Blond with Sandel(s)


Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

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47 Responses

  1. Avatar Freddie says:

    May I just say that whether or not American conservatism deserves to be called classical liberalism is a matter of controversy? It is taken as axiomatic, in a lot of the Internet, that American conservatives are the heirs to Mill or Locke or Jefferson, but that is, in part, exactly what is at issue in our political debates. The Rawlsian liberal position is that there is no conflict between liberal social policies and the classical liberal philosophy, because rights aren’t really rights if they have no material possibility of being enacted. In this sense, social programs and the like are necessary to protect the Enlightenment rights which the classical liberal thinkers espoused, and thus the actual classical liberals are American liberals and leftists. The actual relationship of people like Mill to positive and negative rights, and whether there is really such a divide at all, is very complicated. So while you can of course argue that the Rawlsian position is wrong, to say as a given than American conservatism is the classical liberal tradition is to beg the question.Report

    • Avatar Chris Dierkes says:


      good question. I think that Rawls makes a strong case that his position is not incompatible with a version of classical liberalism. I also think libertarians (and even liberaltarians and conservatives) have taken another strain of classical liberalism and gone in a slightly different direction.

      I think this is complicated by the rise of industrialism, so that I would say both US conservatism and US liberalism are heirs to classical liberalism which they’ve also modified in some regards given the reality of the industrialized (and now post-industrialized) world.

      Neoliberalism in that sense I think is a uniting link (in terms of economic philosophy) between the three (conservatives, liberals, and libertarians).

      But all three are not republicanism (as a political philosophy). I think Sandel makes a persuasive argument in this regard.

      So if you take say the famous Rawls v. Nozick debate, I’m not sure either can totally answer the critiques of the other side, but both are assuming atomistic individuals in the hypothetical state of nature and are just arguing about the merits/demerits of redistributionism and whether it can be validly described as in line with classical liberalism.

      But republican thought would critique both Rawls and Nozick because both assume the foundation in atomistic individuals and then building a political philosophy solely from that foundation. True they disagree in where they take those foundations but they do share that same foundation, a point that is totally missed in most debate (I think).Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I don’t see libertarians aligned with conservatives at all… see, for example, 2006. Perhaps even 2008.

    This week? Yeah, they’re probably aligned with conservatives this week.

    When Conservatives regain power and start making it illegal to… I dunno. They’ll figure out some dumb thing to say we need to do “for The Children” the libertarians will unalign themselves again… just like the last time.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Yeah I feel for ya Jay. It has been a hard week for libertarians and it’s only just getting under way.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        If libertarians aren’t used to being Cassandras by now, they’ll never get used to it.

        I do wonder what this will do the next time Republicans find themselves with majorities… what’s the next bill that will be Reconciled because of a promise of a particular Executive Order?

        This genie ain’t gonna go back in the bottle.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          *shrug* Don’t go all Republican on me Jay. Bart Stupak conjured an imaginary complaint and got an imaginary solution to resolve it. The Senate bill never was going to institute federally financed abortions. That’s why the pro-choice forces yawned when Obama issued his order; nothing was being changed. Bart backed himself into a corner and was merely afforded a convenient face saving way to come home. If you’re looking for the last time that politicians extracted concessions (up to and including executive orders) in exchange for their votes I’d refer you to the year forever since it’s been going on for centuries. Nothing special went down, the bill was passed, not reconciled (the reconciliation bill is a separate item and is off to the Senate to be debated) and there wasn’t any special legislative shenanigans with the HCR bill. It was passed with a super majority in the Senate and a 219 majority in the House and now it’s off to the President.

          Look there’s plenty for libertarians to hate about the bill without making up things to hate.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            I’m *NOT* going all Republican on you. I’m going all Libertarian on you.

            I see the following things happening as part of a worst case scenario:

            Republican majority in the House come 2010, and Republican President in 2012 and a balanced (50/50) Senate for his (or her, shudder) first term.

            And they pass something using similar shenanigans.

            Does this strike you as a particularly far-out worst case scenario?Report

            • Avatar North says:

              I don’t consider it far out Jay, my objection is to characterizing it as unusual or shenanigans. What occurred was typical legislative maneuvering. It has happened a lot before and shall doubtlessly happen again. You can say that the legislation that was passed is horrible and awful and while I will disagree with you it’ll be something on which people can reasonably differ. But if you say that the way legislation that was passed was passed was horrible or illegal then it’s a whole different level because what you’re asserting is objectively incorrect.

              And if a Republican gets control of the house, the Senate and the Presidency then yes they’re entitled to try and pass legislation. The opposition is entitled, Democrat or Republican, to stand in unified opposition (though I’d say it’s against their interest to do so) and the majority is entitled to use all options the rules make available to them to pass the legislation. My position would not change on those items whoever was in control.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                What struck me as unusual was the exchange of an Executive Order for a vote for a Bill.

                It reminded me far, far, far too much of “signing statements”.

                Has this sort of thing happened all the time in the past?Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Legislators getting the executive to give them things, shout outs, alterations of bills, executive orders etc in exchange for votes? Yeah ‘fraid so. And in this case the Executive order consisted of “Hey you know how Federal Law prohibits us from spending Federal Money on abortions? Yeah well I’m issuing an executive order also saying that there’ll be no spending money on abortions in this federal item”.

                You can be sure that if the general concept of exchanging an executive order for the vote was even slightly screwy Fox and the Republicans would be screaming it from the rooftops. Now they’re yelling that Stupak sold out or that somehow abortion is still built into the law but they’re not screaming about the actual principle of the executive order resulting in the vote.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’m kinda old-school. I see signing statements as impeachable offenses. Sign it or veto it. If it’s not worth signing, it’s worth a veto. Worst case, just let it stay on your desk for 30 days or whatever it is and let it become a law by default. Sure. (Wimp.)

                But if a law is vague to the point where the executive is interpreting the law, then we’ve got ourselves a Constitutional Crisis waiting to happen and it ought to be nipped in the bud.

                This whole executive order thing modifying an insufficiently precise law is all going to end in tears, mark my words.

                And it’d all end in tears even if it legalized pot, gay marriage, and allowed 7 more nuclear power plants to be built in each state by 2015. If the process becomes corrupted, it’ll be abused.

                The genie ain’t going back in the bottle.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                But the law wasn’t vague Jay. No one outside Stupak and the Catholic council of bishops thought that it was. Stupak was backed into a corner by his own rhetoric and this merely gave him an out. Also this was an executive order, not a signing statement. There’s a rather big difference (especially considering that Obama hasn’t signed it yet). If the genie had been in the bottle last week and was out now I’d get your point wasn’t. There hasn’t been any unprecedented quid pro quos.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, I’m not saying that *THIS* law was vague (I haven’t read it… actually, has anybody?) but that the “trade” of an EO for a vote struck me as downright Unconstitutional.

                But we’ll see. I’m sure that the pendulum will swing and we will see these particular proceedures used to do something unsavory in the future over the objections of the other party.

                My intuition is that we’ll be wondering how in the heck we got this far down this particular slope.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Fair enough Jay, perhaps we’ll have to agree to disagree on this.

                Personally I feel that nothing of substance was exchanged. That it was kabuki to obtain Stupaks vote. My datapoint; the powerful pro-choice groups in the Dem caucus. Notice how little noise they made. Note their collective yawn. If Obama had given Stupac something substantive I do not believe they’d have responded so anemically. These people make their living fighting on this issue. Their silence suggests to me that Obama’s statement amounted to nothing more than a restatement of current law.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Their silence, to me, suggests “holy crap, I can’t believe we didn’t think of that… I CAN’T WAIT UNTIL IT’S OUR TURN TO USE IT!!!”

                But, as has been pointed out, I’m crazy.Report

              • Avatar JosephFM says:

                Jay, here’s the text of the Hyde Amendment:

                SEC. 507. (a) None of the funds appropriated in this Act, and none of the funds in any trust fund to which funds are appropriated in this Act, shall be expended for any abortion.

                (b) None of the funds appropriated in this Act, and none of the funds in any trust fund to which funds are appropriated in this Act, shall be expended for health benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion.

                (c) The term `health benefits coverage’ means the package of services covered by a managed care provider or organization pursuant to a contract or other arrangement.

                SEC. 508. (a) The limitations established in the preceding section shall not apply to an abortion–

                (1) if the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest; or

                (2) in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed.

                (b) Nothing in the preceding section shall be construed as prohibiting the expenditure by a State, locality, entity, or private person of State, local, or private funds (other than a State’s or locality’s contribution of Medicaid matching funds).

                (c) Nothing in the preceding section shall be construed as restricting the ability of any managed care provider from offering abortion coverage or the ability of a State or locality to contract separately with such a provider for such coverage with State funds (other than a State’s or locality’s contribution of Medicaid matching funds).Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Thank you, Joseph… but I was talking about the Health Care Bill itself.

                I think that the Hyde Amendment is awful… I seriously think that the country would be better off if people had to actually say “holy cow, they’re spending my money on *WHAT*???” a little more often.

                Maybe the bond rating changing will allow that to happen…Report

    • Avatar Chris Dierkes says:


      I think you’re only thinking of alignment in terms of votes in elections relative to Dems and Reps. I’m talking more in philosophical (and particularly economic & political philosophy) terms.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        From looking at not only George W Bush from 2001-2008, but at what the Republican Party Itself was willing to defend, I’ve gotta say… I don’t see it.

        It *MIGHT* be possible to say that Bush was No True Republican when it came to economic philosophy but the Republican Party Itself was pretty much in lockstep with the guy and defended him against the left and libertarian alike.Report

        • Avatar Chris Dierkes says:

          tax cuts.

          Again I’m not talking the Republican party and certainly not Bush’s presidency. My sense of the parties is that they both are into increasing the size of the state and getting closer to corporate power. They just differ on exactly how to go about that and what that alliance should be deployed to.

          In this post, I’m talking at the more philosophical level. The two (philosophy and political parties) are not in my mind completely separate but they aren’t totally to be equated either.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Gay marriage, abortion, and drug war.

            Oh, wait. The democrats agree with republicans on two of those.

            It still seems to me that on a more philosophical level that the Republicans have, ahem, progressed from their older viewpoints and they now have, erm, grown while the Libertarians have stayed somewhat… unevolved.

            I base this not on what the Republicans stood for waybackwhen, of course… but what their principles are like once they are in power.

            If you want to know what a guy is really like, then give him power, right?

            I think we know what the viewpoint of Republicans *REALLY* are thanks to 2002-2006.

            I don’t know how to divorce Republicanism in theory with Republicanism in practice… anymore than I can divorce Democraticism in theory from Democratism in practice.Report

  3. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    What political philosophy provides man with a maximum of freedom and why?Report

    • Avatar JosephFM says:

      If I understand correctly, only the offspring of liberalism and the Enlightenment that you love to deride even consider “maximum liberty” to be the highest value. A nonliberal philosophy would thus not primarily be concerned with maximizing liberty (though it may do so incidentally).Report

  4. Avatar Freddie says:

    Think about it this way, Jay– some number of people will have their effective liberty increased by having access to health care. I know that neither you nor the libertarian mass will likely admit that this is a net increase in liberty, nor will you likely celebrate it; but it is an increase in their personal liberty, it will result in a higher quality of life for them, and it does matter.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I have no doubt that some number of people will have their effective liberty increased by this increased amount of “coverage” and “access”.

      Let’s say that the number is X and the average amount of effective liberty increased is Y… so X times Y gives us the increase of liberty given us by this legislation. Hurray.

      Now, does this legislation also decrease the effective liberty of some group of people? Let’s say that it does and that number of people is P and the average amount of liberty decreased is Q. Hey, there are tradeoffs.

      If PQ is larger than XY, then this was not only a bad bill, but it was an immoral one. Do we agree with that?Report

      • Avatar Freddie says:

        Well that’s the question, about comparing different types of liberty. There are indeed tradeoffs. Where I stand is how William described it– meeting minimum levels of satisfaction of material needs is a different kind of thing, a higher order category of liberty from the point of view of society. But that’s just me.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          There are indeed tradeoffs.

          I certainly hope that the measurement is something to the effect of “liberty gained vs. liberty lost” rather than “the amount of liberty intended to be gained vs. the liberty intended to be lost”.

          What would you consider to be a good measurement of whether this bill is successful?

          What measurable numbers ought we look at in 2011? 2014? 2018? 2020?Report

          • Avatar Chris Dierkes says:

            I’ll just interject here to say that this is precisely what Sandel is talking about. Namely that we get to this point about “measureables” and we hit inevitably the question about political morality. There is no (however much it might be desired) perfect objective measure of liberty lost vs. liberty gained. Because (according to Sandel), our very choice of measurement values is influenced by our political values/morality.

            We try to get around that much tougher discussion by things like public choice theory or mathematical attempts to quantify liberty (liberty already being the presupposition of a certain political philosophical view). These in the end are de facto political philosophy-morality questions coming in through the back door that our discourse really can’t adjudicate head on.Report

            • Avatar JosephFM says:

              ? We talk about race when we mean class and/or culture, and the mechanisms of the state and/or market when we mean ethics…Is there anything we can adjudicate head on?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              They’re all moral arguments, at the end of the day.

              I wish that there were some way of adjudication that didn’t present identically to “might makes right”.Report

              • Avatar JosephFM says:

                Hrm, so you’re saying that we insist on pretending they are something other than moral arguments is that admitting they are moral arguments means raising stakes to an unacceptable degree?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I think it’s a vocabulary problem, primarily.

                The current most popular morality is somewhat divorced from spirituality while most moral vocabulary is tied to the spiritual.

                But I need to sleep on that, I think, before I can say much more about it.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              Chris, just from a rhetorical/pedagogical standpoint (no offense, Jaybird, but you were rather getting yourself openly schooled in this discussion) standpoint, this last comment was an absolutely pristine example of a graceful redirection back to the underlying point which you were seeking to discuss. Just don’t want you to think such things go completely unnoticed.Report

  5. Avatar JosephFM says:

    The overarching extent of the market-procedural republic could easily incorporate a Blondian critique and metabolize it to its continued interests of expansion.

    This is precisely why liberalism is such a hardy paradigm, and is WHY it’s so dominant – it mutates like influenza, absorbing memetic coding from every challenge to it, and moreover does so through an evolutionary rather than teleological process.

    Not that there isn’t a telos to liberalism – definitionally, it’s “liberty” – just that history is not moving along a predefined path towards it, and there is broad disagreement on what it would actually consist of (which is why we modern mutations of liberalism fight amongst ourselves with such vehemence. )

    Actually it seems to me that the appeal of certain strands of socialism comes from essentially hitting some of the republican notes in a way that could adapt to the secularism of postliberal societies.Report

    • Avatar Chris Dierkes says:


      I’m in a rush now, so I hope to get back to this later, but just wanted to say that is a particularly excellent comment.Report

    • Avatar Rufus says:

      Isn’t it possible to be a socialist in politics and a conservative in culture? Somebody described themselves that way, although damned if I can remember who.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        i don’t see why that wouldn’t make sense. I think that is the appeal for many of what we call left wing social programs in Europe. Government programs can support and enhance a chosen lifestyle. Theoretically if we paid a stipend to every mother with a child of school age, women could be the classic stay at home. we could even offer tax credits for wearing 50’s style dresses, baking pies and naming kids Beaver and Chip. A controlled economy does have the advantage of stability which can reinforce traditional culture, or at least protect it from MTV, reality tv and the jessica simpson.Report

        • Avatar JosephFM says:

          I was actually thinking more along the lines of the Orthodox Kibbutzim in Israel.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Well, back in the day, we always explained that tribal relationships like family operated on a Communist paradigm and how, with guidance, we could expand that paradigm so that all members of society could be cared for as we would want our own family members cared for.

            The continual problem that constantly needed guidance with was the whole “loving their own kids more than strangers” problem. Religion, it seems to me, did a fairly good job of wrangling people into line but the atheism of many of my comrades did a good job of oozing contempt for the bourgeois theism held by many of the people they wanted to convert.

            After a while I seriously got the impression that my comrades did not particularly have a single positive emotion toward the people they claimed to love like family.

            But I digress.Report

  6. Avatar Dan H. says:

    If Blond’s alternative (Red Toryism) is not up to addressing the challenges he’s outlined (liberalism) why is he worth discussing? My theory is that Red Toryism functions in the market of liberalism much like X-TREME Corn Nuts function in the snack food market. Deep down we know it’s not skydiving (Marxism) or rock climbing (Anarchism) and that it’s just snack food (liberalism). But deep down we’re terrified of any actual serious alternative. Really, we just want to snack but we don’t want to be seen as snackers because we’re all seen what THOSE PEOPLE are like. And we can’t really be like THEM. X-TREME Corn Nuts to the rescue!Report

  7. Hello! I am writing with good news. The much-discussed Phillip Blond lecture with the Tocqueville Forum at Georgetown is now available in streaming audio here: