The Possibility of Republican Liberalism
To make the case for the desirability of republican liberalism, it is necessary first to show that republicanism and liberalism are not altogether incompatible with each other. If they are -- if republican liberalism is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms that simply cannot form the basis of a political theory -- there is no point in trying to establish its worth.
Nor will it suffice to appeal to history. Even someone who believes that liberal and republican ideas and arguments have been historically intertwined may doubt that they share enough features to make republican liberalism either possible or plausible as a political theory. Lance Banning provides a case in point in the course of an argument that reaches this conclusion: "Logically, it may be inconsistent to be simultaneously liberal and classical. Historically, it was not." 1 According to Banning,
modern liberalism and classical republicanism are distinguishable philosophies. Liberalism is a label most would use for a political philosophy that regards man as possessed of inherent individual rights and the state as existing to protect these rights, deriving its authority from consent. Classical republicanism is a term that scholars have employed to identify a mode of thinking about citizenship and the polity that may be traced from Aristotle through Machiavelli and Harrington to eighteenth-century Britain and her colonies. The two philosophies begin with different assumptions about human nature and develop a variety of different ideas.
The "incompatibility" of liberalism and classical republicanism "will seem much more pronounced," Banning continues, if we follow those who take liberalism "to encompass capitalism or imply a bourgeois attitude and set of values."
Liberalism, thus defined, is comfortable with economic man, with the individual who is intent on maximizing private satisfactions and who needs to do no more in order to serve the general good. Classical republicanism regards this