How Liberalism Puts Children at Risk

Freedom’s Orphans Contemporary Liberalism and the Fate of American Children David L. TubbsPrinceton University Press, 2007; 233 pages, $66.00 cloth, $30.95 paper. In Freedom’s Orphans, David L. Tubbs asks contemporary American liberals—can one take freedom too far? As he sees it, the question is simply “whether the exercise of certain freedoms by adults—including some freedoms having the status of constitutionally protected rights—may adversely affect children.” He centers his argument at the level of the most vulnerable because he is hoping to engage his opponents where they are most vulnerable. Can they draw no distinction between free speech and obscenity or distinguish between shouting vulgarities in public and expressing a political opinion? If Americans want to protect Huck Finn from censorship, must the law also protect pornography? The seeming inability to make these critical, commonsense distinctions in contemporary constitutional law frustrates average citizens, especially those attempting to raise children in a wholesome environment. Tubbs attempts to engage liberals on their own terms. To do that, he asks why American liberalism, dominant since World War Two, has been incapable of making basic moral distinctions. While other scholars look to natural rights and the American founding, Tubbs knows that the very liberals he wishes to challenge do not find these arguments compelling. Similarly, he shuns both Leo Strauss’s and Alasdair MacIntyre’s return to classical and medieval philosophy. Tubbs finds their assessment of liberalism too harsh. He thinks that modern liberalism is not necessarily nihilistic, only accidentally so. While he acknowledges that his teachers—George Kateb, Judith Shklar, and Amy Guttman—are unable to envision a common good, he still thinks it possible to work within the premises of modern liberalism to argue for restraint. After all, liberalism had its moral triumphs in the past, such as the prohibiti
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