term used to distinguish it from progressivism in cultural fields. Economic progressives' views are often rooted in the concept of social justice and aim to improve the human condition through government regulation, social protections and the maintenance of public goods."


    "In economics, a public good is a good that is both non-excludable and non-rivalrous. Use by one person neither prevents access by other people, nor does it reduce availability to others."

    A public good is sold / offered on demand and the use / ownership of that good does not preclude someone else from purchasing the same good.



    1. It seems a group of people first adopted Liberlism then moved on to Progressivism. I think these terms don't define a belief system and have used as a means to an end. That end is still unclear to me for former liberals. I would say it was Marxism but I think it has more to go with gobal governance over national governance. I am liberal, conservative, and progressive which vary on topic and field being discussed. What is happening on the formal Liberals is none of these but other.

  7. You suggest, at one point, that economists cannot say much about such things as governmental Redistribution of Wealth, other than about incentives and disincentives.

    Surely, they can say at least one other thing: when trades are voluntary and mutually agreed to, they are beneficial to all participating actors at the time of the exchanges (anyone, after the fact, might have buyer or seller remorse, of course).

    Since governmental redistributions are based on compulsory taxation, we can say, I would suggest, that one party gains (the tax money receiver) and another loses ( the taxpayer). Otherwise, government could simply request people to voluntarily contribute a stated sum without the threat or the use of force.

    1. "Surely, they can say at least one other thing: when trades are voluntary and mutually agreed to, they are beneficial to all participating actors at the time of the exchanges (anyone, after the fact, might have buyer or seller remorse, of course)."


      "Since governmental redistributions are based on compulsory taxation, we can say, I would suggest, that one party gains (the tax money receiver) and another loses ( the taxpayer)."

      Not exactly. There are numerous ways the federal government can finance its expenditures.

      1. Compulsory taxes
      2. Coinage / printing of money
      3. Debt sales
      4. Equity sales


    2. Government bond auctions are predominantly NOT a voluntary transaction.


      "In the United States, a primary dealer is a bank or securities broker-dealer that is permitted to trade directly with the Federal Reserve System. Such firms are REQUIRED to make bids or offers when the Fed conducts open market operations, REQUIRED to provide information to the Fed's open market trading desk, and REQUIRED to participate actively in U.S. Treasury securities auctions."

  8. The basic insight of the Scottish Enlightenment is the idea of spontaneous or undesigned orders. This is broader than free market advocacy. And it is missing from the list. As to the other characteristics of liberalism, I think Sunstein's conception is too much of a big tent. It would seem to include more than 50% of Americans. But that is an overestimate of liberals in our society.

  9. Alas, I have never come across anybody recently who can be described as a Sunstein liberal. I don't think he appreciates how thoroughly the far left has taken over the left.

  10. John, this is by far the best, most succinct, common sense contrast of Conservatism to today’s Liberalism I’ve ever read. Copyright it! “Conserativism properly means conserving many of the traditions of our society, rather than burning it down once a generation striving for utopia, and having it dissolve into tyranny”

    1. Thanks for noticing. Sometimes a good line comes to me, and makes writing fun.

  11. I am a now a "Grumpy-ist." Good blog.

  12. I applaud your adoption of Philology as a new fond hobby, which I share. I label myself a "liberal" and if needing to qualify that with context, I select "libertarian" or "classical" to reduce the equivocation of the philosophers and political leaders of our tradition.

    My tribe is Anti-tribe: individualism and keeping vows to one's family. It is curious how "we" even also affirm a collective identity - nationalism, patriotism, faith-sect-member. At least the tribalists ('progress' in which direction?) clearly prefer the ancient times of proverty, disease, short lives, and suffering.

  13. " you can be a leftist and illiberal. " Actually if you are sufficiently far left (like a communist) then you can't be liberal, you must be illiberal.

    By saying a leftist "can" be illiberal it seems to imply most are liberal but that's impossible.

  14. Personally, I refuse to use the term “progressive”. Latter-day enslavement to government does not constitute progress for citizens.
    That said, let’s consider in more detail this line: “ Liberals fiercely defend Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, the Voting Rights Act and the National Labor Relations Act.” SS is a manifestly racist program from its very beginning; this has been well documented by the late, great Walter E. Williams. Medicare, by its 30th year (required cost projection at the time) was already seven timed higher cost than anticipated; it is also strongly racist in the same manner as SS. Medicaid is economically terrible and ineffective, as demonstrated by liberal Oregon a few years back. Obamacare, quite simply, killed people: life expectancy FELL in 2015-16-17 as it came into full effect. I had warned of it before it was passed, using basic economics. When costs rise, consumers use less of a product. Obamacare doubled health insurance and deductibles, people reduced their demand for medical services, delayed treatments caused higher mortality. We can debate the VRA: it may have been necessary at its origin, but it is superfluous and abused today. The NLRA aggravated and extended the Great Depression - and it was also foundationally racist (Williams and Sowell).
    I do not perceive anything that should be a source of pride for liberals in any of these.

  15. That ‘70’s Liberals included Marxists and Communists is just a canard. Maybe Marxists agree with some mistaken interventions supported by some Liberals. So what?
    “Largely, then, I read Sunstein's article as a declaration of divorce.” Largely I think he trying to tell folks that, notwithstanding what Fox news said, they were never married, just occasionally had to make common cause against “conservatives.”

  16. Borrowing from Elon Musk when he recently pointed out that, "The woke mind virus is communism rebranded," I would simply say that the current Democrat Party is Communism rebranded.

    There is nothing anymore that is Liberal about the Democrat Party. They are totalitarians and proved it 1,000 times over without interruption during the CCP/Fauci/Wuhan Flu where they lied about everything and then punished you for not obeying. Each of their Fatwa's was utter garbage: Social Distancing, Masks, School shutdowns, Business shutdowns, the vaccines mean you can't give the Flu to others. It was all lies and evil.

    Have the Democrats apologized for any of this? No, and guess what - Communists have never apologized for a damn thing.

    1. ..... John Galt III, where do you get all that nonsense? From Faux News? Some other hatespeak echo chamber?

  17. "Liberalism requires law evenly applied," << this is the key requirement for actual rule of law. If Hillary violated security laws with her illegal email server, which likely also contained emails showing her pay-to-play bribery foundation, the even application of law requires she be indicted.
    Not let off because the partisan Democrat deep state minimizes punishment for top Democrats.
    And even lies to cover for their crimes, as in 51 Dem lying partisans falsely claiming H. Biden's computer wasn't really his. He's still not indicted for the bribery, much less in jail where he belongs.

    Those not outraged by the uneven enforcement of law by the (Dem Deep State) Dept. of Justice, such serene folk are not "liberals". Including Sunstein.

  18. Actions are harmless until proven damaging, specifically, no victimless crimes or school-rules. No discipline for discipline-sake. Rights are restored upon release from prison.
    And lawful actions must be regulated with the least-restrictive means necessary to allow for the same rights to all others with modern technology. No waiting periods or prior-restraints

  19. The good ol myth of the tragedy of the commons. Before retiring , I taught economics in an area of Québec with a large fishers population.
    I once introduced a game where fishers exploited a lake to extinction.
    My students, after a few minutes, refused to play. They explained: "That's not how it works. We have rules." Me: "You have private property rights?" "No. He fish belong to everyone. But we have rules. Sir, welike you but you ave no idea how fishing work."

    1. Yes indeed. The real "tragedy of the commons" is the enclosure for exclusive use by the most powerful player.

  20. 1. Sunstein's essay, in the NYT to boot, is an encouraging sign, because opposition to wokeism from within the broad Democratic tent is much more likely to be taken seriously than opposition from elsewhere, e.g., from the likes of Rufo. Perhaps Mounk's recent book will have an impact too.

    2. I've recently come to think that it's not just a mistake to call American liberals liberals. They genuinely belong to the classical liberal tradition. They understand the value of the permissionless innovation that freedom makes possible in science, literature, and culture more broadly; conversely, they realize it would be madness to attempt to centrally plan, say, science (as people proposed doing in the 30s). They merely deny the value of freedom in the economic sphere, which, not having read Hayek, they think can be neatly cordoned off from the rest of our lives.

  21. “But broadly, "liberal" came to mean more government intervention and Democrat, while "conservative" came to mean less state intervention and Republican, at least in rhetoric.”
    This doesn’t seem to fully reflect the current conventional wisdom. Liberal has come to reference the group more readily open to accepting the ever-changing dynamics of society. On the other hand, conservative are more rigid in their beliefs, customs, and norms - and reluctant to acknowledge, accept, and adapt to the ever-changing dynamics of a dynamic society.

  22. The cat's out of the bag. The ship has sailed. Once a word has absconded into the propaganda-sphere there is no getting it back. You are obliged to say what you mean without using that, now-polluted, word.
    "Anti-semitic" is another example. It has been appropriated for propaganda. It is now used to denigrate any person who complains about some action of Israel's government. Persecution of Jews now requires full description. Or some other word must be found.

  23. Hey John, I clicked too soon. That comment about the word "anti-semitism" having sailed away should have my "--E5" below it. Cheers, Mike.


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