Conservatism

David French Is Right: Classical Liberalism Is the Best Framework for Protecting Religious Freedom

In which First Things throws a temper tantrum

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A serious intellectual dispute broke out this week between different factions of the conservative punditocracy. On one side is the Catholic conservative Sohrab Ahmari, who is advancing a line of attack from a recent First Things manifesto titled "Against the Dead Consensus." The dead consensus is a pre-Trump conservatism that operated within a broad framework of individual liberty and thus "failed to retard, much less reverse, the eclipse of permanent truths, family stability, communal solidarity, and much else. It surrendered to the pornographization of daily life, to the culture of death, to the cult of competitiveness. It too often bowed to a poisonous and censorious multiculturalism."

Now Ahmari has given this failure a name and a face. You will be surprised to learn that it is David French.

French is a well-liked National Review writer who received some national attention in the 2016 election when the neoconservative pundit Bill Kristol, another avatar of this dead consensus, recommended him as a potential Never Trump presidential candidate. He was formerly president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom. As such, he has an extensive history of defending the First Amendment rights of students and religious groups. The American Conservative's Rod Dreher notes, "I have banged out acres of prose over these years about religious liberty, and I can't imagine that any of that holds a candle to what David French, as a lawyer, has actually done for religious liberty."

But for those lining up on the Ahmari side of this conflict—or at least displaying a degree of sympathy for it—French is too civil. He's too polite. He can't stomach President Trump's personal moral failings. He plays by the rules, and he vows to work within them to advance the conservative cause. He thinks, foolishly, that there is room for conservative values to compete in the marketplace of ideas. As the manifesto indicated, and Ahmari has further clarified, the First Thingsers don't like marketplaces, which promote "the soulless society of individual affluence."

Given these declarations, it would not be a stretch to describe the First Thingsers as anti-libertarian. They're nationalist, they're skeptical of immigration and markets, and they want the government to actively promote conservative religious social values.

French is not a libertarian either, but he's on the side that's more closely aligned with a libertarian approach. And in his rebuttal to Ahmari, he defends civil liberties as good in and of themselves, which is something that libertarians should applaud:

A core tenet of Frenchism (I still can't believe that's a thing) is the consistent and unyielding defense of civil liberties, including the civil liberties of your political opponents—both in law and in culture. That means defending the legal rights of a radical leftist professor with the same vigor that you defend an embattled Christian conservative. And if you despise corporate censorship and corporate efforts to punish dissent, that means supporting not just libertarian Googlers who question Silicon Valley orthodoxy but also kneeling football players who use the national anthem as an occasion for public protest.

So, yes, I do want neutral spaces where Christians and pagans can work side by side. I've helped create those spaces, and lived in them alongside Christians and atheists, traditionalists and LGBT Americans alike. In fact, those spaces are the rule, not the exception, everywhere in this nation, and thank God for that.

The First Thingsers evidently believe this approach is bad, subscribing to a sort of Anton Chigurhian logic: "If the rule you followed brought you to this, then what good was the rule?"

French's National Review colleague, Charlies C.W. Cooke, makes another good point about the abandonment of a classical liberal framework: It actually has worked, in practice, to protect the kinds of things that cultural conservatives are so worried about. Noting that Ahmari cites the attacks on Brett Kavanaugh as the source of his radicalization against classical liberalism, Cooke writes:

I have heard from a lot of people that the [Brett] Kavanaugh affair "snapped something in" them. That's understandable. Indeed, if you look back at my writing at the time, I was absolutely outraged by what happened—and how. But the thing is, we won the Kavanaugh fight. And, crucially, the supposedly supine David French was unsparing in his defense of Kavanaugh. If that was the moment that Ahmari resolved to don a pith helmet and run to the barricades, he shouldn't have shunned David French for his uselessness, but immediately linked arms with him. I can't think of an incident that provoked behavior in David that was further from Ahmari's straw man. He was unblenching.

Moreover, I struggle to remember an incident that better highlighted the need for (classical) liberalism. Ultimately, it was precisely the insistence upon classically liberal values such as cross-examination, hard evidence, and the presumption of innocence that won the day for Kavanaugh, against the sort of ends-oriented illiberalism that Ahmari seems increasingly to admire. The person who secured Kavanaugh's confirmation, remember, was…Susan Collins, and the (correct) reason she gave for her vote was that nothing had been proven and that that was unacceptable to her.

The Kavanaugh case wasn't about civil liberties, of course—there is no constitutional right to a Supreme Court post—but the broader point stands. If this is what aggravated Ahmari, it makes little sense for him to invoke it as an argument against classical liberalism.

Time and again, classical liberalism has provided the tools for defending conservatives' rights. It is the First Amendment, Enlightenment values, and the liberal principles undergirding the marketplace of ideas that have empowered conservatives to defend conservative students' right to speak and organize on college campuses. The Reason Foundation (which publishes Reason magazine) and the Cato Institute both filed amicus briefs in support of Masterpiece Cake Shop's religious liberties, and owner Jack Phillips won an important (albeit limited) victory at the Supreme Court.

The First Thingsers believe conservatives should take a different approach and…do what, exactly? Start punching leftists? Form some sort of theocratic street squad that terrorizes librarians who invite drag queens to read to kids? (I'm not kidding: This is the apparently unthinkable horror that kicked off the French fight.)

There's something childishly immature but deeply emotionally satisfying about standing up and declaring that everyone who disagrees with your worldview is either a moron or evil, and that you are against them and all they stand for. Notice that both the manifesto and the anti-French piece are titled "against X." It's fun to be against things, and to profess epistemic certainty that the thing is bad. Post-Trump social conservatism is certainly enjoying its shouty tantrum moment. So, too, is woke progressivism, which evinces the same with-us-or-against-us militancy. That the new right and the new left simultaneously despise each other, yet completely depend upon each other to make absurd leaps that fire up the other side and prompt similar overreaches, is a central theme of my book, Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump.

With woke scolds on one end and devout scolds on the other, this can be a frustrating time for those of us who are still committed to an open and free society that places individual rights on the very highest philosophical, moral, and legal pedestal. But defending individual rights remains the best way forward.

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91 responses to “David French Is Right: Classical Liberalism Is the Best Framework for Protecting Religious Freedom

  1. The Angry Left and the Angry Right are soon to become the Communists vs the Nazis. In 50 years, the great argument will be whether they were really on the opposite sides of competing ideologies or if they were merely two adjacent ideologies arguing over the details.

    1. Angry Left vs Angry Right vs Contemptuous Ruling Class

      I’ll take the Angry Right.

      Note the usual lie of the Left conflating National *Socialists* with the Right.

      The German Socialists and the Soviet Socialists were competing Leftist alternatives to the Right, as exemplified by British and British descended countries.

      1. Angry Left vs Angry Right vs Contemptuous Ruling Class

        Angry Left + Angry Right = Contemptuous Ruling Class

        I’ll take the Angry Right.

        That’s why you’ll never unseat the Contemptuous Ruling Class.

        1. “Angry Left + Angry Right = Contemptuous Ruling Class”

          This is a way more accurate version of the “left+right=zero”

          Well put. I’m as guilty as anyone in thinking the angry right will vote for anything but more government

      2. “Equality, rightly understood, as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences. Wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism.”
        -Barry Goldwater

      3. And you missed the point of the comment and simultaneously illustrated the point.

    2. Alt-Right vs Ctrl-Left

    3. I seem to have accidentally hit the flag on one of the comments. I’m really sorry, I’m not sure how that happened, but I hope this didn’t hide the comment.

    4. The Angry Left and the Angry Right are soon to become the Communists vs the Nazis

      Sorry, but both communists and Nazis are part of the Angry Left: they both want wealth redistribution, massive state intervention in the economy, and are obsessed with race.

      The Angry Right in the US are simply all the people who hate both communists and Nazis.

  2. “French is not a libertarian either, but he’s on the side that’s more closely aligned with a libertarian approach.”

    Reason luuuuuuuuvs Neocons now, because they’re in agreement that a country is just a bus stop for human widgets to enrich corporate ownership.

    Corporate Profits Uber Alles!

    1. “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally, not a 20 percent traitor.” — Ronald Reagan

      1. Reagan didn’t take into account French’s haughtiness w/the 80%

      2. What people like French say and what they do are two entirely different things. You can see that when they get into power.

        Heck, even Obama sounded libertarian on many issues when he ran for president, and he did a complete 180 on most issues when he got into power.

  3. From the “Against the Dead Consensus” manifesto:

    “…We welcome allies who oppose dehumanizing attempts at “liberation” such as pornography, “designer babies,” wombs for rent, and the severing of the link between sex and gender…

    “…We oppose attempts to displace American citizens (via immigration). Advancing the common good requires standing with, rather than abandoning, our countrymen….”

    “We affirm the nonnegotiable dignity of every unborn life and oppose the transhumanist project of radical self-identification….

    “When an ideological liberalism seeks to dictate our foreign policy and dominate our religious and charitable institutions, tyranny is the result, at home and abroad….

    “…Economic and welfare policy should prioritize work over consumption….

    “We embrace the new nationalism insofar as it stands against the utopian ideal of a borderless world that, in practice, leads to universal tyranny.”

    1. Advancing the common good requires standing with, rather than abandoning, our countrymen

      So does this mean they are against tariffs? I guess hurting farmers, then helping farmers through subsidies, would be considered standing with them I suppose.

      1. It was in the context of immigration. It sounds like what you’d hear in the Reason comments section.

        1. i’d say “John?” but all the words are correctly spelled

        2. Yeah, they seem to have hit on all the points that people most like to disagree and argue about here.

    2. “…Economic and welfare policy should prioritize work over consumption…”
      So digging holes and filling them up?

      1. That’s the key insight.

        There is nothing wrong with work, but it’s a means to an end, and consumption is that end. When someone “prioritizes work over consumption”, they are literally (to paraphrasize Santayana’s definition of fanaticism) redoubling their efforts when they have forgotten their aim.

        1. It’s not consumption, its production.

          Putting everyone to work is to the goal of increasing production. Increasing production increases what is available to consume, but there are two ways to consume: each person consumes more OR you bring in more people to do the consuming.

          A welfare state says consumption is more important than production.

  4. “A serious intellectual dispute”

    Well, that’s being generous to a fault, not to mention a loudly Catholic windbag. First Things is for people with too much time on their hands.

  5. Wait, wasn’t he the bad guy in the first Iron Man movie? Obadiah?

    1. LOL, now that you mention it….

  6. Here is a part of French’s essay that I hope Suave defends:

    “Frenchism” (is that a thing now?) contains two main components: zealous defense of the classical-liberal order (with a special emphasis on civil liberties) and zealous advocacy of fundamentally Christian and Burkean conservative principles. It’s not one or the other. It’s both. It’s the formulation that renders the government primarily responsible for safeguarding liberty, and the people primarily responsible for exercising that liberty for virtuous purposes. As John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

    “Moreover, I firmly believe that the defense of these political and cultural values must be conducted in accordance with scriptural admonitions to love your enemies, to bless those who persecute you, with full knowledge that the “Lord’s servant” must be “kind to everyone, able to teach, and patiently endure evil.””

    1. and the people primarily responsible for exercising that liberty for virtuous purposes

      And what if they don’t?

      1. Then they don’t. And we get to test John Adams’ assertion.

        1. Hopefully I won’t live to see that.

      2. George Washington says we’ll fail.

        1. He’s probably right.

          1. is it failure if we use their roadmap?

        2. Well, most governing systems have failed eventually. Why should this be any different?

    2. I was listening to a Douglas Murray interview the other day and he said something very interesting to me that caused me to think a lot about the future in novel ways. In the Interview he was asked about what he thought were big things that were happening that that were largely being ignored or denied. I’m paraphrasing but he said Western societies transition from belief to non-belief. And he made a point to note his own atheism.
      He didn’t make any moral judgments about moving from belief to non belief. But what he did say about it was interesting. He said that we believe everything is going to be ‘business as usual’ at our peril.

      1. That’s something that I (also an atheist) have also thought about a lot lately.
        He said that we believe everything is going to be ‘business as usual’ at our peril.
        And that is a very interesting point. And the transition away from belief is only one part of it. There are so many things happening now that have never happened. Women being full participants in nearly every part of society and politics. Large populations of pretty well off people. Acceptance of homosexuality. Ridiculous amounts of communication and interconnection.
        I think those are all good things that should be celebrated. But it’s true that we really don’t know what it will lead to. And all of those things are new enough that we haven’t seen nearly all of the consequences.

        1. Actually, things like this have happened before. From John Bagot Glubbs Fate of Empires:

          The works of the contemporary historians
          of Baghdad in the early tenth century are still
          available. They deeply deplored the
          degeneracy of the times in which they lived,
          emphasising particularly the indifference to
          religion, the increasing materialism and the
          laxity of sexual morals. They lamented also
          the corruption of the officials of the
          government and the fact that politicians
          always seemed to amass large fortunes while
          they were in office.
          The historians commented bitterly on the
          extraordinary influence acquired by popular
          singers over young people, resulting in a
          decline in sexual morality. The ‘pop’ singers
          of Baghdad accompanied their erotic songs
          on the lute, an instrument resembling the
          modern guitar. In the second half of the
          tenth century, as a result, much obscene
          sexual language came increasingly into use,
          such as would not have been tolerated in an
          earlier age. Several khalifs issued orders
          banning ‘pop’ singers from the capital, but
          within a few years they always returned.
          An increase in the influence of women in
          public life has often been associated with national decline. The later Romans complained
          that, although Rome ruled the world, women
          ruled Rome. In the tenth century, a similar
          tendency was observable in the Arab Empire,
          the women demanding admission to the
          professions hitherto monopolised by men.
          ‘What,’ wrote the contemporary historian,
          Ibn Bessam, ‘have the professions of clerk,
          tax-collector or preacher to do with women?
          These occupations have always been limited
          to men alone.’ Many women practised law,
          while others obtained posts as university
          professors. There was an agitation for the
          appointment of female judges, which,
          however, does not appear to have succeeded.
          Soon after this period, government and
          public order collapsed, and foreign invaders
          overran the country. The resulting increase
          in confusion and violence made it unsafe for
          women to move unescorted in the streets,
          with the result that this feminist movement
          collapsed.

    1. I agree, this is one of Robby’s better ones.

      You should let the hair write for you more often!

  7. So NOW you defend French … interesting.

    And when when liberals … er, I mean progressives, start fighting for this liberal order? Instead of subjugating …

  8. two National Review references in one day is two too many.

  9. Andorians vs. Talaxians on the relative merits of various planets in the Alpha System.

  10. There is a Christian perspective that focuses on leading people to Jesus by example and not trying to fix everything. You can believe that abortion is murder and still be content to let God sort it out.

    I am not sure that i am quite there yet.

    1. You can believe that abortion is murder and still be content to let God sort it out.

      ^ This. Morality is for you to govern your own behavior, not that of others.

      I am not sure that i am quite there yet.

      No one is – that’s the point. Being ‘there’ means accepting that being there could wind up with you getting nailed up and forgiving the guy with the hammer.

      Most of us don’t experience that God-level love-and-forgiveness for all of Creation, preferring self-love (and the will to self-preservation).

      1. You could say murder is still murder and let God sort it out as well.

      2. “Most of us don’t experience that God-level love-and-forgiveness for all of Creation”

        Just wait till you get to heaven.

  11. —“[i]t would not be a stretch to describe the First Thingsers as anti-libertarian. They’re nationalist, they’re skeptical of immigration and markets, and they want the government to actively promote conservative religious social values.”—

    You can say it, Robby: They’re Trumpistas, i.e. chauvinist, anti-market, bigoted, anti-immigrant.

  12. >>>That means defending the legal rights of a radical leftist professor with the same vigor that you defend an embattled Christian conservative.

    not so difficult it requires being called “a core tenet of Frenchism” oy

  13. French is a well-liked National Review writer

    ROFLMAO

    1. Reason doesnt look at the comments at national review either.

  14. The First Thingsers believe conservatives should take a different approach and…do what, exactly? Start punching leftists?

    A number of commenters here regularly call for killing all lefties so I’m gonna guess punching doesn’t go near far enough.

    1. Pinochet was just misunderstood, dontcha know.

      1. Pinochet didn’t require massive bloodshed or outright economic collapse to give up power.

        How many leftists can make similar claims?

        For all of his faults, Pinochet did improve Chile.

        1. Funny, I would have expected Shithead or Nardz or Jesse to be the first to leap to Pinochet’s defense. But congratulations, you win the Pinochet Apologist Award!

          1. Who served their country better, Pinochet or Castro?
            Pinochet or Ortega?
            Pinochet or Chavez?
            Pinochet or Maduro?
            Pinochet or Ceaucescu?

            Saying he’s better than literally every single left wing authoritarian in history and that he left Chile in better shape than we got there is not saying “Well, he’s a swell guy”.

            1. Who served their country better, Pinochet or Castro?

              Neither one “served” their country. They both RULED over their respective countries. That is what authoritarian dictators do.

              This is like asking “who was better, Stalin or Mao?” It is a stupid question – they were both so incredibly awful that it is a purely academic exercise without any real-world relevance to try to rank one as “better” than the other.

              “Well, he’s a swell guy”.

              Well, you clearly think that Pinochet wasn’t so terrible after all, if you are going to go through these lengths to apologize for his behavior.

    2. At the previous forum I used to visit, after Obama’s 2012 victory, there were more than a few of the commenters there who declared non-ironically that they thought the idea of a military coup wasn’t such a bad idea.

      https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/sep/11/military-coup-some-americans-would-vote-yes

      1. Yes, message board comments are always definitive proof of a widespread belief.

        1. You didn’t read the link, did you?

    3. Not all of them. Put a few of them through a woodchipper and the rest will become much easier to repress.

  15. “We affirm the nonnegotiable dignity of every unborn life and oppose the transhumanist project of radical self-identification.”

    So in other words, they care about the dignity of the individual only when that individual is not yet born. Once that individual pops out of the womb, then it’s the individual’s duty to submit to society’s determination of his/her own identity.

    1. It’s all part of the duty to maintain The Collective.

      1. So unborn children are just set pieces for them to virtue signal about how much they care about life.

        Once that person is born, and chooses to stray from the conformist pressures of society, then that person becomes a liability that must be squashed.

      2. The transparent ones like Ahmari, and buybuy above, will admit that they are nationalist collectivists. That national identity should trump individual liberty. The individual’s liberty to associate with foreigners should be curtailed, because the exercise of said liberty weakens the American collective (supposedly) and that just can’t be tolerated. If only more Trumpbots were to realize what nationalism really is.

        1. You are an incompetent thinker

          1. Did leaving that substance-free comment make you feel good?

  16. French is another fairly large anti trumper. Granted even he thinks Mueller is an abomination. But it is strange who reason has been highlighting the last few weeks. Cruz comes out hard on Mueller and against Amash and crickets from reason. Reasom seems firmly in the belief that libertarians are solely open border anti trumpers.

    1. Gee what a shock.
      Even when a writer at Reason writes an article that you can agree with, you still bitch and moan about it.
      Why it’s almost as if your only reason to come here is to bash the place.

      1. This is a great place for an outrage dopamine hit

  17. If the losers of America’s culture war want to argue among themselves about superstition, intolerance, insularity, and authoritarian fantasies, why should the liberal-libertarian mainstream interfere — or care?

    1. Your side already has a lock on intolerance, insularity, and authoritarian fantasies.

  18. I believe in religious freedom. I really want everyone to feel safe attending worship services or not attending services. If a person wants to wear religiously inspired clothing in public, keep a specific diet, or follow specific relationship rules, I want them to do that. I don’t want anyone to lose a job or be fired because of their religious beliefs.

    The problem I see is when people say, You can’t do that because of MY religious beliefs. That is a huge problem. The cake baker in Colorado has a public business and public businesses must serve the public. Now if the cake baker doesn’t want to make wedding cakes for gay people, then he can either stop making wedding cakes for everyone or he can become a bread baker or go into another line of business. He doesn’t get to decide who is and is not a client. What if he refused to bake cakes for black people? This is how I see his refusal. If he can’t provide his service to the general public, he should not be in a line of work that requires him to serve the public.

    Many Quakers refused to serve as soldiers during the time of the draft because of their pacifist religious views. However, many chose to serve by being medics who refused to carry weapons to protect themselves. If you are a Quaker, then you know that a career in the military or at the Pentagon are simply not careers that you can have because they will violate your religious beliefs. Since there is no longer a draft, Quakers simply do not join the military. One Quaker wrote of working as a contractor in DC and having to turn down assignments that would require him to support the Pentagon. I am sure some of those contracting jobs were lucrative, but he chose to follow his religion and did not take them. Following the tenants of faith sometimes require sacrifice.

    The public space needs to be comfortable for Atheists, Pagans, Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus. We are not going to be fully happy with the public square, but we must tolerate each other.

    1. If he can’t provide his service to the general public, he should not be in a line of work that requires him to serve the public.

      No. the Civil rights Laws should have been written in such a way that they limited discrimination by units of government. Private individuals should be free to discriminate, even engage in discrimination I find personally odious, even if it were against me. example: A woman-only or lesbians-only bar telling me, a straight male, that I am not welcome. I’m OK with that.

      Will some proprietors be evil and stupid, and refuse business? Yes. Will competitors exploit their aversion to certain customers’ money? You bet. The old Sears catalog would sell to anybody, even if The Only General Store In Town wouldn’t, and Amazon is the same way. The Big River could probably figure out what “oppressed groups” you belong to by data mining and ban you, if they cared to. Instead they use that info to try to sell you more stuff. Merchants and contractors doing business with the government can be made to promise not to discriminate. If you rent space from the government to run a gas station and restaurant on a limited access highway, being told you won’t get the contract unless you agree to serve everyone is perfectly cromulent. But wedding cake is NOT a necessity. You could buy a sheet-cake from the local supermarket, and decorate it yourself if you had to. This issue is no reason to violate the free exercise and freedom of association clauses of the First Amendment, or the right to private property guaranteed by the Fifth. I’m an atheist, by the way, and, French-like, I say the christian Bakers should not be made to facilitate religious expression they don’t agree with. Now, maybe we could do a deal where they get to pick what they will write on a cake, and the Joshists stop putting references to Yahooey on government notes, buildings, etc.

      When this was the “Hit & Run” blog, there was preview mode.

  19. I grew up in the American Baptist tradition. Before you blanch at the “Baptist” part, consider that a keystone of that particular tradition was religious freedom. As a result, I was constantly exposed to the idea that limits on freedom to practice any religion ultimately circumscribe freedom to practice my religion.
    As such, I’ve always looked askance at attempts to limit freedom of expression and freedom of association, whether it be by fascists on the left or the right. That’s mainly what led me to the Libertarian political stance that I hold today.
    So clearly I disagree with Sohrab Ahmari’s position. I can’t imagine a worse position to be in than to try to impose what I believe to be right and good on someone else because that simply opens the door for them to do the same when they’re in power. The current shift to Democrat leadership in the House is proof enough of that. I do wish the First Thing-ers would realize that Liberty is a first and paramount thing.
    The criticism of David French is the typical canard: His holding to the standard of freedom for everyone means that some of those ones will try to do things that are bad. Tough. That’s the price we have to pay so that we are free to do what we decide is good.

  20. Irony: Doing things the way David French likes led to the war on free speech et al that we are fighting here.

    Don’t know why we should respect failed ideas.

  21. lol if you find yourself aligned with a holier than thou asshole like David French maybe you should rethink your position. I mean broken clock and all that but still.

  22. [I]t would not be a stretch to describe the First Thingsers as anti-libertarian. They’re nationalist, they’re skeptical of immigration and markets, and they want the government to actively promote conservative religious social values.

    You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.

  23. […] to the Ahmari post is revealing, in that it is not much of a defense of French or Conservative Inc. Reason Magazine babbles about individual liberty while calling Ahmari names. The fact that the core of the Ahmari […]

  24. […] Christianity, democracy, and free markets. These views are held by conservative pundits like David French who believes that democracy and a classically liberal framework are the best systems to protect […]

  25. […] miles—that would be the $22 trillion national debt, stacked by ones—but it would be towering […]

  26. […] up 68,000 miles—that would be the $22 trillion national debt, stacked by ones—but it would be towering […]

  27. IMO we’re simply at one of those inflections points in history where the kind of high minded “take the high road, even if it costs you in the short term” kind of thinking just ain’t gonna cut it.

    The truth is at many points in history, you simply don’t have the option of picking George Washington. You’re stuck choosing between Mao and Pinochet. I think the USA, and indeed most of the western world, is at one of those points. In Spain either the Commies were gonna win… Or the really shitty, but vastly better than the commies, Franco.

    I don’t LIKE that that’s where our choices are at not… But it is what it is. Frankly I put much of the blame squarely on the massive levels of cowardice that many conservatives and libertarians have had in going on the OFFENSIVE against the left over the last few decades. Always playing defense is not a winning strategy. Leftists needed to be viciously attacked verbally over the last few decades for their stupidity. By not doing that we’ve brought ourselves to a point where stronger measures may be needed in the future, which is very unfortunate.

  28. Too bad that there is not a single classical liberal writing for Reason.

  29. […] David French Is Right: Classical Liberalism Is the Best Framework for Protecting Religious Freedom Robby Soave, Reason […]

  30. […] miles—that would be the $22 trillion national debt, stacked by ones—but it would be towering […]

  31. Classical Liberalism: Like what Barry Goldwater preached?
    How refreshing.

  32. […] an ugly, name-calling rift on the right between theocratic Catholics on the one hand and classical-liberalish evangelicals on the other, you could be forgiven for thinking that the conservative movement still has some […]

  33. […] an ugly, name-calling rift on the right between theocratic Catholics on the one hand and classical-liberalish evangelicals on the other, you could be forgiven for thinking that the conservative movement still has some […]

  34. I’d like to ask David French or like-minded philosophers to address how these situations should be addressed under the principles of classical liberalism:
    1. the institution of slavery
    2. the murder of infants as they’re being born (NY State)
    3. an aborted baby is born live, despite ‘medical” efforts to kill it. What should be done as it struggles for air on the delivery table?
    4. a Christian doctor is asked to perform an abortion, but refuses.
    5. a Christian doctor is asked to perform a mercy killing, but refuses.
    6. a Christian doctor is asked to perform a transgender surgery, but refuses.
    7. A Christian in Canadian is compelled to use a transgenders preferred pronoun under penalty of law, but refuses.
    8. Kindergarten sex ed classes in San Francisco teach 5 year olds that gender is “fluid.” That means if Johnnie says he’s Sally today, Johnnie must be called Sally today (or the non-compliant 5 year-old Christian gets expelled or reprimanded).
    9. The world’s (former) top professional tennis player loses every competition starting in 2019 onward to the same male professional tennis player who claims to be female in all tennis women’s competitions, starting in 2019.
    The former female champion tennis player’s earnings plummet and she is forced to ultimately declare bankruptcy due to loss of winnings and endorsement contracts to the male player. What should be done under classic liberal principles for her, if anything?
    If the author could help me out here understanding how classical liberalism would address these nine situations, I’d get a better understanding on the essay’s endorsement of classical liberalism, as practiced by David French and others.

  35. […] an ugly, name-calling rift on the right between theocratic Catholics on the one hand and classical-liberalish evangelicals on the other, you could be forgiven for thinking that the conservative movement still has some […]

  36. […] us of his own impressive list of courtroom victories on behalf of conservative causes. The libertarians weighed in on French’s side, and the lefties are rooting for […]

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