Appeared in Winter 1996, Vol. XXII, No. 4

In this essay I would like to reflect on the role of pluralism, especially religious pluralism, in what I take to be the failure of the American experiment in ordered liberty. My argument is that, examined from the vantage point of the turn of the millennium, American claims to exceptionalism and superiority, clustered around the idea of ordered liberty, have proven unjustified. Enough American history has passed to see how the instability, internal incoherence, and inadequacy of the founding American assumptions about God, man, and society daily make the dream of ordered liberty ever more remote. The evidence of profound social disorder, of disordered liberty, lies all around. The jibes against Europe, that in America a fresh historical beginning, freed from Europe’s burdens and mistakes, would sustain something better than europe had known, a novus ordo seclorum, seem now premature and naive.1

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