01 05 12 - 08:57
Contemporary American-style conservatism and liberalism are merely two faces of that intelligible beast, (Eighteenth Century) Classical Liberalism. Its vision says the substantive unit or entity in politics is strictly the individual, and the freedom of the individual is the primary good after which society and government seek. Since, therefore, the term âsocietyâ indicates nothing more than a numerical aggregate of the individuals in a given area, then the only purpose of government must be to defend the potentially infinite number of âprivateâ interests of these loosely gathered individual freedom-maximizers.
American-style liberals and conservatives simply emphasize two distinct elements intrinsic to this vision: one insists that the ârightâ to unlimited wealth accumulation follows naturally from the freedom of the individual and that this right is only expressible if certain other freedoms are limited so that the literal place of the market can be stable and reliable (and therefore a relatively predictable place in which wealth â the value of a dollar â can be relied upon); the other insists that the individualâs freedom consists primarily in self-fashioning and that the self can only enjoy this free play â its individuality â if it can know that society is stable, âequal,â and reliable enough that the products of the individualâs free play (the self made by the pure, autonomous will of the individual) will not have any material consequences. - Letter from a Traditional Conservative
Useful division: moderns are all liberals, but they take two approaches to liberalism.