Tyler Cowen has started an interesting conversation with this Volokh Conspiracy post on why he’s not a modern liberal. His discussion largely revolves around a pragmatic argument concerning immigration and welfare.
I agree with Tyler that this kind of exchange is extremely fruitful, and that we should have more of them:
I think this kind of direct written exchange is massively undervalued in academia (I would like to see an entire journal of direct written debates, for one thing). My compliments to Brad and to the blogosphere.
After reading all of this, though, I continue to think that an argument for classical liberalism over modern liberalism cannot be premised on pragmatic/utilitarian/consequentialist terms alone. I think the question to pose to Brad is this: do you want a social environment based on the primacy of the individual and on negatively-defined rights? I think that core philosophical question will always separate the mutton from the lamb, so to speak.