Liberty and Equality

In the times of the Greek democracy, the Roman republic, the American founding, and most of American history, liberty and equality were thought to go together.  That changed, says Danielle Allen, author of a book on the Declaration of Independence

First, Karl Marx taught that individual liberty must be sacrificed for the greater  goal of social equality.  Then, in the Cold War, conservatives and libertarians taught the opposite, that equality must give way to individual liberty.  Today, she says, Democrats are stressing the ideals of equality while Republicans are stressing the ideals of liberty.  She argues that we need to recapture the sense in which the two go together, as set forth in the Declaration of Independence.

[Read more...]

The Catholic debate over liberal society

Rod Dreher describes what happened at a conference sponsored by First Things on the future of religion in the public square.  In the course of doing so, he describes a current controversy among conservative Catholics:  The “Murrayites” believe that Catholicism is compatible with American-style political and economic liberalism.  (Not so much liberalism as left-wing ideology, but the ideals of liberty, democracy, and free-enterprise economics.)  Against this view are the “radical Catholics” who believe that this liberalism is incompatible with Christianity.

Read the remarks after the jump and click on the link to Patrick Deneen’s article on the conflict.  Substitute “Christian” for “Catholic.”  Do the points still hold for Christianity in general, or does the debate hinge on specific tenets of Catholicism?  Can there be a “Murrayite” Protestantism vs. a “radical” Protestantism?  Or is Protestantism intrinsically connected to liberalism?  How about “Lutheranism,” or does the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms work for any society?

I’m curious too what the alternative is for the “radicals.”  Some kind of authoritarian regime?  The Pope at the head of an Emperor, as in the Middle Ages?

[Read more...]

A quarter of Americans want to secede

Forty-five percent of Scots wanted to secede from Great Britain, and other secessionist movements are building up steam around the world (the Catalonians in Spain, the Flemish in Belgium, the Kurds in Iraq and Turkey, the Russians in the Ukraine, etc.).  And according to a recent poll, almost a fourth of Americans would like their states to secede from the Union.

The would-be secessionists come from both conservatives and liberals.  I haven’t noticed much nationalistic sentiment directed to one’s state or region, unlike in the Civil War days.  (For one thing, the states and regions have become much more homogenized than they used to be.)  Then again, I don’t notice nearly as much nationalistic sentiment directed to the United States of America anymore, unlike the broadly-felt patriotism of my youth.

Do any of you want to secede from the union?  Could you explain why? [Read more...]

Ebola comes to America

A man in Dallas has  the Ebola virus, the first diagnosed case in the United States.  Do you think this country could handle a plague? [Read more...]

The friendliest and unfriendliest cities

Conde Nast Traveler has conducted a survey to find the friendliest and the unfriendliest cities in the world and in the United States.  See the lists after the jump.  Sound about right?  What does this tell us about the various cultures represented? [Read more...]

The island that time forgot

Back when I was in graduate school, I took a course on American English.  We studied the history and characteristics of the various American dialects, including that of Tangier Island.  This little island in the middle of Chesapeake Bay was settled by English folks from the Cornwall district back in the 1600s.  They and their descendants were so isolated–today it’s an hour-and-a-half boat ride from the mainland–that their language and culture have hardly changed over the centuries.

As a 17th century scholar, I have always wanted to visit Tangier Island.  So we did. [Read more...]


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