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Liberalismo, socialismo e democrazia

Anno XXII, n. 97, aprile-giugno 1987
Centro Einaudi


Liberalism, socialism and democracy

The author aims to defend a liberal-socialist interpretation of democracy. He, thus, begins the essay by admitting liberalism's historical and theoretical priority over socialism: he proceeds to demonstrate the weaknesses of liberalism, pointing out the necessity for its integration into socialism. Liberalism may be defined as a particular economic, political and moral doctrine designed to foster economic efficiency, political tolerance and moral neutrality respectively. Economic efficiency must be integrated by considerations of equity. Indeed a) not all the distributions emerging as Pareto-optimal are equitable, and b) not all goods – e.g. those linked to the environment – have a price even if they do possess a value. The author feels that, in order to solve these problems, it is necessary to resort to a concept of justice that is not purely formal and procedural (as in the case of liberalism) but that is, to some extent, fundamental (viz. socialism). The concept of tolerance must be integrated by an objective vision of the common good. Indeed if we wish to solve all the problems posed by Arrow's theorem (which demonstrates the impossibility of aggregating all the preferred systems of individuals into one collective solution), we must strive to assess the various conceptions possible of the common good, hence restricting the applicability of the criterion of tolerance. This is possible by means of liberal-socialist public ethics. Ethical a-valuation and neutrality must then be completed by a theory of integrity presupposing a firm and necessary bond between the conception of the self and collective processes. It would otherwise be extremely difficult to imagine any relationship whatsoever (even a debatable one) between individual autonomy and collective happiness.