Decalogue & Democracy

At the magazine Mosaic, Peter Berkowitz examines the relationship between the Decalogue and liberal democracy, taking his cue from a recent essay by Leon Kass. Both men, Kass and Berkowitz, are among the most thoughtful conservative voices around but I think they are wrong when they suggest that the Israelites were given a choice. In the strict sense, this is true, but the choice was between life and death, which is not what most people consider a choice in our modern understanding of the word. I also think Kass and Berkowitz elide the central issue: To what extent can liberal democracy's commitment to a negative conception of liberty, that is, seeing freedom as a "freedom from," compatible with the Jewish and Christian understanding of freedom as positive freedom, a "freedom for." Still, these are important issues that Kass and Berkowitz are raising and they deserve the kind of careful, judicious treatment they provide. 

Join the Conversation

Send your thoughts and reactions to Letters to the Editor. Learn more here