Download Freedom's Power: The History and Promise of Liberalism by Paul Starr PDF

By Paul Starr

American politics are as fractured and partisan as they've got ever been and liberalism is in larger peril than at any time in contemporary heritage. Conservatives deal with it as an epithet, or even a few liberals have burdened it with sentimentality and socialism. yet Paul Starr, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and one among America's prime intellectuals, claims that, appropriately understood, liberalism is a strong public philosophy, deeply rooted in our traditions, in a position to making the United States a freer and safer country.

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Extra resources for Freedom's Power: The History and Promise of Liberalism

Sample text

The English acquired their liberties—the plural is important here—through a long process of accretion, without any single comprehensive or abstract formulation. By the late seventeenth century, they conceived of their unwritten constitution as a balance among king, lords, and commons that protected their liberties while maintaining harmony, hierarchy, and order. This constitution, however, existed only as an inference from the laws; it did not antedate or stand above them, and thus it could be changed through ordinary legislation.

Liberalism and the Discipline of Power 21 But by the same token, modern liberalism holds that insofar as government acquires more power, it ought to be held accountable, checked internally, and balanced by a countervailing recognition of rights. Modern liberalism does not sacrifice liberty to power. It raises the equilibrium of power and liberty to a higher level. HOW LIBERALISM WORKS Much political analysis assumes that if one group or individual has more power, others must have less, and that is true in certain contexts.

Or to put it in other terms, some constitutions are constitutive of both a nation and its state, not merely regulative of a state’s conduct. If well designed, liberal constitutions create states with advantages in power and performance over their illiberal rivals. Public deliberation invites ideas and information that autocrats do not receive or are unlikely to heed. A state with checks and balances and public accountability for governmental performance will be more likely to correct its mistakes.

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