Tag Archives: liberalism

MOLINARI REVIEW: New Journal and Call for Papers


The Molinari Institute is pleased to announce a new interdisciplinary, open-access libertarian academic journal, the MOLINARI REVIEW, edited by me.

We’re looking for articles, sympathetic or critical, in and on the libertarian tradition, broadly understood as including classical liberalism, individualist anarchism, social anarchism, anarcho-capitalism, anarcho-communism, anarcho-syndicalism, anarcha-feminism, panarchism, voluntaryism, mutualism, agorism, distributism, Austrianism, Georgism, public choice, and beyond – essentially, everything from Emma Goldman to Ayn Rand, C. L. R. James to F. A. Hayek, Alexis de Tocqueville to Michel Foucault.


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Chapter 7. Reconciliation in Practice: Education.

I disagree with a good deal in Chapter 7 of Kevin’s book.  In fact, I am extremely sympathetic with the overall project of de-privatizing religious reasons: like Kevin I want a liberalism, and more importantly a polity, in which faith traditions engage and are engaged, in politics on a basis of mutual respect.  So the disagreement came as a relief, because there is nothing worse than being assigned commentary on something you agree with. Tthe kind of schooling system I would like to see is considerably different both from the one he rejects and the one he defends in very brief sketch form. This has the inconvenient consequence that engaging and explaining every disagreement would take many more pages than a blog post bears; the reader will be relieved that I am restricting myself to a couple of thousand words, and am willing to take the risk of being misunderstood (and to subject Kevin to that risk – so, if something I attribute to him seems in any way wrong, please assume the error is mine not his!!).
American public schooling is currently arranged roughly as follows: every child is required to have some formal schooling up to age 16 or 18 (depending on the state), and common schools which purportedly promote a common civic identity are provided free at the point of delivery. [1] Parents can legally refrain from sending their children to such schools, and send them, instead, to private schools which are very lightly regulated, and are permitted to foster sectarian identities (in practice the vast majority of children in private schools attend religious schools); they can also provide homeschooling which is, in most states, even more lightly regulated than private schooling.

Something like this system is widely defended by the ‘consensus’ liberals that Kevin takes as his opponents. Liberalism should, as Macedo puts it, embrace “the positive constitutional project of shaping diversity to the end of a shared public life” and should use the schooling system to this end, actively sculpting citizens to have certain liberal values once they reach adulthood. For these liberals, this end overrides religious considerations; the schools must not invoke or teach religious doctrines, because to do so would conflict with the driving purpose of civic education; and they should foster a civic identity that, once instilled, will override religious reasons when citizens are engaged in public debate and political action. More importantly, it requires that children be exposed to a diversity of views about what is of value in the world and how to live their lives – views and approaches that some parents may wish to ensure that their children not be exposed to. Freedom must have its due, of course, so homeschooling and private schooling are permitted; indeed, by permitting them we relieve potential pressure on the public schools which sectarian religious parents would exert, and free them up to do their work relatively unfettered by sectarian lobbyists.
Kevin offers an alternative. The current structure of schooling (in the US) should be rejected, and replaced with some sort of privatized school choice system. He does not object to government funding of schools, but he does object to the government using schools to foster the kind of civic identity that consensus liberals seek, and thinks it is unfair that parents with private identities that are nicely congruent with the kind of civic identity consensus liberals promote get schooling for their children free at the point of delivery, whereas citizens with religious identities have to pay twice, as it were, once for the public schools their children don’t attend, and again for the private schools they do attend.
Why? First, the kind of convergence liberalism he endorses (the right kind of liberalism) does not require the kind of civic identity promoted by consensus liberals. Rather citizens are free to follow their private, including religious, reasons when contributing to public debate and political decision-making and, in fact, they have no obligation to engage in politics at all. Second, though, he reminds us that citizens find tremendous value in raising children: “If we recognize the obvious fact that citizens’ reasons of integrity often involve raising children, then it is easy to see how citizens could have defeaters for state intervention in child development. Consensus liberals emphasize the state’s interest in sculpting children in its image, but on the convergence view shared civic ends are more easily undermined by intelligible defeaters”.
Kevin looks at the debate over whether Intelligent Design should be taught in schools. Whereas, as he observes, it might be possible to forge some sort of compromise between proponents and opponents of ID so that ID and evolution both get taught, there are a host of other issues, such as sex education, and religious education over which there will be dispute; and once all these issues are added up, there will be no sensible in-school compromise with which most people can live; the sensible measure will be to implement a privatized (though maybe publicly funded) choice system.

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Sincerity, Individuation and Classical Liberal Public Reason: Comments on Chapter 4

Let me begin by thanking Blain for an excellent recap of Chapter 4 of the book, which is arguably the centerpiece chapter. He raises five important concerns, but I’m going to set two aside. First, Blain raises the question of my Rawls exegesis. I suspect that is something better dealt with in a journal format or conference proceeding. It is interesting and important, but my main arguments do not depend on it. I will say, briefly, that yes, the process of generating convergence justifications can encourage revision of pieces of certain comprehensive doctrines. The second issue I set aside concerns my indirect model of public justification and the idea that restraint (of a certain sort) applies to legislators but not to citizens. That is one of the two main questions at issue in Chapter 6, so I’d like to push discussion to that post. But briefly, a lot of the case for the indirect model is based on the fact that citizens complying with restraint is neither necessary nor sufficient to promote publicly justified outcomes given all the other stages between a popular vote and the passage of legislation. 


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Vallier Reading Group: Chapter 1

I am happy to begin our reading group on Kevin Vallier’s new book, Liberal Politics and Public Faith: Beyond Separation. My thanks to Chad Van Schoelandt for organizing. In earlier reading groups, we have followed a standard format of summarizing a chapter and then raising some questions about it. In this post, I focus on Chapter 1, Public Reason Liberalism: Religion’s Child and King.


The liberal tradition is often accused of hostility toward religion. Because liberalism places constraints on the role of religious commitments in politics, it may seem to have a “secularist bias.” In this chapter, Vallier seeks to defend liberalism against this charge, or at least against the claim that liberalism is motivated by such bias or hostility. Vallier claims that liberalism has a “schizophrenic attitude” toward religion: on one hand, promoting religious liberty and diversity, but on the other, constraining the influence of religion in the political domain. But this attitude does not reflect hostility so much as a good faith effort to balance religious freedom with the demand for a legitimate and stable public authority. To develop this claim, this chapter describes the “source, ground, and structure of public reason liberalism” (10) and, by extension, the liberal tradition more generally.


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CFP: Rethinking Political Catholicism, Rome, May 22-23, 2014

Although the study of religion and politics has blossomed over the past decade, the normative debates over the appropriate place of religion in modern democracies often remain divorced from the study of the actual practices and meanings of religion in these democracies. Rethinking Political Catholicism aims to bridge this divide by focusing on the fertile case of political Catholicism in Italy. Empirically, the conference aims to take stock of political Catholicism in Italy today, compare it with Catholic and Muslim politics elsewhere, and use contemporary theoretical and normative insights to better understand its post-secular dynamics. Normatively, the conference aims to evaluate the practices of contemporary political Catholicism in Italy and elsewhere, and thus contribute to developing a more sophisticated debate about the proper roles of religious politics in contemporary democracies.


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PHILTV on Public Reason and Religion (Kevin Vallier and Jason Brennan)

Jason Brennan (Georgetown) and I (Bowling Green) have put together a conversation on public reason/political liberalism and its treatment of religious contributions to public life (which would not have been possible without the help of the great folks over at Phil TV, especially David Killoren). In the video, I argue that there are relatively unexplored versions of public reason that are considerably friendlier to religious contributions to public life than public reason’s proponents and detractors believe. Jason presents me with a number of sharp challenges and observations.

Watch us here.


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