Which brings me to Jonah’s suggestion that “liberalism has a problem figuring out what its ideas are.” It’s not surprising that a conservative like Jonah would think this. But as I’ve written a number of times before (and as the Bertrand Russell quote in the masthead illustrates) liberalism is better understood as a way of approaching problems, not as a rigid set of substantive principles. In other words, what Jonah points to as a bug is actually a feature of liberalism; indeed, I’d argue it’s the defining feature.
For instance, liberals are not interested in big government for big government’s sake. If a problem can better be addressed through a market-based approach, they’re all for it. It is certainly true that there are a number of policies which most liberals support. But the reason they support these policies is because they believe they have been demonstrated, through argument or experience, to be superior to the alternatives. And most liberals aren’t afraid to re-examine their policy preferences should experience and empirical data suggest that something else would work better.