Yoram Hazony Explains the Problem of Idolizing Individual Liberty


Let's talk about the unit of importance. So in sort of classical liberal tradition and in the United States in particular, the idea has been that the individual is the locus of all politics and the locus of all thoughts. So individual rights are predominant, those rights are supposed to be protected by government you delegate your powers to the government in order to protect those rights so far as the government invades those rights, then it is defeated. It's reason for being I mean, this is the sort of basic language of the Declaration of Independence, the world trained on. And so when we speak of freedom and liberty, that's what Americans tend to think of almost instinctively. You are using in that statement the nation or the state as sort of the locus or the tribe as the locus of importance. Which do you think is the level of abstraction that we should be aiming at conserving? Is it the individual? Is it the family? Is it the nation? Is it the tribe? Which level of abstraction is the most important here? Look, I think if you pick one and insist on it, then you end up being kind of like an a dollar and a dollar of the individual meaning somebody who just puts way too much emphasis on the individual or if you pick the nation, it's very easy for that to turn into something that is oppressive. I think that if you look at the American founding, there actually was a balance between jeffersonians and thinkers like Tom Payne, they basically were the left and they had this liberal view. But there was another party. The party of Washington and Hamilton, John Jay, John Adams, governor Morris who basically was the draftsman of the constitution. They were much more conservative. And they did focus on all you need to do is read the preamble to the American constitution. The first thing that they think that they're doing is a more perfect union. That's a nationalist aim. It's not an individual aim. It's an aim of we as millions of people. We have a problem that our union is insufficiently strong. And of course, of course, the blessings of liberty is there, but it's one of 7 aims. It's not the only. And I think that's fundamentally what Americans at this stage need to rediscover. They've got the individual liberty thing. It does bring blessings. But at this point, I mean, I think it's just, it's run out of control. I mean, if you're so far down the individual liberty path that you can't understand why pornography should not be should not be on the smartphone of every 12 year old kid. If you can't understand that, then you're just so deep into the individual liberty thing that you just don't think there are any other values. And that's what we're looking for is to rebalance along with those other values. That's a conservative way approaching these problems.

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