Classical Liberals vs. National Conservatives in the Age of Coronavirus

Detail of portrait of John Locke by Godfrey Kneller, 1697 (Public Domain/Wikimedia)
The government’s response to the pandemic should give conservative advocates of a more powerful state pause.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE O ver the past few years, a small but growing cadre of religious conservatives has decided that classical liberalism — grounded in a belief in the natural rights and freedoms of the individual — is a grotesque mistake. The coronavirus pandemic should prompt this crowd to do a little soul-searching.

Despite their differences, liberalism’s right-wing critics are united in their fierce antagonism to John Locke, whose doctrine of government-by-consent inspired the American Revolution and informed the Founding. According to Yoram Hazony, the Jewish philosopher and author of The Virtue of Nationalism, Locke’s account of human nature amounts to “a far-reaching depreciation of the

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Joseph Loconte is director of the Simon Center for American Studies at The Heritage Foundation and the author of God, Locke, and Liberty: The Struggle for Religious Freedom in the West.


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