A Christian Defense of American Classical Liberalism

I’d like to introduce you to a term you need to know (indeed, many of you no doubt know it already). It’s “horseshoe theory,” and its short definition is relatively simple. As political movements grow more extreme, they grow more alike. Like a horseshoe, they bend closer together.

A classic example of horseshoe theory is represented by 20th-century European clashes between fascists and communists. It’s not that there aren’t differences between fascism and communism, it’s that in their totalitarian reality, the two competing regimes created quite similar conditions on the ground. 

Thankfully the American manifestations of horseshoe theory haven’t created anything remotely like the fascism and communism that led to history’s bloodiest war, but we’re seeing horseshoe theory emerge nonetheless, and its left-wing and right-wing manifestations have settled on the same target—American classical liberalism.

By “American classical liberalism,” I mean the specific structure of government created by the founding generation, modified and expanded through the Civil War Amendments, affirmed and extended through judicial precedent. While this constitutional structure is malleable enough to accommodate a wide variety of social, economic, and foreign policy choices, at its heart it is defined by a commitment to individual liberty, equality under law, and democratic government. 

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