Liberal Neutrality Conference

by Jon Mandle on May 15, 2008

Two weeks ago, May 1-3, McGill and the Centre de Recherche en Ethique de L’Universite de Montreal (sorry about my pronunciation) co-sponsored a conference on “Liberal Neutrality: A Re-Evaluation.” Papers are here, and my notes are below. Take this for what it is – impressions and imperfect summaries from an audience member. (I was there for the first two days, but not the third.)
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Render unto Caesar

by Maria on May 15, 2008

BBC news reports that a bust of Julius Caesar has been found in the Rhone. It’s a rare (unique?) contemporary representation, and none too flattering. Who knew there was a Roman ‘realist’ style?

It’s driving me crazy because he reminds me of someone. On first glance, he looks like a Ferengi. It’s certainly a far less noble countenance than your average Julius Caesar. But on second and subsequent glances, he becomes very endearing, and not just in a Short Man Syndrome kind of way. (Dear God, he doesn’t look like Nicolas Sarkozy, does he?) You can really see that this needy little jerk had the smarts to survive Sulla and the gumption to cross the Rubicon. Well worth a look.

Way back in January I speculated about how Republicans would spin McCain as their candidate, given the violent opposition to him as ‘unconservative’, a maverick liberal. I proposed a few possibilities, of which the first has been more or less borne out: McCain as unconservative is down the memory hole. I think we all pretty much expected that, although it will be interesting to see whether, as McCain is forced to try to swing towards the middle in the general, any of that is dredged back up again. Will he be undermined by his own base? (I doubt it.)

But one thing I’ve noticed, in the months since, is that – in an electoral environment in which Republican stock could hardly be lower, and Democratic stock is looking good – there is a great deal of clutching at the brass ring of ‘conservatism’ on the right. No real urgency to claim the mantle of ‘liberalism’ on the left. Republicans are sure they want to be ‘conservative’, above all, even though many admit they aren’t sure what that would even mean at present. And even though they are standing behind a candidate who was, until recently, not a conservative, in their eyes. They have a meta-desire for there to be such a thing as conservatism. [click to continue…]