June 10, 2009
Before stating that I had deliberately mischaracterized his argument and inviting readers to speculate as to my “motive” for doing so, Kevin Gutzman wrote that “Louis Hartz posited long ago that there is essentially no Right in America, that America is dominated by a broad Lockean consensus. This strikes me as essentially true.” He conclued by saying that “Hartz was correct: there’s one wing in American politics. The question is almost always what kind of Left it will be.” After Chris Kopff objected, Gutzman responded by stating that the “traditionalists’ tradition is basically Lockean” and that that tradition was “egalitarian.” Although Prof. Gutzman wrote his response to Kopff “as a student of M. E. Bradford,” and he informed Chris Kopff that Kopff’s reliance on Willmoore Kendall and George Carey “really will not do,” Bradford in fact downplayed Locke’s significance and agreed with Kendall and Carey in their definition of the “true American political tradition as both conservative and hostile to Equality.” I read Gutzman’s statements as an argument that America’s political tradition is a liberal one, since John Locke was one of the seminal figures in the foundation of the classical liberal tradition.
But my essay is not about Kevin Gutzman, it is about the tradition of classical liberalism and what I see as some of the flaws of that tradition. I urge anyone interested in this discussion to read all the essays, Prof. Gutzman’s as well as Prof. Kopff’s and mine. And I further urge anyone interested in a sustained critique of the classical liberal tradition to read Thomas Fleming’s The Morality of Everyday Life.
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