[Paleopsych] Wash. Monthly: Taking Liberty: Liberals ignore and conservatives misunderstand America's guiding value: freedom.

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Taking Liberty: Liberals ignore and conservatives misunderstand America's 
guiding value: freedom.
April 2005

By William A. Galston

George W. Bush's second inaugural address, with its sweeping rhetoric
about the spread of freedom abroad and at home, sparked strong but
varied reactions. Most of the president's conservative supporters ranked
it with the greatest inaugural speeches, such as John F. Kennedy's 1961
call to bear any burden and pay any price in the service of human
freedom and Lincoln's sermonic 1865 meditation on the inscrutable
justice of God's judgment on those who deny freedom to others. The
president's liberal critics were less laudatory, agreeing instead with
former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan's surprising judgment that the
speech fell "somewhere between dreamy and disturbing." Whether the
speech was a display of visionary statesmanship, or an exercise in
hubristic overreach, is something only history can determine. But it is
not too early to say that the speech was both a wakeup call to
liberals-from whose vocabulary the evocative term "freedom" has been
mostly absent in recent years-and a guide to the deep flaws in the
modern conservative understanding of freedom.

In declaring, "It is the policy of the United States to seek and support
the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and
culture," President Bush picked up a rhetorical battle standard of
freedom first carried by Woodrow Wilson and later lofted by Cold War
liberals and Ronald Reagan. But he went his predecessors one better. In
a grand rhetorical stroke, Bush sought to terminate the venerable debate
between foreign policy "idealists" and "realists": Not only does the
promotion of democracy reflect our values, it also advances our
interests. It is the resentment stimulated by tyranny, he argued, that
produces terrorism, and the only cure for tyranny is freedom. Thus, "The
survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of
liberty in other lands."

President Bush's language effectively taps a deep vein of the American
psyche. It is the way we like to think of ourselves. Even more, it is
the way we wish to understand the world-as an orderly cosmos where our
ideals and our interests coincide. If only it were so. International
conditions have almost always forced presidents, to one extent or
another, to choose between protecting the nation's interests and
advancing the borders of freedom-and an unswerving devotion to the
latter has often led to disaster. Recall how Wilson's conception of
national self-determination helped sow the seeds of an unstable,
punitive peace and the most destructive war the world has ever known.
Recall also the unsavory alliances Cold War presidents of both parties
were forced to make. The hard truth is that it's not always possible to
promote the ends of freedom with the means of freedom. To prosecute the
global war on terror and to minimize the chances of an even more
devastating strike on our homeland, we will often be forced to
compromise with the Putins and Musharrafs of this world. We should not
assume that democracy will always drain the swamps where terrorism
breeds. Sometimes autocratic governments will do more to suppress
terrorism than to stimulate it; sometimes elections will empower
radically anti-American leaders and create more space in which
terrorists can operate. And it is tunnel-visioned to believe, as the
president does, that a democratic offense is always the best defense.
Whatever one thinks of the war in Iraq, it is sobering to reflect on its
opportunity costs-on the quantity of loose nuclear materials we could
have secured around the world and the number of facilities we could have
hardened at home with the hundreds of billions of dollars we are
spilling in the sands of Mesopotamia.

Nonetheless, it was impossible not to be moved by the sight of 8.5
million Iraqis braving threats and violence to vote, or to be heartened
by the signs of democratic self-determination in Lebanon and elsewhere
in the Middle East. President Bush's faith in the transformative power
of freedom may be extreme and un-nuanced, but it is not wholly

Much the same may be said of freedom in the domestic sphere. The
president's speech invoked the "broader definition of liberty" he saw at
work in historic programs such as the Homestead Act, Social Security,
and the GI Bill of Rights. Appealing to classic civic republicanism, he
rooted citizenship in the "independence" that stems from "ownership."
And he boldly appropriated Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms"
for his own purposes: "By making every citizen an agent of his or her
own destiny," he declared, "we will give our fellow Americans greater
freedom from want and fear." Whatever may have been the case 70 years
ago, he asserted, conservative individualist means are now better suited
to serve classic liberal ends than are New Deal programs of social

Here, as in the international arena, a vast gap exists between President
Bush's abstract rhetoric of freedom and real world conditions. In the
case of Social Security, for example, the problems are far less severe
than the president has suggested. And his proposed cure-private
accounts-does nothing to address the solvency of the system, even as it
risks plunging millions of retirees into poverty while adding trillions
of dollars in transition costs to the government's already mountainous
debt. The more voters learn about the president's plan, the less they
like it. Still, its core idea-freedom understood as increased individual
choice and control over one's own destiny-has an undeniable appeal.

After all, the idea of freedom is at the heart of our nation's creed.
Edmund Burke famously observed that Americans "sniff the approach of
tyranny in every tainted breeze." Even today, the extraordinary value
Americans place on individual liberty is what most distinguishes our
culture, and the political party seen by voters as the most willing to
defend and expand liberty is the one that usually wins elections.
Conservatives have learned this lesson; too many liberals have forgotten
it. And as long as liberals fool themselves into believing that appeals
to income distribution tables can take the place of policies that
promote freedom, they will lose.

The questions before us are, what is the meaning of freedom in the 21st
century, and what are the means needed to make it effective in our
lives? Those of us who oppose the conservative answer cannot succeed by
changing the question. We can only succeed by giving a better answer.

Free love and free markets

For much of the 20th century, progressives took the lead in both
defining freedom and advancing its borders. Teddy Roosevelt expanded the
19th century laissez-faire conception of freedom, in which government
was seen as the greatest threat, to include the liberties of workers and
entrepreneurs to get ahead in the world, freedoms restricted by
concentrations of economic power and protected by the exercise of public
power. Woodrow Wilson boldly reversed the inherited belief that
America's national freedom was best secured by abstaining from foreign
entanglements, insisting that the liberty of other peoples would
strengthen our own. FDR further redefined the concept to include social
protection from the ills of want and fear. JFK invoked service to
country in freedom's cause. Martin Luther King Jr. appealed to civil and
political freedom that included all Americans, rooted in universalistic
concepts that included every human being. Women fought for opportunity
by bringing private oppression into public view. What united all these
new visions of liberty was the idea that freedom is not necessarily
diminished by government but can often be advanced only through the
vigorous actions of government.

And then, the cause of liberal freedom ran smack into Vietnam and the
counterculture. The war in Indochina represented, for too many
progressive critics, not just a monumental blunder, but also evidence
that the entire enterprise of advancing freedom through an
anti-communist foreign policy was suffused with self-delusion and
hypocrisy. These critics rejected the belief that, on balance, American
influence was a force for good in the world. On the domestic front, what
began honorably in the early 1960s as the effort to expand freedom of
speech and self-fulfillment was transformed just a decade later into an
antinomian conception of freedom as liberation from all restraint.
Enthusiasts could no longer distinguish between liberty and license, and
so lost touch with the moral concerns of average citizens, especially
parents struggling to raise their children in what they saw as a culture
increasing inhospitable to decency and self-restraint.

As the public reaction to these events shifted the balance of political
power toward conservatism, some liberals reacted by relying excessively
on the courts as counterweights against democratic majorities. Others,
disappointed by what they viewed as the failure of civil rights laws to
bolster the economic status of African Americans, tried to redefine the
progressive enterprise around values such as fairness and equality of
results. Still others, the spiritual heirs of the Port Huron Statement
and the New Left, opposed what they saw as the inherently competitive
and anti-social individualism of American-style freedom.

As progressives abandoned the discourse of freedom, conservatives were
more than ready to claim it. They had spent decades preparing for this
opening. Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, published in 1944, fired
the opening salvo by identifying government intervention in the economy
as a threat to individual liberty. A decade later, Hayek pronounced
himself puzzled that conservatives had allowed the left to control the
definition of liberty, "this almost indispensable term." During the
1950s, says historian Eric Foner, "a group of conservative thinkers
began the task of reclaiming the idea of freedom."

At a 1956 conference, Milton Friedman argued that a free market was the
necessary foundation for societies in which individual liberty
flourishes. What had begun as the precondition of freedom soon became
its template: Libertarian conservatives redefined freedom as the right
to choose and extended this understanding far beyond the market, to
social relations and public policy.

These thinkers encountered a challenge within the emerging conservative
movement, from traditionalists who focused on values such as order and
virtue and who questioned the social consequences of the unfettered
market. This tension was not in all respects an outright contradiction
and thus proved to be manageable. In his classic Capitalism and Freedom,
Friedman acknowledged that every form of social organization-including
the market-relies on a framework of generally accepted rules, and that
"no set of rules can prevail unless most participants most of the time
conform to them without external sanctions." Not only must participants
internalize rules, he continued, they must also develop certain traits
of character. These requirements are especially demanding in systems of
liberty: Freedom can be preserved, he concluded, "only for people who
are willing to practice self-denial, for otherwise freedom degenerates
into license and irresponsibility."

This line of argument raised a key question: If virtue was needed for a
free society, and if we are not born virtuous, how are we to acquire it?
Here entered the second premise of modern American conservatism, the
proposition that civil society will generate a virtuous citizenry if
only government leaves it alone to do its vital work. Not government,
but rather families, neighborhoods, and faith communities sustain the
moral foundations of freedom. This conservative synthesis of markets and
civil society, which suffused Ronald Reagan's first successful
presidential campaign, achieved lapidary statement in George W. Bush's
second inaugural. "In America's ideal of freedom," he declared, "the
public interest depends on private character-on integrity and tolerance
toward others and the rule of conscience in our own lives.
Self-government relies, in the end, on the governing of the self. That
edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with
standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai,
the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran and the varied faiths of
our people."

President Bush's reference to the Sermon on the Mount reminds us that
synthesizing the market and civil society does not fully resolve the
tension between libertarians and traditionalists. After all, it was on
that occasion that Jesus advised his listeners not to heap up earthly
treasure because no one can pursue more than one master: "You cannot
serve God and mammon." At this point, the third premise of contemporary
conservatism comes to the rescue. This is the thesis, developed by
American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Novak, among others, that
capitalist markets, far from undermining individual virtues and social
bonds, actually fortify them. Capitalism, Novak insists, both depends
upon and builds virtues such as initiative, enterprise, and social
cooperation. A government that minimizes the appropriation of wealth for
public purposes maximizes the scope for acts of Christian charity. And
more than that: Life in capitalist societies promotes the highest form
of freedom-namely, the creativity of the human person. There are also
echoes of this argument in President Bush's second inaugural, especially
when he claimed that moving from social provision to individual
ownership strengthens individuals' moral capacities to meet the
"challenges of life in a free society."

This is, let us admit, a powerful and evocative conception of freedom,
blending a constellation of ideas with deep resonance in American
culture. It serves, moreover, as the basis of a powerful coalition
between economic interests seeking less regulation and lower taxes and
moral traditionalists disturbed by the cultural changes of the past 40
years. Whether we think of ourselves as progressives, liberals, or New
Democrats, we cannot evade the challenge posed by these ideas and by the
political currents they have set in motion. If we do not meet them
head-on, we will prevail only infrequently and accidentally. And when we
lose, which will be most of time, we will deserve it.

Let "freedom" ring

There will be a temptation by many, especially on the left, to think
that this fight can be won merely by "reframing" the debate-that is,
using the word "freedom" to shift the discussion to other philosophical
terrain, like economic fairness and social justice, on which today's
left is more comfortable. That temptation should be avoided. Because
freedom has its own context and logic, we cannot make it mean whatever
we like. As the great British philosopher of freedom Isaiah Berlin
reminds us, "Everything is what it is: liberty is liberty, not equality
or fairness or justice." When conservatives promote their tax and fiscal
policies as advancing economic freedom, liberals cannot expect to get
very far by complaining endlessly that such policies are "unfair." They
certainly are, and more scrupulous leaders would be ashamed to propose
them. But if we have learned anything since the collapse of the liberal
hegemony in the 1960s, it is that the appeal to freedom trumps the
appeal to fairness.

Instead of dodging the issue, an effective center-left strategy should
begin with a critique of the fundamental conservative conception of
freedom because that conception is fatally flawed. Experience gives us
no reason to conclude that government is the only, or always the
gravest, threat to freedom; clerical institutions and concentrations of
unchecked economic power have often vied for that dubious honor. Nor has
the ideological synthesis of markets and civil society abolished the
very real problem at issue between libertarians and traditionalists: The
unchecked market regularly produces social outcomes at odds with the
moral conditions of a free society. Thus, it is that a conservative FCC
chairman pledged to media deregulation ends up imposing new restraints
in the name of decency. Nor is it easy to believe that capitalism
reliably produces, or rewards, the good character a free society needs:
Perceptive observers from Charles Dickens to Tom Wolfe have given us
ample evidence to the contrary. And while it may be that long-term
dependence on government saps the spirit of self-reliance that liberty
requires, there are other forms of dependence-economic, social, and even
familial-that can, and often do, damage character in much the same way.

At the heart of the conservative misunderstanding of liberty is the
presumption that government and individual freedom are fundamentally at
odds. At the heart of any liberal counteroffensive must be a subtler but
more truthful proposition: Public power can advance freedom as well as
thwart it. In the real world, which so many conservatives steadfastly
refuse to face, there is no such thing as freedom in the abstract. There
are only specific freedoms, which differ in their conditions and
consequences. FDR famously enumerated four such freedoms, dividing them
into two pairs: freedom of speech and worship; freedom from want and
fear. The first pair had long been recognized and enshrined in the
Constitution. The second were a new formulation, and Roosevelt made them
concrete when he signed Social Security into law, justifying it as a way
of promoting freedom from want: "We have tried to frame a law which will
give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his
family. . . against poverty-ridden old age." Three years later, he
declared that Social Security payments will "furnish that minimum
necessity to keep a foothold; and that is the kind of protection
Americans want."

The conservatives of Roosevelt's era disparaged the second pair as "New
Deal freedoms" rather than "American freedoms," as do many conservatives
today. But those who have experienced the freedoms made possible by the
New Deal are not so dismissive. It is often observed, rightly, that
Social Security has virtually eliminated poverty among the elderly. But
this noble achievement has an equally profound flip side. Throughout
human history, those who reached the age where they could no longer work
have typically depended on their children or on charity for their basic
subsistence. Social Security broke this age-old dependency by giving the
elderly a minimum degree of economic self-sufficiency. It is almost
impossible to exaggerate how much this independence means to seniors. It
is why Social Security has become the third rail of American politics.
Seniors react with ferocity to efforts to "reform" the program not
merely because they are defending a source of income, but because they
are defending their freedom.

Liberals seldom talk about Social Security or other programs in terms of
freedom. But they should. George W. Bush certainly does. In his second
inaugural address, Bush accepted the validity of Roosevelt's concept of
Four Freedoms. But he went on to contend that in today's circumstances,
his brand of conservatism-his so-called "ownership society"-offers more
effective means to traditional New Deal ends: "By making every citizen
an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans
greater freedom from want and fear." In essence, the president was
saying that his solution to Social Security's fiscal problems would
provide seniors with the freedom from want and fear they had come to
expect, but with two additional liberties: freedom of choice, and
freedom from government dependence.

On the face of it, this is a very appealing promise. But as a matter of
actual policy, it is a deeply dishonest one. Allowing individuals to
invest a portion of their payroll taxes in the stock market necessarily
exposes those individuals to greater financial risk, and therefore puts
their freedom from want at risk. Yet any attempt to minimize those
risks-by having the government pick which funds individuals can invest
in, or requiring the annuitization of those investments upon retirement,
as the president has suggested-necessarily erodes the freedom of choice
and freedom from government control that are the selling points of
private accounts. Indeed, the more conservatives add such
risk-minimizing features to their proposals to mollify the public's
legitimate fears that they may be left penniless in their old age, the
more those proposals will come to resemble the traditional Social
Security program that conservatives are trying to escape.

The president's promises are unsound not just on the level of policy,
but on that of principle. "Freedom of" and "freedom from" have
distinctly different structures and implications. "Freedom of" points
toward spheres of action in which individuals make choices-for example,
which faith to embrace, or whether to embrace any faith at all. The task
of government is to secure those spheres against interference by
individuals, groups, or government itself. By contrast, "freedom from"
points toward circumstances that (it is presumed) all wish to avoid. In
such instances, the task of government is, so far as possible, to
immunize individuals against undesired circumstances. Here government
acts to protect not individual agency and choice, but rather
individuals' life-circumstances against outcomes that no one would
choose, or willingly endure. We do not suppose, for instance, that
slavery is a matter of individual choice; rather, after much struggle,
we have come to a collective decision that no one in his right mind
would prefer slavery to freedom, and we have ordered our laws and
institutions accordingly. Similarly, during the New Deal, we made a
collective decision that no senior would willingly live in penury and
shouldn't have to.

It follows that libertarian freedom, the "right to choose," is but a
part of freedom in the fuller sense. As a motorist, I am rightly free to
choose my own route and destination. But government correctly infers
that I also wish to be protected from smashing into other cars, and so
restricts which side of the road others and I may drive on. My desire to
avoid an accident is no less real than my desire to drive where I
please. Similarly, the desire to avoid want and fear is no less real
than the desire to speak and worship without interference. The point is
that any society that takes freedom from want and fear seriously has
made a collective decision: Certain conditions are objectively bad; its
citizens should not have to endure them if the means of their abatement
are in hand; and individual choice is not a necessary component of and
may be a hindrance to attaining these freedoms.

In addition to presuming that freedom must always involve individual
choice, conservatives tend to mischaracterize and misunderstand many
aspects of freedom, in particular, its costs. Freedom from want and fear
often requires citizens to contribute some of their individual resources
for collective purposes and makes better-off citizens contribute more.
Conservatives have a tendency to focus on these costs without factoring
in the benefits, and thus they often do not see or acknowledge that the
net result is an increase in freedom. It has often been observed, for
instance, that freedom for the pike is death for the minnow. Curtailing
the freedom of the pike is often the only way of securing the freedom of
the minnow. And there are usually far more minnows than pikes. So when
government leans against the depredations of the powerful, it is
enhancing freedom, not curtailing it. When government acts to ward off,
or break up, excessive concentrations of private power, it does not
diminish, but rather enhances, liberty rightly understood.

Specific freedoms often have conditions for their effective exercise,
and government must sometimes act to ensure broad access to those
conditions. A familiar but not trivial example: Nothing safeguards
liberty more than the rule of law; fair trials are essential to the rule
of law; and the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of the "assistance of
counsel" for every accused is essential to fair trials. Many Americans
cannot afford to pay for defense lawyers, and the legal profession does
not contribute enough pro bono hours to fill the gap. The government
therefore taxes better-off Americans to provide legal counsel for the
disadvantaged. In the process, it unavoidably restricts individuals'
freedom to use those tax dollars for other purposes. But does anyone
seriously doubt that this use of government's taxing power enhances the
sum of freedom in our country?

Another example: Under modern conditions, the freedom of individuals to
participate in the labor market requires the mastery of work-related
knowledge and skills, many of which can only be acquired through formal
education. The government uses its power of taxation to ensure that this
education is within the reach of all families regardless of their
private resources. While this policy restricts the ability of wealthier
families to use those tax dollars for private purposes, the overall
result is to advance freedom within the wider society.

A new liberal freedom agenda

Undermining the conservative vision of freedom is the essential first
step for a liberal recovery. But no movement ever built a governing
majority just by criticizing its adversaries. To regain the initiative,
liberals must return to their historic mission of modernizing and
promoting freedom. In this effort, they should be guided by three

First, liberals must recognize that many of their traditional policy
goals hold the promise of advancing freedom and should begin to talk
about them as such. Consider universal health care. The left typically
stresses the social justice side of this issue: In the most prosperous
country on earth, it is an avoidable wrong that 45 million citizens lack
health insurance. While this point is both accurate and morally
admirable, invoking it has not moved the nation any closer to the goal.
A more effective argument would focus on the ways in which our current
system of employer-provided health care limits individual freedom.
Countless Americans today are stuck in unrewarding jobs which they would
like to leave-to start a new business or go back to college to upgrade
their skills-but dare not, because doing so would deprive themselves and
their families of health insurance. A system of universal health care
would allow all Americans to pursue their dreams and take more risks.

Or consider post-secondary education. During the past three decades,
young Americans with no more than a high school education have seen a
steadily narrowing range of occupational choices. In that respect, they
are less free than were their parents with the same level of schooling.
This isn't just an economic growth issue (though it is), or a social
justice issue (though it is that, too); it is at its core an issue of
individual freedom. While supporting reforms of grant and loan programs
to diminish corruption, enhance efficiency, and improve targeting,
liberals should insist on unfettered access to post-secondary education
and training, regardless of socioeconomic status. This means getting
serious about high school dropout rates, which recent studies show are
much higher than is generally understood (about 30 percent nationally,
and 50 percent in many black, Hispanic, and low income neighborhoods).
It means getting serious about the alarming numbers of students who drop
out of college by the end of freshmen year because their high school
diploma didn't prepare them for entry-level college courses. And it
means getting serious about the millions of talented poor and minority
kids who don't continue their education after high school because no
responsible adult ever told them that they could-and should.

If there was ever an area crying out for what FDR called "bold,
persistent experimentation," this is it. Just last month, Yale announced
a new program: Students from families earning less than $45,000 would be
admitted tuition-free. Only a handful of other institutions, public or
private, can afford to follow suit. But a new federal-state partnership
could offer all colleges and universities substantial support for
recruiting, retaining, and graduating students from families below the
median income. Or maybe we should move AmeriCorps closer to what its
founders intended it to be: A universal opportunity for young people to
serve community and country while earning substantial funds for
post-secondary education and training. One thing is clear: We can't sit
idly by while the educational barrier to individual freedom rises higher
and higher for so many Americans.

The second principle that liberals should remember as they try to
reclaim the mantle of freedom is that individual choice, while not
always synonymous with liberty, and sometimes contrary to it, is also
highly appealing to most Americans. Liberals should therefore look for
opportunities to embrace individual choice in ways that embody their
principles and promote their objectives. A good example-one several
Democrats have already gotten behind-is individual retirement savings
accounts added on to, rather than carved out of, Social Security.
Another promising, if treacherous, area in which more choice could be
promoted is public education. Liberals recoil at school voucher
proposals, in part because conservatives openly favor them as a
back-door method of undermining public schools and teachers' unions, but
also because of a not-unreasonable belief that such measures really
aren't the answer to improving failing urban schools. But there is
plenty of room short of vouchers for more personal choice in
K-through-12 education. Minnesota, for instance, has long permitted its
families to choose among public schools across district lines; Britain
does much the same.

Moreover, there are ways of structuring vouchers that even liberals
might find acceptable. In the pages of this magazine ("Pro Choice,"
September 2003), Siobhan Gorman has proposed that parents of students
from failing public schools be given "accountable vouchers" that could
be redeemed for education at private as well as public schools. Every
participating school, private or public, would have to adhere to the
same mandatory testing regime, to comply with strict anti-discrimination
laws, and to accept all voucher-bearers (as long as seats are available)
rather than picking among them. Government would have the right to
remove from the program private schools whose students fail to meet
yearly progress standards, just as it can currently shut down failing
charter schools. Such highly-regulated vouchers might, in fact, be
anathema to many conservative voucher proponents. But by supporting
them, at least for manifestly failing systems such as Washington,
D.C.'s, liberals could put themselves on the side of disadvantaged
parents eager for better educational choices for their children.

The third principle that should guide a center-left freedom agenda is
the notion that freedom is seldom without cost. It usually requires
sacrifice. Contemporary conservatism, with its free-lunch mentality, has
a hard time admitting this. Liberals should embrace it.

In his recent inaugural address, President Bush eloquently invoked the
sacrifices made by young Americans fighting for freedom abroad.
Unfortunately, he asked nothing of the rest of us. By contrast, in his
1941 State of the Union speech, at the threshold of the greatest
struggle for liberty in the history of the world, FDR forthrightly
stated that "I have called for personal sacrifice. I am assured of the
willingness of almost all Americans to respond to that call. A part of
the sacrifice means the payment of more money in taxes.... I shall
recommend that a greater portion of this great defense program be paid
for from taxation than we are paying today. No person should try, or be
allowed, to get rich out of this program; and the principle of tax
payments in accordance with ability to pay should be constantly before
our eyes."

We have never heard that kind of candor from President Bush and his
supporters, only the continuing pretense that freedom comes free.
Americans are perfectly capable of grasping and agreeing with the
proposition (should a leading political leader actually present it) that
raising taxes in wartime is a sound way to protect our freedom, and
borrowing the money we need to fight from the Chinese government is a
good way to put that freedom at risk.

Not only do our overseas commitments drain our treasury, they also
strain our armed forces almost to the breaking point. Is it responsible
leadership to pretend that we can defend freedom with the armed forces
we developed in the balmy days after the end of the Cold War? The issue
is more than the size of those forces; it involves their structure as
well. In his speech, President Bush refers to the idealism of our
troops, which "all Americans have witnessed...some for the first time."
Can freedom be sustained by a handful of troops cheered on by a nation
of spectators? In a country worthy of freedom, all citizens would share
the risks and burdens of its defense. And that is what a courageous
leader of a free people would propose.

Above all, a new agenda of freedom calls for a new patriotism. In recent
decades, too many liberals have given up mobilizing effective coalitions
of their fellow citizens and have resorted to anti-majoritarian
strategies. Too often, liberals whose hopes have been thwarted by the
historic individualism of our culture have pined for an alternative
culture more akin to French statism or Scandinavian social democracy.
Too often, liberals whose hopes have been thwarted by the historic
individualism of our culture have pined for an alternative culture more
akin to French statism or Scandinavian social democracy. Too often,
liberals have reacted to exaggerated claims of American exceptionalism
by rejecting the idea outright. These responses are patently
self-defeating. We must begin from where we are. We must go with-not
against-the American grain. As FDR did three quarters of a century ago,
we must mobilize and sustain a popular majority with the freedom agenda
our times require. We must love not another country's dream, but our
own-the American Dream-and we must work to make it real for every
American who reaches for it.

William A. Galston is Interim Dean of the University of Maryland's
School of Public Policy and was Deputy Assistant to President Bill
Clinton for Domestic Policy from 1993 to 1995. His most recent book is
The Practice of Liberal Pluralism (Cambridge, 2004).

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