Lamenting the ideological polarization in American public life has become a feature of modern politics. But perhaps what ails America is less what divides the Left and Right than the errors they share. In “Taking the Long Way,” published in First Things in 2014, political thinker Yuval Levin argues that liberals and conservatives are both inspired by an overly individualistic understanding of the human person and a weak vision of political freedom. For all the apparent differences between our parties, Levin believes we must attend to the tacit assumptions that serve as the philosophical foundation for both of them. Levin turns to the Book of Exodus in order to help him explain a more enduring liberation consistent with a truer understanding of the human condition. This more enduring freedom does not spring fully formed into the hearts and minds of spontaneously ordered libertarians or exquisitely managed progressives. Political freedom is an achievement that lies at the end of a long road, best traveled in the company of friends, neighbors, and family.
In this podcast, Levin joins Tikvah Senior Director Jonathan Silver to discuss this important essay. They begin by discussing what both the Left and Right get wrong about freedom. Then, using Exodus to guide their conversation, Levin and Silver discuss the stations on the long road to liberty, the potential pitfalls along this path, and what traditional Jews can teach their fellow citizens about creating the cultural preconditions that sustain the free society.
Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble, as well as Ich Grolle Nicht, by Ron Meixsell and Wahneta Meixsell.