Author Date


Degree Name



Political Science


Family, Home, and Social Sciences

Defense Date


Publication Date


First Faculty Advisor

Ralph Hancock

First Faculty Reader

Ralph Hancock

Second Faculty Reader

Ryan Davis

Honors Coordinator

Ethan Busby


Natural rights, critical race theory, liberalism, political philosophy, Michael Zuckert


Is critical race theory compatible with liberalism? I argue that it is not, and that natural rights theory, liberalism's rational core, ought to be preferred as the primary framework to create public policy and understand the law. Critical race theory (CRT) has outgrown its original design as a legal critique and become a political worldview, although it is not developed enough to constitute an ideology or philosophy. It has inspired various organizations and movements that expand upon its principles and propose ideals and policies that conflict with the current constitutional liberal order. Many conflicts between natural rights theory and critical race theory occur because CRT is applied in the political realm as if it was a fully developed ideology. CRT lacks the structure needed to guard against arbitrary abuse of power and supplants liberal values of individual rights with racial equity above all other considerations. There are many valid critiques of the current liberal system, but the solutions proposed by CRT are unsustainable. Ultimately, while CRT and natural rights have some potentially intersecting goals, our American democracy must choose between these political frameworks to decide how we should think of our past, what we should change about our present, and what direction society should take in the future. This decision will determine the fate of liberalism itself.