Competing Visions of the Future: Socialist and Classical Liberal

IHS Advanced Studies Summer Seminar, “Liberty & Scholarship: Challenges and Critiques” Bryn Mawr College, Philadelphia, PA.

Date: 13-19 June, 2015

Lectures on:

  1. “The Classical Liberal Tradition – A History of Ideas and Movements over 400 Years” – two lectures
  2. “Images of Liberty and Power: State Propaganda and its Subversion”
  3. “Competing Visions of the Future: Socialist and Classical Liberal”

Lecture 3. “Competing Visions of the Future: Socialist and Classical Liberal” – PDF 6MB and HTML


Outline: One’s vision of the future depends upon one’s attitudes towards the following:

  • human nature: will it stay the same or must it be changed?
  • social and economic institutions: will they be similar to those which exist today or will new ones replace them?
  • the role of the State and other coercive institutions: can people run their own lives harmoniously or do they need guidance and control?
  • science and technology: should one be optimistic or pessimistic about their impact?

Long socialist tradition of writing utopian visions of a future socialist society, with the following features:

  • the economic problem of scarcity and the knowledge problem have been eliminated
  • the creation of a “New Socialist Man”
  • children prepared for life in the new society by being taken from their families, public schooling, service in the military
  • communal living, ownership of property, working arrangements
  • the end of wage labour and profits
  • rule by a wise and humane managerial elite who rationally plan all aspects of society and the economy

Examples of socialist visions of the future: from the garden of Eden to Star Trek

CLs have far fewer utopian visions of the future (why?) but many dystopian visions of the state run wild:

  • some examples of a CL utopian future: from Bastiat to Ayn Rand
  • examples of a CL dystopian future: from Eugen Richter to “The Hunger Games”

The CL dilemma: there is no one vision of a free, peaceful, and prosperous future society. How then to accommodate different people pursuing their own different visions of the “good life”?

  • Nozick’s idea of competing utopias in a “framework for utopias”
  • Kukathas – the liberal archipelago of “different jurisdictions operating in a sea of mutual toleration”