Many people seem to have lost the liberal compass in an age defined by illiberal resentment and discontent. Emily Chamlee-Wright, IHS President and CEO, poses a new framework to help us understand and recapture liberal values. Once we grasp these values, she argues, we are better positioned to use our liberal compass and advance the good society on a stable and secure footing.
In a piece for Profectus Magazine, Chamlee-Wright builds on a previous article that explores each corner of the liberal rectangle. The “Four Corners” framework comprise political, economic, epistemic, and cultural liberalism. “Each corner both reinforces and is in tension with each of the other corners,” writes Chamlee-Wright.
For example, political liberalism’s “priority is [in] constraining government power and keeping authoritarian populist impulses in check so that individuals have room to pursue their preferences and plans.” But political liberalism can’t happen without interacting with the other corners of the liberal framework.
“We need to call scholarly attention back to the liberal project to work through its tensions and move toward its ideal: a pluralistic society in which individuals and communities thrive in a context of openness, widespread prosperity, and mutual respect.”– Emily Chamlee-Wright
For instance, marriage equality, “a politically liberal arrangement, expanded access to a core social institution to those who had previously been denied the same rights as other Americans,” she says. “Whether political liberalization was the result of changing attitudes — cultural liberalization — or vice-versa is hard to say.”
The focus on the Four Corners reminds liberals of the shared set of values that serve to “reassert the liberal temperament — an attitude of openness, humility, and optimism.” She writes that the “Four Corners framework invites an open conversation among the diverse cohort of liberal thinkers who see themselves in any or all of the corners. When we recognize each other as engaged in the practice of liberalism — even, or especially, if there are points of significant disagreement — we can establish the common ground beneath our feet.”