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Friday, January 15, 2016

A symposium on Levy's "Rationalism, Pluralism, and Religious Freedom"

Here's my contribution to a symposium (there are a half-dozen others, too), hosted by the Bleeding Heart Libertarians site, on Jacob Levy's wonderful new book, Rationalism, Pluralism & Freedom (buy your copy here).   A bit:

. . . Jacob is right, it seems to me, to highlight, within the “liberal understanding of freedom,” the “pluralist emphasis on the freedom found within and protected by group life against the power of the state.” He is on firm ground when he insists that “[t]here is no social world without loss” and that “[s]ometimes we will not be able to have the morally best degree of freedom of association and the morally best degree of protection against local tyranny.” And, he correctly reminds us that “[w]e cannot . . . simply point to the moral loss suffered by some relatively powerless or disadvantaged person within an association, religion, or cultural group and conclude that the group constitutes a local tyranny that must be dissolved or overruled by the state.”

He is right about all this, I think, not because religious institutions (or other non-state associations) never act wrongly or never inflict hurt and harm. They do (sometimes), just as liberal states do (sometimes). As I see it—and Jacob’s book is helping me to think harder and, I hope, better about the matter—the liberal practice of respecting the rights of religious and other associations’ distinct, even if non-liberal, practices is not merely a matter of “governance best practices” or a strategy about how to allocate scarce enforcement or litigation resources. Instead, the practice reflects the fact that a (good) liberal, constitutional government accepts—and not grudgingly—as given the fact that reasonable people, associations, institutions, and communities disagree reasonably about things that matter. Such a government is not merely resigned, but resigned comfortably, to the “crooked timber of free society.” . . .

Posted by Rick Garnett on January 15, 2016 at 04:22 PM in Rick Garnett | Permalink


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