The Political Centrist

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2009-12-15
  • Publisher: Vanderbilt Univ Pr

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Today almost half of all Americans decline to define themselves as either "liberal" or "conservative." In fact, modern liberalism and conservatism seem hopelessly fragmented ideologies. Liberals claim to believe in individual frToday almost half of all Americans decline to define themselves as either "liberal" or "conservative." In fact, modern liberalism and conservatism seem hopelessly fragmented ideologies. Liberals claim to believe in individual freedom yet advocate a more collectivistic approach to government and an increasingly paternalistic role for the state. Conservatives are hopelessly divided between two incompatible ideals--the highly individualistic, limited-state philosophy of classical liberalism and an older, more collectivistic tradition of cultural conservatism that holds government responsible for shaping social morality. As a result, modern liberals are economic collectivists and moral individualists, while conservatives are economic individualists and moral collectivists.Centrists reject each of these fragmented and polarized approaches to politics. We believe that government has a role to play in structuring social and economic opportunities and in reinforcing basic moral norms, yet we are deeply troubled by ever-expanding government. We reject libertarianism, left-liberalism, and the various schools of conservatism as a model for government.Part I ofThe Political Centristbriefly traces the trajectory of the liberal and conservative traditions. It argues that modern liberalism is an unprincipled fusion of classical liberal and socialist ideals while modern conservatism is an untenable hybrid of economic liberalism and social conservatism. Part II offers a centrist approach to many of the most contentious contemporary political and social issues. Those include:-- abortion -- affirmative action -- the death penalty -- gay marriage -- illegal immigration -- judicial activism -- the relationship of religion and politics -- the role of government in the economy

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introduction: The Center Holdsp. 1
Beyond Liberalism and Conservatism
The Liberal's Paradoxp. 11
Two Visions of Liberalism
The Roots of Early Liberalism
The Utilitarian Influence
The Greatest Liberal of All
The New Liberalism Embraces Equality
The Conservative's Dilemmap. 29
Conservatives before Conservatism: The Classical Worldview
The Roots of Modern Paleoconservatism: The Case of Joseph de Maistre
The Father of Conservative Traditionalism: Edmund Burke
The First Skeptical Conservative
What "Liberalism" and "Conservatism" Mean Todayp. 48
How Liberalism and Conservatism Have Moved Leftward
The Liberal Influence on Modem Conservatism
Reinterpreting Individualism and Collectivism
Openness to Change versus Conserving the Status Quo
Social versus Moral Causes of Human Discontent
Equality versus Elitism
Why the Big "Isms" Failp. 64
What's Wrong with Libertarianism?
What's Wrong with Conservatism?
What's Wrong with Left Liberalism?
Toward a Centrist View of U.S. Politics
Politics and the Big Questions: On God, Morality, and the Human Conditionp. 81
The Traditional and Secular Understandings of the World
The Temptation of Fundamentalism
The Drift to Secularism
The Further Consequences of Secularism
Where Centrists Stand
Between the Night Watchman and the Leviathan: The Centrist's Conception of Governmentp. 95
The Runaway State
The Argument from Compassion
A Top-Down View of the State
Why Some Economic Redistribution is Morally Justified
The Centrist's Approach to Government
Centrist Constitutionalism: Democracy and the Role of the Judgep. 111
Practicing Politics at the Bar
The Countermajoritarian Difficulty
Conservative Constitutionalism: Its Virtues and its Limits
Liberal Constitutionalism: How Far is Too Far?
The Right to Privacy
Centrist Constitutionalism: Four Minimum Commitments
From Gay Rights to Drug Legalization: The Tension between Individual Freedom and Social Moralityp. 130
Morals Legislation and the Liberal-Conservative Fault Line
The Centrist's Stance
The Question of Gay Marriage
The Drug Legalization Debate
A Centrist Approach to Abortionp. 146
Abortion in Social and Historical Context
Two Central Issues
The Standard Conservative Position
The Standard Liberal Position
The Constitutionalization of the Standard Liberal Position
What's Wrong with the Standard Liberal Position?
The Centrist's Approach
Race, Gender, and Reasonable Equality of Opportunityp. 161
The Conservative Ideal: Formal Equality
The Liberal Ideal: Substantive Equality
Civil Rights, Yes; Affirmative Action, No
Reasonable Equality of Opportunity
Crime and Punishmentp. 176
What Causes Crime?
Explaining Crime without Excusing it
The Deterrent Effect
White-Collar Crime, Blue-Collar Crime, and Proportional Punishment
The Death Penalty: Some Background
The Arguments: A Brief Look
A Centrist Approach to Capital Punishment
The Debate over Illegal Immigrationp. 196
Immigration in U.S. History: The Swinging Pendulum
The Argument for Open Borders
The Conservative Counterattack: The Arguments against Illegal Immigration
The Centrist Approach: Five Proposals
Notesp. 215
Indexp. 237
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