Liberalism’s Legislative Renaissance

  • Juliet A. Williams


At the dawn of a new millennium, liberal theorizing about limited government finds itself at an impasse. Twentieth-century liberal theorists engaged in a fierce debate over the nature of first principles with the hope that arriving at an agreement on core liberal values might finally lead to a resolution of the long-standing controversy concerning how much government is too much. Rather than emerging in a consensus, however, liberals today find themselves deadlocked between libertarians and welfarists. In the previous two chapters, however, I have sought to show that beneath the persistent disagreements dividing liberals lies an implicit recognition that liberal principles alone cannot resolve the question of the legitimate scope and reach of coercion. The surprising renunciation of line-drawing by twentieth-century liberals reflects a shared commitment to respecting pluralism.1 For liberals, the commitment to pluralism is based on a recognition that there is room for reasonable disagreement about the nature of rights and the legitimate exercise of coercive power. As Bellamy explains, “the basic pluralist belief affirms that there are many moral and non-moral values and that in practice they may prove either inherently or contingently incompatible.”2


Judicial Review Public Reason Limited Government Individual Liberty Liberal Society 
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© Juliet A. Williams 2005

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  • Juliet A. Williams

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