The Claremont Institute: The Era of Big Ideas is Over

The Claremont Institute: The Era of Big Ideas is Over:
Do liberals think that conservatives’ fundamental ideas are wrong? Or do they think that having fundamental ideas is wrong? In the intramural debate over liberalism’s meaning and future these questions have become contentious. But whether this is a real debate between distinct alternatives or just much ado about nothing remains to be seen.

Certainly, the liberal world is abuzz with the idea that it needs Big Ideas. Kenneth Baer and Andrei Cherny, the editors of the new quarterly Democracy, seek to revive liberalism by “grappling with essential questions about how the world works and how it should work.” According to Michael Tomasky, writing in The American Prospect, “What the Democrats still don’t have is a philosophy, a big idea that unites their proposals and converts them from a hodgepodge of narrow and specific fixes into a vision for society.” He calls this “the crucial ingredient of politics, the factor that helps unite a party (always a coalition of warring interests), create majorities, and force the sort of paradigm shifts that happened in 1932 and 1980.”

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of course, one of the problems is that rhetoric has pushed politics back into an either-or situation. people think you need to vote or you don’t have democracy, you can be free or not free, etc. all of those binary structures limit the compositional freedom of thought.

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