Controversies in politics arise from many sources, but the conflicts which endure for generations or for centuries show a remarkably consistent pattern. This book maintains that the enduring political controversies of the past two centuries reflect radically different assumptions about the nature of man. The very meaning of such words as "freedom," "equality," "rights," and "power" is drastically different in the context of different visions of man. Issues as diverse as criminal justice, income distribution, or war and peace repeatedly show those with one vision lining up on one side and those with another lining up on the other. The varied writings of such landmark figures as Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Milton Friedman show the clear mark of one vision, while the opposite vision is manifested in another tradition which extends from Thomas Paine and Condorcet to George Bernard Shaw, John Kenneth Galbraith, and John Rawls. At the heart of the conflict are questions about the moral and intellectual capabilities of human beings, and how these capabilities vary from one individual or group to another. The historical record shows these assumptions to be surprisingly different from what is commonly believed about the basic premises of the political left and the political right. The purpose of this book is not to choose between the two principal visions of the modern era, but to show the inherent logic of each. These are not rarefied theoretical--everyone is part of the conflict, and the stakes are as real as money, power, and survival.--From publisher description.