Philosophy, Politics, recent, Spotlight

Post-Liberal Politics—Left, Right, and Center

Say the words “post-liberal,” and you are bound to get a host of responses. Some may mention post-liberal theology, others may reference post-liberal peace-building, and many will discuss the prospect of organizing a genuinely post-liberal politics. Isolating a precise definition of post-liberal politics is difficult. Post-liberalism is a vague term that only denotes politics after liberalism—and after the “End of History“—without specifying what the content of this politics will be or clarifying how far this post-liberal withdrawal from liberal principles will go.

According to the political philosopher John Gray, these liberal principles assume that humans on a universal basis are individualistic creatures that are destined to experience progress along meliorist lines and create better, more egalitarian societies that value the equal worth of each person. As writers and thinkers from across the political spectrum start to look beyond these axioms, a number of commentators have attempted to identify and explain the core tenets of an emerging post-liberal politics. This new brand of post-liberal politics can be divided into three strands—one on the Left, one on the Right, and one in the Center—which are united by their shared divergence from the core tenets of liberalism to varying degrees.

The Post-Liberal Right

Right-wing post-liberals believe that humans are, by nature, relational beings who are better suited to pursuing virtue within their own communities than falling prey to the false promise of universal progress. For this reason, right-wing post-liberals put duty and virtue ahead of rights and liberty, and they have a tendency to rely on state power to enforce these duties and virtues. Similarly, they reject the universal, individualist, meliorist, and egalitarian notions of liberalism because they believe that liberalism has failed to live up to these principles.

In a timely article about the New American Right, Matthew Continetti provides his conception of right-wing post-liberalism:

Post-liberals say that freedom has become a destructive end-in-itself. Economic freedom has brought about a global system of trade and finance that has outsourced jobs, shifted resources to the metropolitan coasts, and obscured its self-seeking under the veneer of social justice. Personal freedom has ended up in the mainstreaming of pornography, alcohol, drug, and gambling addiction, abortion, single-parent families, and the repression of orthodox religious practice and conscience.

Continetti then lists a wide array of conservative politicians, activists, and commentators that share this particular post-liberal outlook. Among these are Josh Hawley, who opposes liberalism’s “Pelagian vision”; Yoram Hazony, who finds virtue in nationalism; Rod Dreher, who promotes a Benedictine retreat from liberal modernity; Sohrab Ahmari, who critiques the “David French-ism” of mainstream American Republicans; and Patrick Deneen, who calls liberalism a failure—because it has succeeded.

These individuals share an antipathy toward liberalism and modernity and believe that virtue and duty precede freedom in society. As Josh Hawley puts it, “though [liberalism] proclaims liberty, it destroys the life that makes liberty possible.” By promoting virtue ahead of rights, these post-liberals hope to create a space where the duties and values of associational life enable freedom and the common good to flourish side-by-side—a valiant goal no matter their political inclinations.

According to Continetti, they also have an intriguing willingness to turn to the state for salvation:

Post-liberals say that the distinction between state and society is illusory. They argue that, even as conservatives defended the independence of civil society from state power, the Left took over Hollywood, the academy, the media, and the courts. What the post-liberals seem to call for is the use of government to recapture society from the Left.

This veiled statism is not an end in itself, as Continetti points out. While these right-wing post-liberals are skeptical of big government and recognize that individualism and statism go hand-in-hand, they have a tendency to employ state power as a moral instrument of right-wing causes in society—most recently, by punishing liberal universities with endowment tax “indulgences” at a time when college tuition is too expensive for most young people to afford. This view of state and society mirrors that of Aristotle, who did not draw a clear distinction between the political and social life of the polis. By fusing state and society, these right-wing post-liberals risk putting America—and the Western world—on an illiberal path that is more likely to generate an ultraliberal backlash than resolve liberalism’s underlying contradictions.

The Post-Liberal Center

Centrist post-liberals are less anti-liberal than those on the Right. They agree with their right-wing counterparts that liberalism has fallen short of its promises. However, they leave a larger space for individualism and egalitarianism by balancing rights and duties in society—even if they do not fully embrace either of these liberal principles. Centrist post-liberals also put society above the state and the market. For this reason, they depart from the universal and meliorist tenets of liberalism and believe that true social progress—if such a notion exists—emerges from one’s local context rather than one’s abstract principles or one’s faith in the government and the economy.

This centrist form of post-liberal politics is now emerging in the United Kingdom. What makes this brand of post-liberalism unique is its view of freedom. In the words of British political commentator Peter Franklin:

Post-liberals, like liberals, are pro-liberty; but unlike liberals they do not believe that the maximization of personal freedom is the be-all-and-end-all of politics. Other things are important too—like family, community, nation, fairness and beauty—and therefore there are balances to be struck and conflicts to be resolved as an essential part of the democratic process. Post-liberals therefore believe that individuals have rights and duties.

This emphasis on balancing liberty and responsibility in society echoes the social and political thought of Edmund Burke, who believed that humans inherit their rights and duties through their covenantal ties to those who came before them. Along with this emphasis, British post-liberalism also views society through a different lens. According to British political philosopher Adrian Pabst:

Post-liberalism, by contrast, signals a politics that priorities society over state and market. This means the embedding of state agencies and market mechanisms in intermediary [social] institutions: from local government via regional organisations to nation-wide professional bodies (employers’ associations and trade unions), manufacturing and trading guilds as well as universities.

By elevating society, centrist post-liberals inoculate themselves against the excesses of statist temptation and promote virtue through the values, rights, and duties tied to social institutions. In this sense, centrist post-liberals are less “trigger happy” with state authority and less likely to disrupt the balance between rights and duties in society—which makes them less right-wing than their conservative, American counterparts.

For this reason, these post-liberals occupy the political center. However, their political center is not “mushy middle” and does not follow Messrs. Macron and Trudeau in recycling old, Third Way themes. Instead, centrist post-liberals stand in a “hard centre” that acknowledges liberalism’s achievements—freedom for women, minorities, and marginalia; and affluence by historical standards for all—within the context of its shortcomings—economic inequality, social atomization, and political oligarchy. Similarly, they move beyond—rather than reject—the individualist tendencies at the heart of neoliberalism and blend economic justice with social solidarity.

By tacking to the middle, these centrist post-liberals have made inroads in both of Britain’s major political parties—even if the future of these parties is uncertain. Those in the Conservative Party call themselves Red Tories while those in the Labour Party refer to themselves as Blue Labour.

The Post-Liberal Left

Left-wing post-liberals reconcile themselves with liberalism to a greater degree than their centrist and right-wing counterparts. Unlike those on the Right, they do not reject individualism and egalitarianism altogether and instead believe that individualist, egalitarian societies based on rights and liberties can thrive—so long as these rights and liberties are guaranteed by the state and contribute to a shared notion of the common good. In this sense, left-wing post-liberals believe that rights precede duties—even if social duties are still essential for a vibrant society. Similarly, left-wing post-liberals acknowledge that humanity does have some universal and meliorist tendencies that expand wealth and freedom for all—provided that these tendencies do not outweigh the social and relational virtues that make us human.

This left-wing form of post-liberal politics is now surfacing in America’s Democratic presidential primary. The standard-bearer of this left-wing, post-liberal vision is Andrew Yang. According to Jacob Siegel, Yang is “the first genuinely post-liberal figure in American political life.” What makes Yang post-liberal—from Siegel’s perspective—is his desire to put “Humanity First” in the face of technological automation and his potential to be the “Asian-American reconciler” that transcends social divisions and unites the country.

Yang’s left-wing post-liberal vision revolves around the “Freedom Dividend”, a government proposal to give all American citizens $1,000 per month, regardless of their job status. For Yang, this proposal is not an individualist enterprise aimed at helping people pad their personal bank accounts and increase their individual liberty. Instead, Yang believes that the “Freedom Dividend” is inherently social because it promises to overcome economic inequality and restore social harmony across America. This perspective places Yang in similar political territory to other post-liberals.

However, Yang is not the only left-wing post-liberal candidate in the Democratic primary. Marianne Williamson’s presidential campaign also has post-liberal undertones. What makes Williamson’s politics post-liberal is her focus on love. For Williamson, this politics of love is part of the moral fabric of America and has inspired the country to overcome countless forms of social oppression. According to Williamson, this record of social achievement includes abolitionism, suffrage, civil rights, and gay marriage, among others. By pacifying these forms of injustice, America—in Williamson’s eyes—has lived up to its deepest values and has enabled its citizens to unify around a common social vision.

According to Williamson, this social vision is under threat from a new politics of division and fear on the Left and the Right that has conspired to destroy the communal bonds and social virtues that hold America together. In order to overcome this threat, America—in Williamson’s view—must launch a nationwide spiritual renewal that transcends social divisions and unites the country.

Williamson and Yang are both left-wing post-liberals because their presidential campaigns focus on unifying America by promoting the common good of all citizens in American society. However, their brand of left-wing post-liberalism is unique because it employs state power to elevate rights above duties and virtue in society. For Yang, these rights revolve around the “Freedom Dividend,” which he believes is essential to pacify social divisions generated by economic inequality; and for Williamson, they require a politics of love that inspires the country to find unity by overcoming social oppression. In this sense, Williamson and Yang recognize that humans are “social animals”—in the words of Thomas Aquinas—who naturally overcome profound, social differences and connect with one another to form vibrant societies based on a common set of values.

However, by putting rights ahead of duties, Williamson and Yang risk undermining their left-wing post-liberal projects altogether. While granting all Americans the right to a minimum income or the right to personal liberation is a valiant goal, these rights do not automatically translate into virtue. Furthermore, employing state power to enforce these rights has the potential to erode the social institutions that promote the common good of society.

The Post-Liberal Future

These three strands of post-liberalism have emerged at a time when the world itself is becoming more post-liberal. This political shift is present on the Left and the Right and continues to influence mainstream politics. On the Left, the emergence of anti-capitalist sentiments casts doubt on political and economic liberalism and makes space for a new political economy that puts economic equality above individual initiative. On the Right, the rise of nationalism and populism is responsible for the transition away from social and cultural liberalism and toward a new politics that prioritizes national attachments over individual autonomy.

However, this post-liberal shift does not guarantee that a genuinely post-liberal politics will replace liberalism altogether. As political commentator Ross Douthat puts it, “[while] a genuinely post-liberal politics might, indeed, someday be required…to save liberal civilization from dystopia or disaster[,] the post-liberalisms presently on offer are not as serious as either their advocates hope or their critics fear.” Douthat certainly has a point. Right-wing post-liberals may have difficulty imposing their conservative values on people outside of Catholic circles and traditionalist countries—such as Poland and Hungary—because many Westerners enjoy the personal autonomy that liberalism affords them. By the same token, left-wing post-liberalism may struggle to gain traction with progressives because today’s left-wing activists care more about personal liberation and identity politics than the common good.

Because of these limitations, post-liberalism may have a more promising future in the political center, especially with its emphasis on transcending divisions and promoting the common good. This emphasis is remarkably similar to the consensus and compromise that centrists of all political stripes desire. A truly centrist post-liberalism must unite the political center under one post-liberal banner—whether these centrists belong in the moderate middle and fuse fiscal conservatism with social progressivism or they come from the radical center and hold communitarian views on the economy and society. By uniting these groups, centrist post-liberals can put the Western world on a new political path, one that promises to restore hope, renew virtue, and recover a shared world.


M.T.  Steiner is a congressional staffer based in Washington, DC. He previously spent a summer working in the European Parliament. He can be reached at or followed on Twitter @M_T_Steiner

Photo by ben o’bro on Unsplash


  1. bumble bee says

    I will totally agree that if there is any post-liberal future, it must be central. It must take what is good from both political ends to make a functioning, ethical, moral, equal, independent yet communal society. When we can vote out all the radicals, all the haters, all the nutjobs and start discussing what is best for everyone then maybe this country can increase opportunities and quality of life for everyone. Our society is failing and the reason is squarely put on the shoulders of radicals. For the future of our country, please do not support these radicals in their slash and burn mentality no matter how tempting their false promises may appear. Can all the normal people in this country start taking charge by telling all radicals how destructive, they have become. Like petulant children they must be dealt with in the same manner, let them throw their temper tantrum as it will get them no where.

    • Cedric says

      I agree that we need to find middle ground, especially in our conversation and debate. Things get so ugly so quick when we fail to find that middle ground. I also think we need to approach it with a sense of humor, because we will all be dead soon and really, on a universal scale, this is all kind of a joke (not to be flippant, but come on).

      I recently had a conversation with my brother (who is somewhat of a leftist). During our conversation, I said I view Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as the Donald Trump of the Democratic party. He freaked out on me because he just assumed what I meant was that AOC is a morally bankrupt would-be dictator (which is necessarily what he thinks Donald Trump is). He jumped down my throat for even thinking such a thing. After letting him fume for what seemed like forever, I told him my premise was simply that she is a firebrand politician who adeptly uses social media and stirs people up with policy ideas she knows are untenable. In Trump’s case, it’s the border wall, and in AOC’s case, it’s the Green New Deal. Also, I thought the comparison was kind of funny and was just trying to enjoy a laid-back political discussion.

      The point of the story is that talking politics does not necessarily mean talking about the deep-seated feelings, psychology, biases, etc., of an individual. This is the danger of identity politics – that we tie everything we are to the vote we cast. Humans just aren’t that black and white. If we can just relax and enjoy disagreeing/agreeing/changing our minds/changing others’ minds, I think we’ll all enjoy a better life and election outcomes won’t always seem like the end of the world. My two cents for the day.

      • David of Kirkland says

        The arguments will persist so long as people demand that government be the solution, while simultaneously thinking that coercion is bad and monopoly is bad and too much power is bad. You can’t make up this sort of thinking…

        • Ray Andrews says

          @David of Kirkland

          Sorry David but you can make it up and almost every politician does. The game is to promise the electorate something for free and to assure them that they can have their cake and eat it too.

          • bumble bee says

            @Ray, I can’t believe how many free things this group of democrats has promised if elected. However, like the free weekend in Aspen time share promotion, most people are too stupid to understand that they are really being bought in order to be mislead and will regret it when they finally realize they get nothing. Next, someone is going to give away free toasters and we will know the circus has sent in the clowns.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @bumble bee

            “someone is going to give away free toasters”

            Yup. Democracy works if and only if one has an electorate minimally smart enough to know some elementary things. Why is it that civics is not the first thing that high school kids are taught? Can you imagine how things might change if every citizen was at least educated enough to know when they are being treated like toddlers?

        • Heike says

          How any educated person can write an essay about Yang and not call his $1000 per month a bribe to voters is beyond me.

          How do you not call it a bribe? That’s exactly what it is. Moreover this is exploiting a well-known bug in democracy, encouraging the people to vote themselves subsidies from the public treasury.

          • DNY says


            So how should a politician who has come to the conclusion that a universal basic income is the only poverty alleviation program that does not produce perverse incentives (a position F. Hayek held), and, who move over thinks displacements likely to be caused by advances in AI and robotics thinks implementing such a program is a matter of some urgency, should advocate that position?

            There are reasonably sober policy analyses to support such a program — oddly coming mostly from the right (cf., for instance Charles Murray’s book In Our Hands) — which suggest that it is actually cheaper than the current system of poverty alleviation programs in America.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @bumble bee

      Well said bee. The real dichotomy is between reasonable and moderate people, and totalitarians of all stripes.

    • You write, “and start discussing what is best for everyone”

      Nothing is best for everyone, save technology. Currently, two-thirds of the federal budget is transfer payments; taking from Peter to give to Paul. Every government program is favored by Paul, but sometimes Peter (the taxpayers) wins in preventing new programs. Everything is a trade-off. Democracy is about finding balance.

    • David George says

      Good points BB, finding the centre is the real challenge. Encouraging to read of J B Peterson’s efforts to do just that with a delegation from both the Dems. and Reps in Washington. Extract:

      “I met individually with a number of congressmen and senators, and then had dinner with 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats, along with Gregg Hurwitz, who has been involved with Future Majority, an organisation trying to promote a centrist/classic liberal narrative among Democrats, and who has been successful in the attempt to promote victory among about 20 “New” Dems during the last congressional election (centrist and moderate, as opposed to the radical Justice Democrats, who fared comparatively badly). We had everyone around the table speak for five minutes about their motivation for running for office, their frustration with the current state of political dialogue — asking them all to stay personal and tell their stories. I found the entire group admirable (and have certainly been in similar situations, most memorably with the Canadian Senate, where that was clearly not the case). To a man (or woman) all the congressmen were driven to run by duty, either familial, religious or military, and expressed the deepest of concern for their constituents, Republican and Democrat alike, regardless of their own party affiliation. It seemed to me and to the other observers that there was a palpable sense of relief for all concerned as a consequence of meeting across the aisle, so to speak, and having a chance to both speak freely and to see members across the house in their human guise, instead of mere representatives of the generic enemy. We are planning a repeat in September.”

      • bumble bee says

        That sounds very encouraging! However, who among them, or those like minded, will stand up against radicals in both parties. This last vote on funding for the incidents going on at the border, those same radicals castigated those democrats who voted with republicans to increase funding. Now anyone who has a modicum of intelligence or even care for others for that matter would applaud this passage. All those radicals screaming about conditions could not careless for those people as they want those conditions to remain dire to use as political fodder in the coming elections. In fact, I bet they would like to see either more heartbreak and violence to support closing them all down. The sad part is, those blind liberals that vote for these crackpots thinking they are doing good, can’t put 2+2 together and are just as culpable for any misfortune that befalls the detained.

        • Sheryl L Hogan says

          Sorry but I think there are many blind people who voted for Trump believing he would magically change their lives

    • EK says

      Over at “American Mind” Yoram Hazony has two very interesting essays relevant to the post-liberal right.

      His observations on reason and the Enlightenment compared to empiricism and tradition are fascinating. Hazony is presently the “ne plus ultra” non-Catholic paleo-liberal.

      I have a few quibbles about Hazony’s Selden, Montesquieu, Burke line of authorities and in the case of the US I would probably substitute Coke, Winthrop and Algernon Sidney because the maxim “acta non verba” has always been close to the hearts of empiricists and traditionalists and Coke, Winthrop and Sidney all spent much more time doing things than speculating about how things should be done.

    • Ray Andrews says


      Some interesting stuff there.

  2. derek says

    For there to be a post liberal there needs be a liberal to start with.

    What was liberal about the European vendor financed boom collapsing and countries saddled with crushing debt that has driven one generation of young away, dooming those economies for another generation of two at least? All so the vendor countries wouldn’t feel the pain of their stupidity.

    What was liberal about the central banks making sure the wealthiest people in history who managed to lose in 6 months more money than banks had ever made in profit in history, that they didn’t face the full import of their stupidity? The US Central Bank came up with somewhere between $7-14 trillion dollars. It is liberal in one sense, shoveling out the hard earned resources to the poor financial bond holders.

    What is liberal about Rotherham? This is what the multicultural dream looks like in practice. Where are all these wonderful centrist upstanding protectors of all that is right?

    I could go on. Liberalism now means blanket surveillance systems. It means mixed up kids taken from their parents and sterilized, the actions celebrated in the bastions of liberalism.

    It isn’t liberal. It is a very shrewdly structured system where those who make the decisions benefit when it goes well and are isolated from negative consequences when it doesn’t.

    I call it Green Zone liberalism. Filled with exquisitely educated experts all diligently meddling in the lives of the unenlightened with promises to restore hope, renew virtue, and recover a shared world.

    Just don’t let them vote on anything important. It is too dangerous. To us.

    • TarsTarkas says


      I’m not familiar with the Euro vendor house of cards, so I can’t comment other than to say that it sounds like a variant of crony capitalism, i.e. heads I win, tails you lose, or moral hazard gone wild.

      Ditto the central banks bailing out the subprime mortgage and other ponzi schemes, although much of that originally started with government strong-arming banks to lending funds to poor risks for fear of being penalized for disparate impact, and then the banks engaging in regulatory capture.

      Rotherham (and the other ongoing grooming horrors) are what you get when fear of losing your sinecure and pension for being called a racist overrides ‘to serve and protect’, and then doubling down on the Tommy Robinson canaries because once you start siding with the criminals the only way you can survive is to crush those calling you out for your aiding and abetting felons.

      Blanket surveillance systems (whose data by some strange chance always seem to be used only on the unpopular or political enemies) are simply 1984 Big Brother updated to modern times.

      Green Zone liberalism (or limousine liberalism) is as good a term as any for what you describe. Handing down edicts from above for the greater good while ensuring they don’t apply to you.

      The problem is not to keep them from voting on anything important, the problem is to keep them from stopping us from voting on what we think is important. Because, after all, Brexit and Trump didn’t happen because the elites were wrong, they happened because the proles are so stupid. They can’t understand our objections to their enlightened infallible policies because their policies never impact them.

      • David of Kirkland says

        Indeed, all we ever really see is that central planning with coercive authority tends to take money for themselves. Equal Protection and Liberty are ideals we were moving towards, but it seems the world no long is pursing those ends and now is all about getting stuff through monopolistic government mandates.

      • derek says

        It is worse than limousine liberalism. It is purposely using the power of the state to both enrich yourself and to protect yourself from the consequences of your decisions, both as accountability and from any opposition from the electorate. That is what Green zones are; high walls that isolate those in power.

        There is some benefit from having stable institutions, but only if they are accountable.

        It is inevitable that this state of affairs be challenged. We are in a particularly dangerous situation right now because the lines of communication have collapsed. There is no window upon the world that is even close to reliable. Media, polling, the consultant class, even intelligence agencies are either unreliable or simply not there. The only way is go outside the safe confines of the Green zone and mix with the deplorables.

        We have witnessed two instances where the electorate said something that is anathema to the political classes and they have actively attempted to overturn the will of the people. Trump and Brexit. There wasn’t even the slightest haughty or smarmy acknowledgement of the necessity of adjusting course. These people aren’t very bright.

    • JA M says

      What you label “liberal” was far more often labelled “progressive” by those pushing it (and often with disdain for “liberals” and their pesky belief in the individual’s rights getting in the way of them creating their magical utopian society overnight).

  3. TJR says

    The “post liberal” centre sounds pretty liberal to me. This was especially odd:

    “Post-liberals therefore believe that individuals have rights and duties.”

    Don’t liberals think that as well?

    I’ve always viewed “rights” and “responsibilities/duties” as being the same thing, just viewed from different angles. Your right not to get punched is nothing more than our collective duty not to punch you.

    • David of Kirkland says

      Do you have a duty to act if you see another person punch another?
      Do you have a duty to ensure your neighbors have food, clothing, shelter, health care, education and jobs? How about for all other citizens?
      Do you have a duty to fight in the military? (Despite the fact there are zero declared wars?)

      • TJR says

        Not sure what your point is here. You are asking which duties exist or should exist. My point was that duties/responsibilities and rights are really the same thing. I wasn’t saying anything about which ones are “correct”.

  4. Memetic Tribe says

    So when the post-liberal centrist discusses “freedom for women”, are we talking about the freedom to disavow abortion and sterilization? The freedom to willingly enter into a stable, commited family relationship and NOT be shamed for it?

    Because the neoliberals in Manhattan seem to revile pregnancy, motherhood or any adherence whatsoever to fulfillment of the maternal role.

  5. Ken Avillson says

    Neo-liberals clearly affront their own alleged agenda. They claim to revile things they in fact embrace “when the lights are off”, so to speak. Viewed from different angles, “Neo-Liberals” may in fact be “Post-Liberals” when the truth is told and a “Judgement Day” of clarity beckons us all with an ultimate call to Reality. May that day come sooner rather than later.

  6. Memetic Tribe says

    And “freedom for women” is the absolute conerstone of neoliberalism. But only for careerist women. The courts, the media etc., are geared to the destruction of marriage and motherhood. Marriage is bad for business. A hyper focused, intelligent young careerist female worker goes and gets married? No wY. What was the point of the college, the loans, the investment? Neoliberalism is built on feminism.

    And why not ? It doesnt make any sense for women to enter into a traditional marital union that removes her from the intellectual marketplace.
    That reduces the supply of skilled workers overall, which drives up salaries. Neoliberals want skilled female workers flooding the marketplace. Its an untapped resource (until the 70’s). If anyone complains they’ll just get subcontracted or have their per diem cut.

    Under normal circumstances, if the female representatives of a tribe ceased having children (or dumped their kids off for someone else to raise) the tribe would die. Not us! We just IMPORT populations from one of those loser countries (credit: Moe Sizlak, bartender). More cheap labor.

    This why Soros (a capitalist) backed Occupy Wall Street (anticapitalist). This why the tech billionaires are Open Borders leftists. This why “cultural marxists” are truly the foot soldiers of global capitalism.

    Western women are compelled to choose career of child. It adds to the economy greatly. It keeps skilled labor costs/salaries way down. It’s the cornerstone of post-industrial, finance capitalism.
    Immigrants pick up the slack in populating the tribe. (i.e. someother poor sap will create and raise the kids).

    Thats the post-liberal dystopia that we’re in. It is a system that APPEARS to be leftist, but is truly a well managed structure that defends global capitalism. The Guardian, Vice, HuffPo – the leftist proaghanda machine – all recieve hundreds of millions in endowments from global capitalists to protect this structure.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Memetic Tribe

      “It is a system that APPEARS to be leftist, but is truly a well managed structure that defends global capitalism.”

      I’m glad to know I’m not the only person who sees this. Follow the money. If Big Money likes and subsidizes the product that our universities are producing, and the politicians who now dominate in both supposedly competing camps, that should tell us something. But I add a slight variation on your view: Big Money has really ceded the social agenda to the Left.

      The Right used to try to control both the money and the social agenda, but now they are happy to cede the social agenda to our leftist social engineers because it seems that the former now understand that the latter are happy to amuse themselves with things like gender identity and thus become distracted from the old issues of the left, like worker’s rights. You may not have a pension, but you have such a rich choice of genders to select from, isn’t that wonderful?

      As Orwell pointed out, the Left don’t really like the working class, they just hate the rich, now they don’t even very much bother to pretend to give a damn about workers, but they still hate the rich tho they do take their money. What they hate is civilization and what they love is any and every form of perversion and any and every looser. Big Money just smiles and flies off to Davos to insure that the system continues like this.

      • “Humiliate, and to pulp reduce
        The Human Spirit for industrial use
        Whether by Capital or by Communism
        It’s all the same despite their seeming schisms”

        Roy Campbell

    • Kencathedrus says

      @Memetic Tribe: ‘Thats the post-liberal dystopia that we’re in. It is a system that APPEARS to be leftist, but is truly a well managed structure that defends global capitalism.’

      I’m aware of this too. It’s why I hate publications like the Guardian that pretend to be the voice of the people, but really are feeding them propaganda that furthers a global agenda, namely: mass population reduction through apocalyptic thinking (the planet is being destroyed), dysfunctional family set-ups (homosexuality and feminism), and voluntary sterilization of minors (transgenderism). They’re for anything that dumbs down or culls the indigenous populations of the West. I also believe many of these left-wing causes are funded and promoted by enemies of the West.

  7. Barney Doran says

    Sorry, I got muddled up in Yang’s $3.84 trillion per annum “Freedom Dividend.” Well, that would be one way to go post-liberal – with a bang. Just destroy the entire current financial structure and hope that something better emerges. Now that is the Audacity of Hope it ever I saw it.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Barney Doran

      Not really. The FD would replace a scattershot of other programs that in aggregate might even cost more. In my view the most important thing about the FD is very subtle and that is that it obviates Victimhood as to collecting something from the government. You get it anyway — tho of course for most folks it will be taxed back — and so there is no use in maximizing your dysfunction and polishing the narrative of your Oppression — no one is listening anymore. No more tears for the Victims, your FD is automatic, and if you want more money, go out and earn it. Period. All the professional whiners would be out of work of course, but no matter, their FD will keep them from starving.

      • JWatts says

        “Not really. The FD would replace a scattershot of other programs that in aggregate might even cost more. ”

        The entire US Federal budget is $4.4 trillion. There’s no way that his $3.8 trillion plan fits within the current budget.

        “No more tears for the Victims, your FD is automatic, and if you want more money, go out and earn it. ”

        That’s a fantasy position. There would be an instant lobby and voting block around the idea of increasing next years Federal Dividend.

        • Ray Andrews says


          “The entire US Federal budget is $4.4 trillion. There’s no way that his $3.8 trillion plan fits within the current budget.”

          Wang is a clever guy and his numbers are available for critique. I doubt that he is incapable of basic arithmetic. I rather suspect the the $3.8 trillion figure is a canard given that 90% of folks are going to pay their FD right back with their taxes. I’d expect that something like 5% of the wealth that working people produce would end up going to the poor and unemployed, and 30 – 40% would continue to go to the rentier capitalist parasites who are a far bigger drain.

          “There would be an instant lobby and voting block around the idea of increasing next years Federal Dividend.”

          No doubt, but would they succeed? Note that Donald Trump won the last election; the American people are not so easily seduced by talk of ever more free lunch. The more absurd the position of the Left, the more ordinary taxpayers are going to vote Right. That someone will advocate for something stupid is not a good reason not to advocate for something smart.

          • neoteny says

            90% of folks are going to pay their FD right back with their taxes

            Why would they do so?

            Half of the federal tax filers do not pay any income tax: you think that 40% of the taxpayers would suddenly develop an interest in paying such a tax so other people can have an economic safe space from which to decide where the spirit moves them to?

          • Ray Andrews says

            @ neoteny

            “Why would they do so?”

            Payment of tax is compulsory. If half pay no income tax, that is to be remedied. But the government taxes people in many hidden ways in any case. Half the population are not living for free.

          • neoteny says

            Payment of tax is compulsory.

            You’ve just explained that 10% of the US population would be a net tax consumer — so even this statement of yours is false.

            If half pay no income tax, that is to be remedied.

            Not ‘if’: this is a fact about the contemporary USA. Furthermore, that’s a quite harsh stance from someone who is talking about a net $1,000/month payment for 10% of the population.

      • Kevin Herman says

        It will not replace those programs in reality because many people in America get several times that a year in various forms of state and national welfare. Cash welfare, food stamps, and housing subsidies people will not give those up.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Kevin Herman

          “many people in America get several times that a year in various forms of state and national welfare”

          But you can’t have it both ways. On the one hand folks claim that the cost would be too great, on the other they admit that existing programs cost more in aggregate. As to what people will give up, they will give up whatever the government stops giving them, and if some FD/UBI program were implemented that would be the bad news for people who are accustomed to leach more than that. We don’t hear right wingers talk about an end to welfare and then say: “But we can’t do that because the Left won’t like it.” The government forces change all the time.

          • Stephanie says

            Ray, the FD costs about the same as the other welfare programs aggregated, but the latter are not distributed equally. The subset of people who would lose money if the FD replaced all other welfare are the sorriest of the lot, and whenever it is suggested that that person have to be dependent on only the FD, most of the current batch of Democrats would jump ship and the bill would not pass. Emotional manipulation is a certainty, and few Democrats can survive their primaries if they are seen as supporting a policy that “takes away” money from single mothers, the disabled, the elderly, and the sick.

            Republicans absolutely do avoid saying that they want to cut health benefits, usually couching their calls for modest cuts with claims like making them “sustainable.”

          • Ray Andrews says


            “few Democrats can survive their primaries if they are seen as supporting a policy that “takes away” money from single mothers, the disabled, the elderly, and the sick”

            Yet Wang is a Dem. Anyway, if the Dems can’t break with the Victims, then the Reps should do it. Even as they are the Reps won the Whitehouse, imagine if their policy really was both compassionate and fair? If they could capture the center, they’d be in power for a long time.

          • Stephanie says

            Ray, yes, but Yang has never won public office, and is currently polling at about 2 %, despite how much attention the FD has gotten him.

            Some Republicans would support the FD if it replaced the rest of the welfare, but they would have no more luck getting that passed. Unless they had supermajorities in both chambers they would need Democratic support, and that’s assuming you have unanimous Republican support. Considering retirees and people close to retirement make up a huge chunk of the Republican base, Republicans would also find it very difficult to support politically. How do you explain to your core voters that the retirement and health care fund they’ve been paying into is no longer there because we need to help some 20-something pursue his dreams of being a rock star. Replacing current entitlements with a FD is political fantasy. If it’s done at all, it will be in addition to current entitlements, with maybe some of them trimmed on the edges.

            Why is the FD a centrist policy? It is massive distribution, and isn’t even based on the recipients’ need. Heike above was spot-on when she says it’s a bribe.

        • Ray Andrews says


          “so even this statement of yours is false”

          Payment of tax owing is compulsory. If no tax is owed, then none is due. That’s not difficult to understand is it?

  8. Kessler says

    Post Liberal Right: we will use power of the state to correct, what we view as flaws of liberalism.

    Post Liberal Center: state and individual must be balanced. We have no idea how to do this, but we know how it shouldn’t be done.

    Post Liberal Left: we will try Star Trek solutions to present day problems.

    • Ray Andrews says


      “that the retirement and health care fund they’ve been paying into is no longer there”

      Surely pensions and other paid benefits are an entirely separate matter? Pensions are not welfare.

      “because we need to help some 20-something pursue his dreams of being a rock star”

      We’ll keep him from starving, but if he wants a new guitar he’ll have to work to earn the money to buy it.

      “It is massive distribution, and isn’t even based on the recipients’ need.”

      I suspect less massive than what we have now. You yourself said the cost would be about the same. That it’s not based on need is exactly the brilliance of the idea, paradoxically, because it disincentivizes failure. And given that all working people will pay the thing back in taxes, most of us never really get it in practice. But we should get it in theory because that way everyone is being treated equally. You don’t apply for welfare, you already have it. Here’s your cheque, spend it wisely. Can’t? Then you become a ward of the state and will be treated like the child that you are.

      What is massive is the bureaucracy managing the current social system; it and only it will be the big looser. Reps should like it because it will break even or possibly save money, libertarians will like the reduction in bureaucracy, and fair minded Dems will like it because it’s fair. SJWs will hate it because it obviates Victimhood, which is their rai·son d’ê·tre.

      Oh, and kiss goodbye to minimum wage laws and employment protections — the state offers you basically one income protection and that is UBI, other than that, the economy is left to rip.

      • Stephanie says

        Ray, a significant portion of retirees depend on social security, which is an entitlement. If people have to rely entirely on their own pension savings, we will have a lot of elderly suddenly in poverty. It’s not fair to the people who have paid higher taxes their whole lives with social security and Medicare to count on in their old age. Stripping that from the people who’ve contributed most to give it to people who’ve contributed the least (even if it falls short of a new guitar) is fundamentally unfair and few Democrats or Republicans will be willing to risk their seat over it.

        I think you’re being too optimistic about what a FD would bring. It will radically increase entitlements, not decrease them, leave current labour laws unaffected, and not help anyone pay their bills in the end, as the market adjusts. Putting $1000/month in people’s hands will just mean employers can pay less without their employees starving and rentiers can charge more. It will be similar to what happened when government got involved with student loans: giving students access to cash meant universities were no longer bound by what their students could afford to pay out of pocket, and tuition fees exploded.

        • Ray Andrews says


          Let me be clear: paid pensions and the like are not the same thing as welfare. Surely we agree?

          “It will radically increase entitlements, not decrease them, leave current labour laws unaffected”

          But why caricature the proposal? Some worst of all possible UBIs could be as you suggest, but that’s not the UBI I am proposing. Why say it will do what it emphatically will not do? If it will not break even, or preferably decrease entitlements then it would not be proposed. Or if it is tried and it fails, well then it fails. If your tires are low and I say let’s re-inflate them you could say: “We can’t do that, the tires will explode!” But no, they won’t if we put the correct pressure in. UBI/FD are pointedly designed to replace various other entitlements, why claim otherwise?

  9. Farris says

    “For this reason, right-wing post-liberals put duty and virtue ahead of rights and liberty, and they have a tendency to rely on state power to enforce these duties and virtues.”

    This is a canard that recently seems to be gaining traction. It postulates that because conservatives occasionally lobby for state action, they have abandoned their principles of limited government. True conservatives seek to promote individualism, some would argue selfish individualism, but individual liberty must sometimes be enforced or maintained by government action. The word limited does not denote never. The power of one branch may be required to curb the abuses of another branch or sub political body. The notion that the Left wing promotes individualism with its advocacy for group rights and collectivist economic policies is contrary to the evidence.
    The biggest divergence between progressives and conservatives is their views towards positive rights, as is evidenced by Yang’s Freedom dividend. “promoting the common good of all citizens…”, has little to do with individualism.
    No doubt the Left is under going a transformation but the idea the transformation is going to promote rights and individualism is more a marketing strategy than fact.

    • Loïc Hoguin says

      I’ll second your comment. I was very surprised to see the article saying conservatives reject individualism, if anything there’s a much greater emphasis on individuals than before, at least within the confines of their own country and legal framework (so not universal). It doesn’t take much research to find American conservatives saying the only group that represents everyone is “American citizens” and that there’s no need for dividing that group like the left keeps doing these days.

      This emphasis on individualism, and the left’s embrace of collectivism, is moving many people to the right.

    • X. Citoyen says


      Not quite a canard. Classical liberals are called and often call themselves conservatives these days. But classical liberals like Hayek and Friedman rightly thought of themselves as liberals because they made freedom the highest good and, thus, made the purpose of government the maximization of individual freedom. In contrast, conservatives in the Burkean mold certainly do believe that the greatest good, the summum bonum, is the measure of good gov’t. Are the two irreconcilable?

      Hard to answer without things going off the rails because contemporary political words like individualism mean anything and nothing—an age of political baby-talk where abstract words are pregnant with sentiment but barren of thought. This is the biggest problem with this piece. I could agree or disagree, depending on the meanings of words.

      • CA says

        X. Citoyen

        “an age of political baby-talk where abstract words are pregnant with sentiment but barren of thought.”

        I found when reading the article I was getting a headache – perhaps this taxonomy of current politicial views is accurate but it seems to miss the essential dynamic and historic nature of what is going on.

        To your point, it appears we are at a time when words have little relationship to reality. A word like “liberalism”, like all kinds of similar words, seems to have lost meaning. Attempts to revive what may be dead by prefixes begins to resemble a kind of intellectual seance for those who have trouble adjusting to a new reality.

        • X. Citoyen says


          To his credit, I thought the author was giving charitable readings all around. But he needed to clarify and flesh out his ideas and, equally important, decide on his audience and where he was trying to take it. So I agree, though I’d like to see the author finish this line of reasoning because it could be an interesting.

          Liberalism is a victim of its own success. Its older adherents succeed so thoroughly in associating being a liberal with being enlightened, intelligent, on the right side of history that illiberal people have hijacked the term for themselves. Why present yourself as a socialist when you can claim to be a liberal? And so on…

          • CA says

            x. Citoyen

            I agree that the author is charitable and not inaccurate in a broad way. And I agree that “Liberalism is a victim of its own success”. But what I find significant is how many self affirmed Liberals I personally know explicitly and implicitly support all kinds of illiberal ideas. How are these people to be categorized?

            Seems to me that there may be all kinds of species of liberals these days but most are of the greater genus of human beings whose ideas have little or no relationship to reality.

            Liberals insist on calling themselves liberals for very much the same reason dogs lick their testicles – because they can.

      • Farris says


        “Are the two irreconcilable?”

        Initially one would say no because maximizing individual freedom would be a benefit to all since individualism is the lowest common denominator. However one’s freedom of action may inhibit or deter another’s. This becomes especially problematic when considering positive rights. So wouldn’t the best idea to be to define the most essential rights upon which the government should not tread insuring that all are equally protected, especially those who find themselves in the minority? Recognizing that these rights are not granted by man or government but are inalienable or inherent further codifies man and government should be subservient to these rights. Some old ideas are also timeless.

        • X. Citoyen says


          I don’t happen to think Hayek and Burke are irreconcilable (see, e.g.,, mostly because the means of achieving freedom and the highest good are more or less the same within the Anglo-American tradition, even if the ends of liberalism and conservatism are different. But not everyone who fits into either tradition will agree that the two are reconcilable, whether the two be Burke and Hayek or liberalism and conservatism. And this is the problem I was getting at. To most philosophically minded conservatives, for example, the word individualism means something entirely different than what you seem to mean by it And this is the problem I have with the author’s piece. I’m not sure I know what he means because I can think of numerous variations.

    • Peter from Oz says


      Great comment. I thought the same myself. The categoristation in this article is so wrong and so naive as to make me wonder whether this political staffer knows anything about political philosophy at all.

      • Farris says


        Is it naive or an attempt to repackage and rebrand? As collectivism has proven a failure world wide, is this an attempt of the collectivists to claim they actually support individual rights and the conservatives are the true tribalist. For over 30 years, I’ve witnessed progressives sneer at the notion of individualism. However lately progressives are claiming an individualist streak. What has changed?

        • Peter from Oz says

          As I said the regressives are confusing individualism with tribalism. They don’t care about you as a person only as a one-armed black trans lesbian pupeteer with verukas. For tem this endless balkanisation represents individualism, because it is supposed to set individuals free from being oppressed by ”whiteness”. But those individuals can never be allowed to forget that they are part of a tribe.
          I remember as a child in the 70s watching a TV program devoted to performance by rock bands. What I quickly noticed that the front man of many of the groups tried very hard to differentiate himself from the common herd. He either wore make up, had weir dyed hair or wore some outrageuos pantomime-like costume whilst prancing about and gurning through some naff love song or teen angst-ridden anthem. They were all trying so hard to be different they were all in fact the same.
          That sums up the idea of the modern left to me.

          • Farris says

            Yes wokeness doesn’t leave much room for individuality.

  10. markbul says

    “Yang’s left-wing post-liberal vision revolves around the “Freedom Dividend”, a government proposal to give all American citizens $1,000 per month, regardless of their job status …”

    Decades ago, this was called a guaranteed income. Charles Murray is in favor of it. Needless to say, the Left is not lining up to stand in solidarity with Murray. That would be because while Murray sees it as a replacement for the entire social welfare industry, the Left wants the money ON TOP OF all existing welfare payments and programs. And of course, as soon as the first checks are cut, $1K will be considered an insult.

    • Ray Andrews says


      “the Left wants the money ON TOP OF all existing welfare payments and programs.”

      But given that the right oppose social programs anyway, and given that the decent moderate folks in the middle will see the FD as entirely just, the Left will not succeed in trying to have the FD and all the rest as well — it will be defeated at the ballot box. A good idea should not be rejected on the basis that some extremists will not like it. Offer fairness and the extremists will loose their traction. In the next election will America really have no better choices than DJT vs. AOC? Someone offer something sane and I’m sure the people will take it.

  11. Morgan Foster says

    “Left-wing post-liberals … believe that individualist, egalitarian societies based on rights and liberties can thrive—so long as these rights and liberties are guaranteed by the state and contribute to a shared notion of the common good.”

    I have yet to come across a left-winger – post-liberal or not – who ever had the slightest intention of sharing a notion of what the common good might be. Sharing it with the Common People, that is.

    • X. Citoyen says

      I have yet to come across a left-winger – post-liberal or not – who ever had the slightest intention of sharing a notion of what the common good might be.

      The undefined future filled with infinite possibilities is the most intoxicating thing about progress. Combine it with the doctrine that oppression is whatever you imagine it to be, and you have the most disorienting and destabilizing worldview in human history.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Morgan Foster

      “who ever had the slightest intention of sharing a notion of what the common good might be”

      I’m no longer a left-winger but I used to be and I’d be happy to help. It is true that The Common Good is not rigidly definable but then again neither is a Nice Day. Yet I’m sure if I wish you a Nice Day you’ll know what I mean. ‘Pretty Girl’ is not rigidly defined either yet, even after it has been criminalized, we still hear young lads say: “There goes a pretty girl.”

      What is the Common Good? It has a thousand parts and it would take a book to list them all, but among it’s salient points are things like freedom from crime, protections against wanton pollution, a well functioning and efficient public infrastructure — roads, water, sewer, even things like libraries and hospitals, some say. A robust economy in which jobs are plentiful and both ingenuity and plain old hard work are rewarded. A ‘safety net’ of some sort — sufficient to keep people on hard times from falling into poverty, but not so comfortable that people want to lay in it for too long. I’ll bet you could continue describing the Common Good yourself it you wanted to. I dare say that even folks who say they have no idea what it means really do.

      • Morgan Foster says

        @Ray Andrews

        I wasn’t wondering what the common good might be.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Morgan Foster

          Pardon? Did I misunderstand something?

          • Morgan Foster says

            @Ray Andrews

            Focus on the author’s phrase “a shared notion.” Now focus on the word “shared”.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Morgan Foster

            “Now focus on the word “shared”.”

            Right. That is a problem. When a society has some broad consensus where they want to go, the difficulties are only in how to get there, but the Warriors and the alt-right don’t even share a vision of what constitutes progress. Very dangerous.

    • Farris says

      @Morgan Foster

      The common good is any thing that perpetuates progressives being in power and hopefully into perpetuity. Conservatives are not immune to this definition either, though conservatives are more apt to admit there is myopia in utopia. In short generally the biggest beneficiary of an idea allegedly serving the common good is the proponent. I realize that sounds cynical but those claiming to benefit the common good are either preachers or selling something.

      • Ray Andrews says


        “I realize that sounds cynical”

        Surely we can take our cynicism too far? Even in Washington I’ve noticed a few genuinely decent people. Some say that as many as a third of the people there really do want to do the right thing. Courage can be lacking or opportunity, or the swamp just drowns you.

  12. CAM says

    This could be because of how vague the concept of “post-liberalism” is, but it struck me that the author completely elided over the much more influential non-liberal portion of the left while focusing on minor figures like Yang and Williamson. Progressives and more radical leftists have long had a distaste for the kind of liberalism described by John Gray, and their ideas have become much more mainstream recently. Spurred on by critical theory, they believe society to be fundamentally corrupted by oppressive forces, and thus any attempt to claim a “neutral” ground that isn’t controlled by the “oppressed” will always bend things towards further oppression. The author could’ve cited a plethora of writers and politicians influenced by them, but I wonder if he left them out in order to portray post-liberalism in a more positive light.

  13. JWatts says

    “Left-wing post-liberals reconcile themselves with liberalism to a greater degree than their centrist and right-wing counterparts. Unlike those on the Right, they do not reject individualism and egalitarianism altogether and instead believe that individualist, egalitarian societies based on rights and liberties can thrive”

    Broadly speaking for American politics, that’s just a load of horse crap. Social Justice Warriors are a Left-wing phenomena and at this point dominate Left wing politics. And they don’t believe any such things.

    Ask a Left Winger if Free Speech should be curtailed with restrictions, (such as on Hate Speech) and they will support.

    Ask them if The right to bear arms should be curtailed and they will support it.

    Ask them if a Free Press should be curtailed (ie Andy Ngo beaten up) and at least some of them will support it and many will defend it.

    Ask them if Freedom of Religion should be curtailed and they’ll support restrictions on Religious schools, speech, tax exemptions, proselytizing, etc.

    Ask them if the Right to Assembly should be curtailed and they’ll support blocking those they don’t agree with or in the case of Antifa, physically attacking them.

  14. codadmin says

    The tension exists because the individual is completely dependent on the collective and some realise this more than others, regardless of political affiliation.

    This realisation causes apparent contradiction but it’s really just common sense.

    A leftist feminist trans CAN wear a mini skirt in Europe, unless they happen to wander into a Muslim ghetto. Their individualism is therefore conditional.

    Plus, ‘Liberal’ amounts of cake causes obesity.

  15. C Young says

    This makes no sense at all from a European perspective.

    Yang is post liberal because he wants to implement UBI? Socialists want that in the UK. Is socialism “post liberal”? Or is it pre-liberal? Do tell.

    What defines the post liberal centre in the UK and the EU is its rejection of democracy. It sees it as challenging the civilizing force embodied by our elites.

    Opinion polls show that many centrists willing to flirt with authoritarianism to “save the planet”, “defend human rights” or “save us from the populists”. In fact some polls show centrists are more willing to abandon democracy than the political extremes.

    • derek says

      Exactly. There is no liberalism to be post of. Government meddles deeply in every part of our lives in the most intrusive ways. That isn’t liberalism. The problem, the crisis, is that people are starting to complain about it.

  16. redfish says

    Yea, I think many of the arguments of post-liberals are flawed in that they treat the misuse of liberal ideas as fundamental problems with liberalism in itself.

    So as an example, if you take the issue of trade, some both on the left and the right will argue correctly about the destructive aspects of globalization and free trade agreements. But there was always a liberal argument against free trade. Free trade doesn’t magically create free markets. What you’ll end up having in any trade agreement is two countries with different regulatory regimes; one might have stronger labor and environmental laws than the other; one might have subsidies and the other not. Removing tariffs doesn’t magically level things — just creates bias towards one set of regulatory regimes, and the way this has worked out in reality is you see it bias towards authoritarian governments that don’t care about liberal principles — governments like China.

    Its why Adam Smith — the model arch-liberal — argued in the Wealth of Nations in favor of tariffs that offset the effects of taxation and regulation.

    Nationalism, too, is a liberal idea, that goes back to thinkers like John Stuart Mill; and without liberal theory, the idea of the ‘nation’ actually starts to fall apart because in concept its based on the right of self-determination.

    In the end, you can believe in universal principles but still argue they have to be applied in a particular, pragmatic context in order for them to make sense. The problem with liberal politics over the last century is that many people ripped these ideas outside of their applicable context.

    Yea, in some senses, I believe we are entering a post-liberal world order, but a rebellion against the misuses of liberalism, and in the long term will be a tool to reform it.

  17. Peter from Oz says

    Yo be on the left by definition is to be collectivist and to shun individualism altogether. Thus the idea that post liberal lefties are in favour of individualism is incorrect.
    Like a lot of people who haven’t really thought things through in depth, the authour has mistaken the left’s worship of ”marginalised” people as respecting individuals rather than just another collective impulse under which everyone is put into a group.
    Sinistra delenda est

    • Morgan Foster says

      @Peter from Oz

      The lefty will reinterpret the word “individualism” to suit.

      • Peter from Oz says

        Yes. I am reminded of that scene in The Life of Brian where the hero addresses a crowd of fans and says to them “”You are all individuals” to which they repond as one “”Yes, we are all individuals.”
        “I’m not” pipes up one chap who is immediately silenced by the crowd.
        Today’s left are that crowd.Double thinking and double speaking their way to oblivion down the road to serfdom.

        • Nakatomi Plaza says

          You aren’t a terribly nuanced thinker, are you? There are degrees at play here. The left is generally more collectivist, but that doesn’t mean they shun individualism entirely. Your fondness for binary thinking is really debilitating to your ability to think critically.

          “Double thinking and double speaking their way to oblivion down the road to serfdom.”

          Sure, if you say so. You understand that the left often says this about the right and vice versa? You’re a victim of your own narrow-mindedness, and you’re exactly as bad as the people you judge so harshly. You can’t even see it.

          • Peter from Oz says

            NP and nuance. Now there’s two things that don’t go together.
            Firstly, you need to know about the Monteverdi method of commentary. Monteverdi was one of the greatest composers of all time. But if you look at his scores you will see that his writing wasn’t overly complicated or prescriptive. He knew the musicians and singers would be able to add in the nuance he required. I often use the same method when commenting on web articles, particularly at Quillette where the readers are quick enough and intelligent enough to get the meaning without needing it spelt out to them. But it seems in this case I have to spell it out to you, because you don’t understand the meaning of the terminology I used.
            The degrees are in how left a person is, but not within “the left” as the term is used in making taxonomies of ideologies. You missed that point. If we talk about “the left” we are talking about what Weber called the ideal type, the quintessential leftist. A lot of people who call themselves “left” may have views on some matters that are centrist or right. Such people are not “the left” I described in my comment.
            The whole point of left wing thought is that it is collectivist. The archetypal left wing purist does not start his or her philosophical enquiry with questions about how the individual should connect with the world. Rather the first question for “the left” is what tribe do we each belong and how does that tribe relate to others.
            Someone who professes to be “left” will think in those terms, even if there is some concern for the individual human being somewhere in his or her psyche.
            Do not confuse people with ideas, NP. Often on boards such as these it is far easier to talk about the left and right almost as though they are people rather ideas. Binary thought is a way of establishing the extremes of the question. It is not to be condemned for that. In many cases very few people will be “left” or “right”, but somewhere in the middle, with sympathies that might tend to one side or the other. The point of debate is not so much to convince people to move to one of the extreme ends of the spectrum toward, but to move their sympathy away from the extreme that you find more harmful. Much of the time that argument has to be made via the Monteverdi shorthand method, in what seems to the uninitiated like an expression of Manichaean force.

  18. To M T Steiner, and the editors of Quillette: “congressional staffer based in Washington D.C.” is a little scanty as an identification of the author of this essay. Office, Party, area of expertise, background, credentials, …or whatever. Or…is it a nom-de-plume {if so, say so}. I am getting really tired of various authors and commentators tossing around “Liberal”, “post-Liberal”, “Conservatve”, “Reactionary”, “Centrist”, ….ad nauseum, without at least a little definition or explanation.

    • Morgan Foster says

      @John Coggeshall

      For that matter, I’m fed up with any term beginning with “post-“.

      It has become meaningless, now.

    • TarsTarkas says

      In this day of social-mobbing, canceling and doxxing, it’s probably wise for Steiner & Co. to not put too much info out on the web. The outrage mob is ever vigilant and has endless eyes and bots at its command.

  19. Cornfed says

    “Post-liberals say that freedom has become a destructive end-in-itself. …Personal freedom has ended up in the mainstreaming of pornography, alcohol, drug, and gambling addiction, abortion, single-parent families, and the repression of orthodox religious practice and conscience.”

    No doubt, it has become destructive in those ways. But that’s why, as many have observed over the centuries, a free people must be a virtuous people to remain free. Perhaps it is inevitable that human vices will come to rule when people have the freedom indulge them.

  20. Stephanie says

    I would very much like to understand this “post-liberal” idea, but I seem to end up more confused the more I read about it. The author says about conservative post-liberalism:

    “Right-wing post-liberals believe that humans are, by nature, relational beings who are better suited to pursuing virtue within their own communities than falling prey to the false promise of universal progress. For this reason, right-wing post-liberals put duty and virtue ahead of rights and liberty, and they have a tendency to rely on state power to enforce these duties and virtues.”

    This is contradictory. Is this to mean that post-liberal conservatives will be ideologically confused, or is that the author? What is the pathway for conservatives to give up their aversion to big government?

    The centrists sound more like conservatives, valuing local government and voluntarily-joined social organisations, but the author distinguishes them from the right by being less “trigger happy” with state authority. This despite centrists being more keen on government intervention in the form of entitlements and regulations than the right. How is this switch supposed to occur? How can the aversion to state authority be reconciled with the undefined but ominous sounding “economic justice?”

    Left-wing post-liberals as described are the least likely variant I can imagine. The author using two presidential candidates who are polling within error of 0% demonstrates this point. The description of this group as “unlike those on the Right, they do not reject individualism and egalitarianism altogether and instead believe that individualist, egalitarian societies based on rights and liberties can thrive—so long as these rights and liberties are guaranteed by the state and contribute to a shared notion of the common good” is so at odds with the modern left it is hard to imagine by which pathway the author envisions this radical transformation to occur. How will intersectionality and identity politics be defeated? When will the left turn against affirmative action and open borders?

    • Could you please clarify how ” intersectionality and identity politics” as well as “affirmative action and open borders” are at odds with individualist, egalitarian societies based on rights and liberties …—so long as these rights and liberties are guaranteed by the state”? No sarcasm, I would just like to see the thought developed more (if you will indulge me).

      • Stephanie says

        Heartless, intersectionality, identity politics, and affirmative action are based on the premise that the aspect of your identity that is important in the political and social realms is the sum of your immutable characteristics and which group identity you must affiliate with. An individualist and egalitarian society would value who people choose to be and treat them the same regardless of the colour of their skin, ethnic heritage, sex, sexual orientation, ect.

        Open borders to some degree is the same, since the left sees the accident of geography that makes most of the illegal aliens Hispanic as a central part of the issue. But it also represents a rejection of a law-based society and skewing of the balance between rights and responsibilities. For most people in the world, including people suffering far worse than Central Americans, gaining entry into the US is a lengthy legal process that is not guaranteed to be successful. Millions of people followed the rules: their lives and place in America should not be valued less than someone who paid a mule thousands of dollars and skirted the rules. It is also contrary to an egalitarian society for illegals (and mostly the children they illegally birth in the US) to access the social services they did not rightfully contribute to.

  21. Respek Wahmen says

    With all due respek, was this written by a child?

    • dmm says

      Don’ soun’ ver’ respekful t’ moi.

  22. Mark Matis says

    What does the tribe think about this???

  23. Robin says

    The reality that is becoming transparently clear to many is that ‘virtue’ and ‘duty’ only apply to men. Western women on the other hand get narcissism, self-interest and parasitism as their guiding philosophy. “Turning to the State for Salvation” is actually the female imperative. Trading a ‘man’ for the State… all men. Dealing with the former requires that she compromise a tiny bit of her self-interest. With the latter she need only be female.

    Individualism is forced on men because the system gives them nothing. Not justice, not financial support and no respect. We get to die before we get social security among our many other so-called ‘benefits’.

    “Post-liberalism” is such a catchy phrase. Another abstraction like a discussion of ‘Classical Liberalism’ vs. ‘Reform Liberalism’. Pabst’s definition points out the “embedding of state agencies” sounds more like creeping Communism. A retreat from Liberal values altogether. Then there is the inter-sectional feminist buzz words about women, minorities and “economic justice” or in other words ‘social justice’ meaning SJW’s.

    The ‘left-wing post liberalism’ is nothing more than hardcore SJW and feminist dogma. In that worldview women get all the rights and men get all the duties. We got a good display of how SJW’s put “humanity first” approach last weekend in Portland when they beat the crap out of Andy Ngo. This is transcending social divisions by intimidation and violence. A complete rejection of liberal western and Enlightenment values.

    As for the puffy stuff about Yang and Williamson you can say about Democrats in general. They are immersed in identity politics and none of them have a path out of it. The labor movement has seen many of its members go Republican and tribal warfare in the USA is increasing. This constantly dismissing the majority as sexist, racist, misogynist and white supremacist for short-term political gain is only going to lead to collisions.

    Saving liberal civilization from dystopia or disaster?? Mr. Steiner, it’s precisely because of your identity politics that the system is flying apart! Your collectivist views have a very long and unbroken track record of failure.

    • “Individualism is forced on men because the system gives them nothing. Not justice, not financial support and no respect. We get to die before we get social security among our many other so-called ‘benefits’.”

      So if I read you correctly, you want to be less individualistic and more reliant on the state but aren’t allowed to be? Is that the complaint?

      • Robin says


        I’m making a statement of fact.

        You describing that statement as a “complaint” is you making a normative claim about that statement. Your not saying it isn’t true, just ascribing a pejorative word to describe it. A rhetorical device.

        What I want is irrelevant. Being or not being a welfare parasite is a choice only women get to make as the vast majority of that funding only goes towards them. I don’t get to choose to be reliant on the State… I’m a host. The parasites feed on me through the State.

        In a perfect world all citizens could be parasites. However, formal slavery was abolished in the 19th century.

  24. AnonAnon says

    Thanks for this article. I think that if the author had enough space, he might have described how the various political groups differ regarding who they regard as the clientele of a country’s government.

    “Everyone” (shorthand here for the clientele whose interests are to be prioritised) might mean all citizens of the country, or all these plus the permanent residents and other legally present migrants. It could also encompass some or all illegal immigrants. It could also encompass everyone in the world – all humans, or at least large numbers of people who are not resident in or otherwise connected to the country. Also, it might include some subset of animal, plant and perhaps fish and insect life in that set of entities whose interests the country’s government should work to improve, with some of these potentially being outside the country.

    Utopian leftists tend to include all people inside and outside the country (other than those who are Bad on account of ill-deserved wealth, power etc.) in their catchment area for people a country’s government should serve.

    Socially conservative right wingers might have a clientele of people within the country who they consider worthy – not immoral, trouble-making, self-harming and/or lazy riff-raff.

    I think that Trump and Brexit succeeded because the alternative to each involved the government prioritising the interests of many people outside the country.

    Brexit does not seem at all “stupid” to me. Regularly in Quillette and elsewhere I see it referred to as such as if this view is uncontroversial. It seems stupid to cede some or all of what should be the country’s government’s power to an external system which prioritises the interests of a much larger set of people.

    A successful country needs strong borders and to choose its immigrants, including refugees, very carefully. The more successful it is, the larger the number of people in less successful countries who want to climb on board. Hillary Clinton didn’t seem too concerned about this and Trump did.

  25. Steve Bowden says

    This article was not terribly illuminating. People are too complex to break them into three camps lined up on two dimensions. All political terms get muddled, mingled and hijacked so that they lose their basic utility of sharing a plain and universal meaning. It’s a frustrating situation. I don’t know how people can have a constructive political dialogue when we are inadvertently talking past each other most of the time. There are huge problems in this world that need to be solved. Surely a prerequisite for solving those problems is true communication.

  26. Azathoth says

    This all seems like yet another steaming pile of ivory-tower horseshit.

    A game of nomenclature and semantics designed to do little more than confuse and obfuscate while pretending to clarify.

    In the end the axes will remain the same, the paths will remain the same, and the choices will remain the same–

    Does a collectivist or an individualist path serve humanity best?

  27. dmm says

    I despise articles like this, which try to use vague terms to uselessly plop individuals into arbitrarily chosen two-dimensional categories, all the while being blissfully ignorant of this self-same collectivist tendency. I mean, even if this information were true, what could one do with it? Let me guess: promote some use of coercion for or against this or that version of “the common good”, the most ill-defined concept of all.

  28. Nah, we are regressing and we are pre-liberal politics. There is a much stronger argument to be made that our political systems are regressing back to monarchy and imperialism. Trump is just a tired, worn out, despot retread archetype who’s behavior is indistinguishable from any monarch prior to American Democracy, including his divine right adoring crowd. I see parallels with the fall of Democracy and the fall of employee empowerment where in the 1980s and 1990s ESOP, gyms, and on site day care were being added to empower employees; but our short-sighted, scorpion stinging the frog nature took over in just two short decades we saw the fall, the mercurial fall in the 2000s of employ empowerment and we’ve gone from empowerment to open space work environments and the newest hot desks environments that are worse than a prison cell. Democracy had a good run, but its all over now.

  29. Barry says

    “Right-wing post-liberals may have difficulty imposing their conservative values on people outside of Catholic circles and traditionalist countries—such as Poland and Hungary—because many Westerners enjoy the personal autonomy that liberalism affords them”

    Why single out Catholics in this regard? Aren’t Muslims, for example, much more conservative?

  30. Felix says

    Post liberal centrists = Red Tory and proud!

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