Tuesday, January 22, 2019
These three fundamental axioms are important not only for understanding a certain stream of early-modern political rationalism; the axioms of the liberal-rationalist system have continued to dominate discourse wherever liberalism has advanced in Europe and America up until our own day. Attempts to alter these foundations of liberalism are well known (consider Mill or Hayek). But they have ultimately been of little consequence. It is these Lockean assumptions that continue to characterize liberal discourse, and, if anything, they have only received an even greater emphasis in recent years.
Of course, one does not have to accept the liberal axiom system as a closed and complete system. I don’t doubt, for example, that many individuals have embraced some or all of these Lockean premises while at the same time believing in God, or in the binding character of Scripture, or in the sanctity of the family, or in the national state as the best form of political order, and so forth.
But the crucial point is that none of these things—God, the Bible, the family, and the independent national state—can be derived from liberal principles. That is, there is nothing in the liberal system that requires you, or even encourages you, to also adopt a commitment to God, the Bible, family, or nation. If one is committed to these things, it is for reasons that are entirely “external” to the liberal political system.
So this essay by Yoram Hazony is one of the more thought provoking I have read in recent memory. (This might be because I seem more difficult to provoke into thought lately.) He has also published a book on nationalism, which I've bought and started reading. I'm not sure what I think about nationalism as Hazony defines it but he seems to have broken up a logjam in my thinking at least about what America (say) can now stand for. What do you think?