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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 690 of philosopher Chandran Kukathas’s superb October 1998 Political Theory paper, “Liberalism and Multiculturalism: The Politics of Indifference“:

Liberalism is one of the modern world’s responses – indeed, its most plausible response – to the fact of moral, religious, and cultural diversity. Its response has been to say that diversity should be accommodated, and differences tolerated; that a more complete social unity, marked by a uniform and common culture that integrates and harmonizes the interests of individuals and community is unattainable and undesirable; that division, conflict, and competition would always be present in human society,, and the task of political institutions is to palliate a condition they cannot cure.

DBx: Of course, Chandran here means by “liberalism” not so-called “Progressivism” but, rather, liberalism as it was originally understood. One way to summarize classical liberalism is to say that it is a philosophy that has at its core the recognition that a society the bounds of which extend beyond the tribe is not merely the tribe (or a family, or a business firm, or a military unit, or a marching band or an orchestra) scaled up to a larger size; instead, such a society is a spontaneous order of individuals each free to pursue his or her own ends as he or she judges best.

This likelihood of success for each individual in these pursuits will never be 100 percent, but it will be as great as possible only if the rules that govern society are general (or “abstract,” as Hayek called them), with the state neither favoring nor penalizing peaceful individuals on the basis of their particular characteristics or circumstances.

The fact that reasonable people can and do identify, and argue over, the inevitable grey areas where it is unclear if a particular rule, law, or statute is sufficiently abstract and unbiased does nothing to drain away the importance of always striving to prevent the state from bestowing particular favors, inflicting particular harms, and treating society as if it is a giant tribe whose members share a particular set of tribal goals to be achieved under the direction of the state.