yet more on the "a" word
mgraber at GVPT.UMD.EDU
Thu Oct 24 10:33:31 PDT 2002
Professor Volokh notes several problems with the word "authoritarian."
(1) that have little in common with the term's everyday meaning
(which means that the term is more likely to confuse than enlighten),
(2) that fault the Right under a standard that, if evenhandedly
applied, would be equally applicable to a vast range of actions done by
Left (in politics, the judiciary, and so on) -- but somehow, it ends up
being evenhandedly applied --
(3) that so lack an articulated definition that they seem to be
simply an objective-sounding way of saying "I don't like this policy or
(4) two or three of the above.
All of the above are likely to the case with respect to any
essentially contested concept. In particular, 3) tends to be true of
such words as "liberty" or "equality," and I am pretty confident @) is
also the case. For better or worse there is no neutral definition of
"authoritarian" independent of beliefs about liberty and equality and
the like. If you buy Balkin's normative beliefs (I largely you), you
believe Bush and Company are authoritarian. If you do not, you don't
and may even believe that Balkin and I have some authoritarian beliefs.
Mark A. Graber
mgraber at gvpt.umd.edu
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