Three Political Ideas

There are only three great political ideas; all other political ideas are variations of Justice, Liberty and Equality. Recent discussions and issues reminded me of an old Firing Line show where William F. Buckley had Mortimer Adler as his guest.

Adler explained that of these three great ideas Justice was the most important and fundamental idea to guide public policy. As Adler explained, it is possible to imagine a dystopian society with too much liberty which leads to anarchy and chaos, just as it is possible to imagine a dystopian society with too much equality.

It is not possible to imagine any dystopian society that results from the exercise of too much justice.

Adler suggested that the proper way to view these three great ideas was to picture a vertical triangle with Justice at the apex and both Liberty and Equality as the points at the base of the triangle. Every conflict between equality and liberty can be resolved by a rational application of Justice.

Of course that will not solve the problem of who makes the decision and how it is enforced. Mortimer Adler's point was that we cannot even begin to have a rational discussion about political issues until Justice For All and the pursuit of Justice is the primary goal of all public policy.

Here is an explanation I found from a review of Adler's book, Six Great Ideas:


As for the ideas we act on, justice reigns supreme. Here I find Adler’s argument especially compelling. He argues that justice is an unlimited good, while liberty and equality are limited goods. The distinction comes from Aristotle. We can have too much of limited goods, while we cannot have too much of an unlimited good. Societies can have too much liberty or equality, but not too much justice.

[Edit to add link to Mortimer Adler archives: ]

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Meteor Man's picture

There is a YouTube video of an old episode of Firing Line that is headlined The Great Ideas, but the discussion I vividly remember watching is not included.

There is also an archived episode of Bill Moyers that describes this topic, but I cannot access the video:

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"They'll say we're disturbing the peace, but there is no peace. What really bothers them is that we are disturbing the war." Howard Zinn

Tony Wikrent's picture

Excellent! Makes me appreciate even more BLM. Thanks!

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- Tony Wikrent
Nation Builder Books(nbbooks)
Mebane, NC 27302

snoopydawg's picture

with right wing looney toons. There is one person who couldn't answer any questions about certain motions that judges use for trials. The Heritage foundation is recommending who they want on the courts I don't know if he was confirmed or not. But knowing that the republicans are okay with that, I'm betting that he was. Trump and the republicans are living their wet dreams in undoing everything that was put in place for our protection.

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Disclaimer: No Russian, living or dead, had anything to do with the posting of this proudly home-grown comment

edg's picture


You wrote "undoing everything that was put in place for our protection"

Both parties have been doing that since Richard Nixon won the presidency in 1969. Don't excuse Democrats. It was Jimmy Carter that started the deregulation frenzy. It was Bill Clinton that undid Glass-Steagall.

It was Barack Obama that crushed the Occupy Movement and institutionalized George W. Bush's police state:

Anything Trump does will be built on legal “infrastructure” created by the Obama administration, argues Jameel Jaffer, the former deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. It may be true that Obama worked to create a sound legal basis for his administration’s national-security and surveillance policies, Jaffer said. But in doing so, he also gave his policies, many of which were extensions of the Bush era, a sense of permanence and legitimacy. Now, Trump will inherit the “firm legal footing” Obama helped created.

Source: Obama Built an ‘Infrastructure’ for Civil-Liberties Violations That Trump Will Inherit

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