Tagged: Symposium (Ordered Liberty)


Do Civic Virtue and Responsibility Go Beyond Political Liberalism?

Thanks to James Fleming and Linda McClain for their response to my post. The exchange has helped to elucidate the many fine points of their book. I appreciate too the various ways in which our projects overlap and thank them for continuing to bring them out.

I certainly agree that Fleming and McClain endorse a political liberal ideal of free and equal citizenship and that they often rely on an analysis that invokes this ideal in analyzing cases. They want to support free and equal citizenship. The most crucial concern, however, from my post is that the promotion of virtue may go beyond supporting the political liberal values of free and equal citizenship. Do Fleming and McClain mean to define virtue in that is merely synonymous with the political liberal ideal of free and equal citizenship, or is the concept of virtue distinct? Although they say that “we will not attempt here to persuade him about why it is possible to promote civic virtue without sliding into promoting moral virtues simpliciter and comprehensive visions of the good life,” I think this is the central challenge for their book, in that the issue of promoting virtue highlights one of their unique and important contributions to political theory. Read More


Democratic Values v. Virtues: Brettschneider on Ordered Liberty

How can a liberal democracy promote its central values, such as autonomy and non-discrimination, at the same time that it protects basic rights, such as free speech? One common view is that these two goals are incompatible. According to this view, free speech rights commit liberal democracy to “neutralism,” which prohibits favoring any values. Under a neutralist approach, liberal democracy cannot promote its core values of autonomy and non-discrimination. It has no role in encouraging responsibility and virtue among its citizens.

James Fleming and Linda McClain offer a powerful challenge to the neutralist view. They propose an account of “autonomy as responsibility” that reconciles the two goals of protecting rights and promoting a set of public values and virtues. Liberal democracy upholds the rights of citizens out of respect for their autonomy, or their ability to use their reason freely to choose their own ends. For citizens to be able to make decisions as autonomous agents, they must have the right to choose their religion, associations, and political positions. But it is also important in an autonomy respecting regime that the government cultivate and encourage good decision-making. It would be pointless to respect autonomy if no actual people exercised their autonomy well. The government thus has an obligation to promote the capacity of citizens to make better and more responsible decisions. The government, including the Supreme Court, should pursue the twin aims of protecting rights and promoting individual autonomy and responsibility. This view differs from perfectionist theories, which advance particular comprehensive doctrines, and neutralist accounts, which refuse to promote values altogether. Read More