Home' Policy Magazine : Policy Vol 33 - No 2 Contents 44 POLICY • Vol. 33 No. 2 • Winter 2017
ARCHIPELAGO OR LANDMASS?
to which they are party must be allowed to represent
them fully. When associations are seen as a vehicle of
individual rights, it becomes apparent that curtailing
an association’s freedoms curtails, by extension, the
liberties of its individual members. Seen in this way,
the health of a liberal democracy may be measured
by observing the state’s treatment of voluntary
associations. Kukathas makes this argument, but
cautions that freedom of association ‘does not mean
that other liberties—of speech, for example—are
unimportant; but they are less important because
they either derive from or are subordinate to this
more fundamental freedom.’
In a free society, individuals who have chosen to
join an association should not have their rights of
conscience and moral speech taken away, no matter
how they choose to express them—whether directly
or through an intermediary or group—provided
they do no violence to others who disagree. Co-
bearer of the members’ individual freedoms,
voluntary associations are integral elements of a
free and just society. It is fundamentally intolerant
to require them to conform their moral views and
legally permissible actions in support of those
views to those prescribed by the state. That is a
warning sign of an overweening state, intent on
enforcing an approved uniformity on civil society
that undermines voluntary associations and a
healthy democracy. Peaceful pluralism is only
possible where social uniformity is not the goal—
an archipelago, not landmass. Co-existence, not
complete congruence, is the only way of protecting
individual freedoms. ‘Live-and-let-live’ is far from a
banal platitude; it is in all our interests.
1 Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of
American Community (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000).
2 Robert A. Nisbet, The Quest for Community: A Study in
the Ethics of Order and Freedom (Wilmington: ISI, 2010
3 Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. James
T. Schleifer, ed. Eduardo Nolla (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund
4 As above, 902.
5 Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. Henry
Reeve (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth, 1998 ), 101.
6 As above, 360.
7 As above, 101.
8 Nisbet, The Quest for Community, 244.
9 Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot
(Washington D.C.: Regnery, 1986 ).
10 Edmund Burke cited in Reflections on the Revolution in
France ed. J.G.A. Pocock (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987
11 Kirk, The Conservative Mind, 478.
12 As above.
13 Yuval Levin, The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s
Social Contract in the Age of Individualism (New York, Basic
14 Simon Kennedy, ‘Freedom of Association: Sanity Succeeds
on Spring Street,’ The Spectator (6 December 2016),
15 ‘Don’t Mess with Marriage,’ Australian Catholic Bishops
Conference, (2015), https://www.sydneycatholic.org/pdf/
16 ‘Anti-Discrimination Complaint “an Attempt to Silence”
the Church over Same-Sex Marriage, Hobart Archbishop
Says,’ ABC (28 September 2015), http://www.abc.net.
17 David Crowe, ‘Same-Sex Marriage Event off: Threats
to Hotel Staff,’ The Australian (17 September 2016),
18 Primrose Riordan, ‘Gay Marriage Activists Target IBM
Boss Over Christian Link,’ The Australian (22 March
19 Paige Cockburn, ‘Coopers Brewery distances itself from
Bible Society’s same-sex marriage video, faces backlash’,
ABC (15 March 2017), http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-
20 William A. Galston, Liberal Pluralism: The Implications of
Value Pluralism for Political Theory and Practice (New York:
Cambridge University Press, 2002), 23.
21 Chandran Kukathas, The Liberal Archipelago: A Theory of
Diversity and Freedom (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
22 As above, 115.
23 As above.
The health of a liberal democracy may
be measured by observing the state’s
treatment of voluntary associations.
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