What Is Liberalism?

Symposium No. 1

The main articles in Symposium will be organized around a series of broad topics, and I will ask the most interesting writers I can find to address those topics from a variety of different perspectives.

Our first topic starts with the biggest big picture.

Symposium No. 1: What Is Liberalism?

Liberalism in the broad sense means advocacy of a free society, but that raises the question of what liberalism means, what its basic requirements are, what ideas it depends on. It encompasses different ideological varieties, from "left liberal" advocates of a generous welfare state to more market-friendly "neo-liberals" to conservative "classical liberals" to libertarians. This raises questions about the nature and priority of different aspects of freedom: political freedom (e.g., elections), intellectual freedom (freedom of speech), personal freedom (tolerance), and economic freedom (free markets). Since different strains of "liberalism" disagree on these priorities, I'm asking everyone to lay out the case for their version, to explain what they think "liberalism" should mean and what its principles should be.

This lays out the question, not as a specific mandate for each author, but as a broad and general jumping-off point, and contributors have been encouraged to choose their own unique angles.

Here are the essays we received in response, a list I will add to as we publish new installments.

We Need Liberal Social Justice, Not ‘Critical Social Justice’,” by Helen Pluckrose

Does Liberalism Need Identity Politics?” by Cathy Young

The Case for a Free-Market Welfare State,” by Sam Hammond

Where Did Liberalism Go Wrong?” by Robert Garmong