James Kalb has described the differing outlooks of right and left liberals in his recent essay Out of the Antiworld. He argues that both kinds of liberals want to make individual preference the supreme good in society. Right-liberals tend to be those who like action and who therefore see the satisfaction of individual preference in terms of "the unlimited pursuit of career, power and money in a sort of competitive free-for-all". This right-liberal "party of action" focuses on "markets, entrepreneurs and minimal regulation."
The left-liberals want to maximise individual preference differently. This party consists of:
experts, officials, and explainers, who are enormously influential in a complex, bureaucratic, technological, and media-ridden society like our own. Such people are less interested in action and acquisition than in the creation of a scheme of total control through exact knowledge. The ideal they strive for is a sort of EU writ large, a universal system of social management run by expert functionaries that secures and fine-tunes maximum equal preference satisfaction for everyone everywhere. Such a system requires uniformity, centralization, and strict limits on disturbing factors like enterprise and competition.
In 1965 the Federal President of the Australian Liberal Party (our right-liberal party), Philip McBride, made this comment:
...We are not to be held back, nor do we want to see Australia held back, by the belief that our national destiny is to be found in a bureaucratic State where theorists are paramount
You can see that in 1965 right-liberals were focused on the debate with left-liberals, not with traditionalists. McBride saw his opposition as being the left-liberal party of "experts, officials and explainers".
But if the debate is limited to an argument between right and left liberals can we really be surprised if society drifts ever further in a liberal direction? James Kalb has made an excellent contribution with his essay to opening up debate, by criticising liberalism as an "operating system" rather than just opposing this or that liberal policy.