“With Liberty and Justice for All”!
So ends the US Pledge of Allegiance. This is not only a liberal sediment, but is also a statement of competing aims and a core dilemma at the heart of American liberalism. The American Left (what Joel has refferred to as social liberalism) has, through deep metaphysical thought, expanded and given depth to the idea of justice and it’s place in our society. They are basically saying; “look at the underlying unfairness all around us. Can we find a way that is more fair for the agreeved”. It is liberal justice in everyway. The American Right has been moving toward the idea of liberty for the individual, but often at the expense of “justice for all”. America is not a collection of individuals, it is a body politic. If we are to be truly Americans, our individual identity must be defined as a member of this collective. Ben Franklin’s admonition “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately” is still apropo. If we don’t seek to satisfy both these competing aims of liberty and justice, than the illberal will succeed and indeed see us hang sepreately.
A note: Our founders were metaphysically sophisticated people. They didn’t write the constitution into stone and they knew that the meaning of words like liberty and justice were tied to contexts, changing as contexts change. We can all be Originalists in intent, but not in meaning. The philosophy on this is clear. The past is gone. We are all time travelers but the arrow points only to the future; and it’s coming fast right now.