Marko Kloos tweeted:
A long and highly interesting treatise on the future of American liberalism by Walter Russell Mead: bit.ly/woaPt6
— Marko Kloos (@markokloos) January 21, 2013
So, being a good little lad, I went and read it. In addition to being incredibly insightful, I happen to be studying systems theory in one of my classes this semester. This article fits. Like. A. Glove.
The author, Walter Mead, discusses liberalism and its four phases in American political and social life.
We can see this process at work in modern Anglo-American history, during which liberalism has gone through at least four distinct incarnations. Liberalism 1.0 was the political expression of the original Enlightenment philosophy that developed in Britain and shaped the Glorious Revolution of 1688. That Revolution remains the seminal political event in the history of the English-speaking world. The American Founding Fathers set out consciously to imitate the spirit of 1688. Both the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights flow from the ideas of a revolution that once and for all made Parliament supreme over the Crown in British history.
But the Revolution of 1688 had its limits, and by 1776 liberalism 1.0 was no longer enough. In Britain, the corruption of the House of Commons allowed George III to reassert royal control; Americans realized that the constitutional monarchy of liberalism 1.0 was no longer ideal. The 2.0 liberalism of our Founding Fathers replaced constitutional monarchy with a republic expressly founded on natural rights and the sovereignty of the people. The 1.0 Revolution of 1688 had replaced an intolerant established Church with one constitutionally more tolerant; the 2.0 American Revolution of 1776 separated the church from the state to the benefit of both.
Liberalism 2.0, as developed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, was rooted in the thought of 1.0 liberals like John Locke. But Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington developed and put into practice a set of ideas about how individual liberty could be reconciled with economic development and good governance. Note how the names changed. In 1688, if you supported the Glorious Revolution you were a Whig and a liberal. In 1776, if you supported those same principles against the Declaration of Independence you were a Tory conservative.
He goes on to describe liberalism in America and its various strengths and weaknesses. He describes modern liberalism as blue liberalism, or liberalism 4.1. He also discusses how we are at the end of an era and in a position to create liberalism 5.0
As with earlier versions, liberalism 5.0 must build on the best of what has gone before while making adjustments—radical when necessary, though never gratuitously so—to existing beliefs and institutions. 5.0 liberals must challenge the right of blue liberals to own the L-word, seeking both to convince 4.1 liberals to come back to the future and denouncing those who won’t as the blinkered reactionaries and speed bumps they are.
Go read this article.