Classical Liberalism and Christianity

If asked to choose one word to define the basic creed and catchword of Western modernity, I would not hesitate: That word would be freedom, provided one understands that, for a modern, there can be no freedom where there is no equality.  If endowed with a minimum capacity to express himself, the average citizen would probably declare his most-cherished treasure to be what it was for John Locke: “a state of perfect freedom to order his actions and dispose of his possessions and person as he thinks fit without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man.”  Such is the founding dogma of the philosophy that came to be known as liberalism.

Locke’s words constitute a famous but ambiguous proposition.  For it may translate in a sedate way, not as a rejection of any rule at all, but only as an abhorrence to any rule that is not subordinate to justification and smacks of arbitrariness.  But it just as well translates, for the average uneducated individual, as a natural right to do whatever pleases him.

This basic ambiguity is crucial to understanding what amounts to the modern predicament in which the West stands today, usually unwittingly.  If freedom ends up having two opposite meanings, then there are two contradictory versions of liberalism.  One borders on anarchism pure and simple, be it rather brutal (like the libertarians’)...

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