American Liberalism: An Interpretation for Our Time by John McGowan

By John McGowan

American citizens dwell in a liberal democracy. but, even though democracy is commonly touted this day, liberalism is scorned by way of either the perfect and the left. the USA stands poised among its liberal democratic culture and the intolerant choices of liberalism's critics. In a fascinating and informative dialogue, McGowan deals a ringing endorsement of yankee liberalism's uncomplicated ideas, values, and commitments. He explains that the liberalism of the founders dispensed strength extensively with a view to restrict the ability anyone entity may well workout over others. Their objective was once to supply for all a good freedom that mixed definitely the right to self-determination having the ability to in attaining one's self-chosen ambitions. In tracing this background, McGowan bargains a transparent imaginative and prescient of liberalism's foundational values as America's most sensible warrantly this present day of liberty and the peace during which to workout it.

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Extra resources for American Liberalism: An Interpretation for Our Time

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It would seem that the people must preexist the nation. But how can there be an American people prior to there being an American nation? The straightforward liberal response is that the people constitute themselves as a people in their ratification and ongoing enactment of the Constitution. 32 A nation becomes a nation through a verbal ceremony, just as a wedding establishes a new relationship between two people through a few words being spoken. Those words change everything. But they are only empty words if not followed up by countless corresponding actions over a long span of time.

An individual constantly experiences the various contingencies that frustrate his best-laid plans and encounters other powers (especially those of our fellow human beings) that work against what he strives to accomplish. But the existence of an arbitrary, unchecked power that transcended the individual—whether divine or an absolute monarch or the collective power of society—would make individual agency impossible, simply pointless. The individual would not have the capacity to determine and enact anything.

The law is akin to morality in at least this respect: it sets up ideals that people are urged to live up to. That urging is partly positive, partly negative. On the positive side of the ledger are the benefits accruing from law-abiding behavior, benefits that range from peace and security to the perfectionist achievement of self-referential virtues such as integrity, honor, and altruism (to name just a few). On the negative side of the ledger, most obviously, stands punishment. No legal code—or even a more loosely organized social institution like promising—can allow all deviant behavior to pass unsanctioned.

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