Interesting Discussion. Let’s get two things straight up front: 1) I believe this author – a Canadian-American – uses “Liberal” where far more commonly for most of his points most Americans would use “Libertarian”. He uses the Canadian understanding of the term (and, indeed, most of the world outside of the US, at least according to my own understanding), which may be problematic for US audiences. 2) The 5* rating here is not because I actually agree with his points – largely, I do not, which I’ll get to momentarily – but because for the style of book that it is – a discussion of political philosophy, ostensibly as a father writing to his daughter – I really can find no fault here beyond “I strongly disagree with what the author says here”, and I do my best to not drop stars over such disagreements absent some more concrete issue.
On the actual arguments in question, again, I believe he is arguing more for (mostly) what an American audience would more readily understand as “libertarianism” – Rule of Law, equality of opportunity no matter one’s demographics, and a strong commitment to the freedom of speech. Yes, he goes off on leftist/ progressive tangents such as gun control and universal healthcare at times, but the author does a pretty solid job of always coming back to the central thesis, and showing how both the “left” and “right” in most countries (but particularly the US) both hate what he calls “liberalism” and why both camps are wrong. I could probably write a book concurring in conclusion but dissenting in approach myself, particularly over Gopnik’s obsession with John Stuart Mill and On Liberty – a book I myself read just a couple of years ago and found useful to the overall conversation, but ultimately problematic.
Still, as with Mills’ book – a conjoining the author will likely appreciate – this text serves as a solid look at a particular way of thinking and is thus worthy of consideration. Recommended.
This review of A Thousand Small Sanities by Adam Gopnik was originally written on June 20, 2020.