Published Humanitas, Volume VII, No. 1, 1994

The ideological divisions that have dominated American politics since World War II are becoming fragmented and confused, with seemingly unexpected alliances forming and disputes breaking out between the different factions. This is because the fundamental assumptions on which these ideologies are based are being reexamined, partly, in light of today’s serious social problems. On the right classical liberals or libertarians emphasize the near absolute freedom of the individual to do as he pleases as long as he does not initiate the use of force against others. But, of late, they focus more on how non-governmental institutions help sustain a peaceful social order. Conservatives or traditionalists, while tending also to favor a free market, often support state actions anathema to the libertarians, for example, censorship of pornography and the banning of such drugs as marijuana, to preserve what they see as the good society. Yet their concern is growing over the dangers posed by the use of state power by the liberal left to undermine traditional institutions. Most neoconservatives broke from a left they saw as undermining social order. Yet many of them currently support an active federal welfare state in the belief that it will promote a better order.

From the left, which generally argues for unlimited free speech, comes the Political Correctness movement to control speech not conforming to its own ideological presuppositions. At the same time the leftist Progressive Policy Institute explores ways for educational, welfare and other services to be less under the costly and counterproductive control of government bureaucrats. Also on the left, Amitai Etzioni’s journal…

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