In a middle ground of political moderation there could be agreement about a society built on “virtues of prudence, justice, and beneficence”. Yet since those words belong to Adam Smith, the question mark inevitably hangs over centre-left Progressives.
They may claim to want a Smithian free enterprise system with rule of law. Obama said to Romney: “I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world's ever known. I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk-takers being rewarded. But I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot and everybody should do their fair share and everybody should play by the same rules”.
Obama’s statement is a Progressive position in the contemporary middle ground. However, without the keyword “beneficence” Smith’s vision of the good society holds little meaning for the average Progressive today. I wonder whether the domestic Progressive liberal agenda is not in fact reducible to beneficence, and, further, whether Smith’s liberal understanding of beneficence does not put these two ‘liberalisms’ in conflict.
I want to praise how David Brooks of the New York Times presents the case for moderation in politics.