The post-liberals think that Enlightenment-based liberalism is the disease afflicting society because it has no answer for how people should live. They have a point: It is not a religion or moral philosophy. But it wasn’t meant to be. Instead, as National Review’s Charles Cooke rightly put it, classical liberalism was a system designed to keep people of different religions from killing each other.
This framing, however, obscures the path to reconciliation not just among the battling conservatives but in America generally. The liberalism of the Founders focused on freedom for individuals — but also encompassed institutions and communities. In the early days of the republic, for instance, some states had established churches and others didn’t. What the Founders opposed was a one-size-fits-all approach from the top.
As far as I can tell, the so-called post-liberals now want Washington to dictate how we should all pursue happiness, just so long as it’s from the right. In a country of nearly 330 million people, however, it is impossible to define the “highest good” for everybody.