A Sympathetic Liberty

"Unfair? Perhaps. Libertarianism, rightly understood, has more than adequate historical and philosophical resources to articulate both a concern for the poor and sound anti-poverty policy. I comfort myself with the fact that many libertarians seem relatively uninformed about the full possibilities of their own philosophy.

Over the past year, I have become convinced that a broader and more robust understanding of the classical liberal project embodied in the totality of Adam Smith’s work—The Theory of Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations—might hold the seeds of, if not peace, perhaps a rapprochement, or at least a greater mutual appreciation. Smith’s view of the centrality of the human person and how human beings develop is the starting point for this conservative-libertarian convergence. This new understanding would be undergirded by Smith’s concept of “sympathy” as the source of both the mutuality and interdependence cherished by conservatives and the properties of “emergent order” so valued by libertarians."