America's three liberalisms

Re the hub-bub over Giuliani's remark about Obama not "loving America": once one understands the three liberalisms of America, the partial truth behind the remark, who it was designed to appeal to, and whom it offends, I think the true meaning behind what seems to be a trivial gaffe and subsequent controversy becomes clearer.

America's three liberalisms are:

* Liberal nationalism

* Liberal cosmopolitanism

* Liberal economism

If we make a table of the characteristics of each form, I think it will become fairly clear what I am talking about.

Liberalism Object of worship Intellectual Politician Sponsor
Liberal nationalism America Harry Jaffa John McCain Woody Johnson
Liberal cosmopolitanism Universal human rights John Rawls Barrack Obama George Soros
Liberal economism The free market Murray Rothbard Ron Paul The Koch Brothers

All three are liberalisms since the three objects of worship are intertwined: for instance, the cosmopolitans believe free markets (so long as their outcomes are moderated with redistribution) are an aspect of universal human rights, while the liberal nationalists believe that free markets are an attribute of American greatness. And liberal economism sees the free market as the sine qua non of universal human rights, and America as exemplary in so far as it has had freer markets than most countries. It is a matter of which characteristic comes to the forefront.

So when Giuliani says that Obama doesn't love America, he is trying to appeal to the liberal nationalists, and is indicating that Obama doesn't worship America, "you know, the way we nationalists do." (By the way, I have no idea whether Giuliani is being sincere here or just engaged in marketing.) And he is right about that: just look at column two, row two above. But Giuliani can't quite say that, since the liberal nationalists can't quite admit that they actually worship America. So he has to claim that Obama doesn't love America, which offends Obama supporters: Obama (and other liberal cosmopolitans) love America as a country leading the way towards an international regime of universal human rights. It is like the difference between worshiping the ground your wife walks on and loving her as an example of a liberated woman.


  1. I don't know what Giuliani meant, but it seems obvious that Obama does not much like the culture of the majority of American society, which he came into office intending to "fundamentally transform," and which he now seeks to overwhelm, and in the long run obliterate, with a vast infusion of unneeded immigrants, who will not be assimilated. How you can "love" a country while despising the majority of its citizens and their culture, I don't understand.

    I'll grant you that Obama does love certain subgroups of Americans, like the supporters of America's Islamist organizations, the twerps of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the people who "protested" in Ferguson last summer, and the rich louts he golfs with.

    1. Ian, did you read my post, or do you just enjoy ranting about Obama?

    2. I find the first two and a half lines of Ian's answer more convincing than your chart, and quite sufficient to explain Giuliani's perfectly mundane comments.

      There is nothing surprising or important here. Amongst Left intelligentsia patriotism is sneered at, as are most Americans. Giuliani is noting that Obama is a typical member of his class. This is true even amongst your third tribe: think Bryan Caplan.

    3. Ken, American nationalism is "sneered at" by liberal cosmopolitans to the extent it is not liberal cosmopolitanism. I think my chart explains that quite well, as well as Caplan: he sneers at it to the extent it is not market fundamentalism.

    4. I think its a class thing not an ideological thing. I think Cuban nationalism is admired in the Left nomenklatura.

    5. Wrong! The Bushes are pretty upper class, but clearly fit (or at least market themselves) as in row one.

      You and Ian hate Obama. My chart explains him, rather than hating him, so you don't like it much.

  2. Apologies if you think my comment is nonresponsive. If that's what you think, delete it.

  3. I disagree with your post insofar as it reduces "love" of country, or patriotism, to adherence to whatever ideology one associates with the country. In my view, "love of country" or patriotism refers to actually viscerally identifying with a particular country - meaning that country's society and culture - regardless of one's agreement or disagreement with the political or economic ideology that happens to reign in the country at the time. Thus, while American Socialists of 100 years ago, such as Eugene Debs, wanted radical political, legal and economic change in America, they identified with the American society of the time. The same could be said of the Progressives of the early 20th century (who were scathingly critical of the Constitution and the Founding Fathers) and the New Dealers (most of them, anyway). Unlike these earlier versions of the left, the "New Left" of the 1960s, and its lineal descendants in today's Democratic Party and its various constituency groups, seems to positively loathe ordinary, middle class, non-minority, non-hipster Americans (the kind of people who were once called "squares"). I see utter disdain for this class of people in the current president and the people who surround him and support him.

    To be fair, one can see the same sort of disdain for what used to be called normative American culture in libertarians (e.g. the egregious Bryan Caplan) and in many establishment so-called "conservatives" (such as Jeb Bush).

  4. I also think you're misrepresenting those you call "liberal nationalists" when you characterize them as worshippers of America, meaning, it take it, that you dismiss them as "my country right or wrong" types. That certainly does not apply to natural-rights republicans (small "r" intentional) like Jaffa, or even to John McCain, who, though often wrongheaded, castigated the Bush administration over the "torture" issue.


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