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Squared circles squared

My review of Daniel Mahoney’s recent book has provoked a response from Professor Mahoney, which appears (along with my rejoinder) in the current (March 2011) issue of First Things.

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I am not sure what Mr. Mahoney’s words mean, so let me rephrase the discussion in my own crude manner. As Kirk pointed out, conservatism attempts to balance multiple goods, while an ideology focuses on one good which trumps all others. To the libertarian a.k.a. classical liberal, individual liberty is the one good, while to the liberal a.k.a. left-liberal, equal exercise of freedom is the one good. (Other phrasings of the left-liberal goal can be made that are equally valid.)

I can determine from Mr. Mahoney’s writings that he agrees that a society needs to pursue more than one good, and hence he is not an ideologue as the liberal or libertarian. Two questions for Mr. Mahoney that I cannot determine how he would answer:

1. What are the other goods that we should pursue besides liberty and equality?
2. How are we to persuade the rest of our society that this new, balanced path is better than the old path?

Surely, in an entire book on the subject, these questions are answered somewhere.

On your questions:

1. I don’t think he presents a response of his own but only the differing responses of other people. Maybe it’s God and the law, maybe it’s popular consent and civilizational continuity, maybe it’s responsibility and moderation.

2. To some extent he seems to take the view that great men persuade the people through their eloquence and personal authority.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.