Rationalism, Pluralism, & Freedom now available in the US

Apparently the slow boat from Oxford arrived at Ellis Island a few days early: as of today, my new book Rationalism, Pluralism, and Freedom is available for sale in the US.

Amazon (15% discount) amzn.to/1osWYDC

OUP (30% discount with code ASFLYQ6 , plus, according to two reports, an additional 10% discount for first-time customers at OUP’s website– that takes the price down to $30 + $5 shipping within the US.)

Tyler Cowen was kind enough to blog about the book, as was Michael Moreland.

While this isn’t the main point of the book, one upshot of it that may be of interest to BHLers is that the difference between classical/ market liberalism and modern/ egalitarian liberalism is not the only, and in many ways not the most important, division within the liberal tradition. There are questions about centralization and decentralization, freedom and unfreedom in the intermediate and local spheres, that have to be faced by market liberals and egalitarian liberals in much the same way.

As between Lord Acton and John Stuart Mill, Acton was probably slightly friendlier to market distribution than Mill eventually became– but it’s hard to know, as he wrote little about economic questions. There are, however, vital points of disagreement between them, liberals though they both were, about where threats to freedom were socially to be found, which institutional arrangements might balance dangers and which aggravate them. It’s that disagreement that I emphasize in the book– and market liberals and egalitarian liberals both inherit the dilemma of that debate, in a way that we share with each other but not with, e.g., conservatives or socialists. In that sense, I mean to make a contribution to the alternative fusionist project (market liberalism and egalitarian liberalism, rather than the Cold War Meyerist fusionism of libertarianism and conservatism) that has been a recurring theme here at BHL.

More to say soon.

  • adrianratnapala

    I made a long, dull comment about this on Tyler Cowen’s blog. It picked up on an odd thing: TC said that he ultimately prefers “rationalism”, and yet when he comes to discussing the real world he predicts there will be too much regulation of pluralistic organisations.

    Hayek explained the paradox ages ago: “constructivist rationalism” seeks to explain and ultimately control the details of society. TC however is using mere rationalism, which admits the limits of its power, and the need to rely on such things as pluralistic organisations.

    Given ambiguity in the meaning of “rationalism”, does the title of your book even make sense? (I haven’t actually read the book, so I dare not attack its thesis).

    • jdkolassa

      I have to admit, I too am confused about the definition of the word “rationalism” in this context. Hopefully in his first companion post Professor Levy might elucidate us.

      (For the record, I normally think of “rationalism” as using one’s brain, in opposition to “superstition,” but there is apparently another meaning where you base your stances *solely* on what you think between your ears, and give no credence to experience or evidence…which to me is just crazy.)

      • Sean II

        “…you base your stances *solely* on what you think between your ears, and give no credence to experience or evidence…which to me is just crazy.”

        So crazy, in fact, that no one really holds such a position, however much he may scream his allegiance.

        Pretty sure even Hans Hoppe fills his ice trays with hot water, though it’s clearly impossible that any liquid should freeze faster starting from 150F than it does starting from 50F. And yet…

  • TracyW


  • Gus diZerega

    Good luck with your fusionist project. May it go well. My book Faultlines explores a slightly different classification of liberals that might interest you, though it is only a part of a larger effort in that volume.

    Within the American context I distinguish between three branches of liberalism each rooted in one of the basic spontaneous orders (market, democracy, science) that arose when liberal values began to be widely established in a society. There is ‘classical liberalism’, oriented around the market process and suspicious of ‘the state’ or government in all its forms.

    There is ‘egalitarian liberalism’ that has confidence in democracy to correct the serious inequalities that arise within markets and politics.

    There is ‘managerial liberalism’ that has confidence in science to solve the problems that neither government nor markets can address.

    This division does not fit European liberals as well.

    The American progressive movement was an alliance of egalitarian and managerial liberals. Thus there were egalitarian elements such as the initiative, referendum, and recall and there were managerial elements such as professional civil service and nonpartisan local elections. The apparent lack of ideological coherence in that movement rose from the different staring places from which both soght to address the problems progressives identified.

    Today ideologies such as neoliberalism tend to combine market liberals with managerial ones. That easily becomes corporatism in its various guises.

    I pass this perspective on for what it is worth.

  • Les Kyle Nearhood

    No it is NOT ! Oh, you meant the book.

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