When reflecting on the political options available to us in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, I often say to myself with a certain resignation, “Liberalism—it’s all we’ve got.” What I mean, of course, is that for anyone in the modern world who wants a sane and decent political order, the only realistic choice is liberalism in the classic sense—a regime dedicated to individual liberty based on democratic institutions (liberal democracy, in other words), with a social order shaped by mass culture and an economy driven by industrial and technological progress. Those who reject this order entirely—utopian dreamers, nostalgic reactionaries, anarchists—may get credit for defiant courage, but they usually wind up doing more harm than good. We are left with little choice but to live with liberalism and to make it as noble and as just as we can.

Although this conclusion sounds reasonable, it...


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