Charlie Peters, the founder of the Washington Monthly (home of Steve Benen's Political Animal) opined in the last issue that both he and Irving Kristol believed that there were problems with liberalism, but Kristol founded the neo-conservatives, while Peters led the way with neo-liberalism, dedicated to making liberalism better. What made the difference between their responses?
Over the years, I have speculated about what explained the different conclusions we had reached. One experience stands out. We had served in the Army during World War II, but what happened to me strengthened my belief in democracy while his experience produced the opposite result. He suffered abuse from most of his fellow soldiers because he was a Jew. I, on the other hand, found myself not only liking but also respecting most of the men I was thrown together with. Bad apples existed, but they were a minority. Once, when one of them stole my fountain pen, fifteen one-dollar bills (which more than represented its value) were deposited on my bunk by the soldiers who shared my hut. And, incredibly, when I occupied a hospital room with a white Alabama farmer and a black Mississippi farmer we not only got along, we had a lot of fun. I’m sure chance played a part in making our experiences so different, but given what happened it’s not hard to understand how the liberalism of Charlie Peters and the conservatism of Irving Kristol came to be.
To be liberal means having faith in your fellow human beings, and that the majority of them are trying to do the right thing. Conservatives believe people are naturally sinful and must be controlled to do the right thing. This seems to be the deepest world view difference in my mind as well.
(Sorry for the late opening of today's open thread.)