Rawls' requirement that citizens of liberal democracies support only policies which they believe can be justified in ‘public reason’ depends on a certain ideal for the relationships between citizens. This is a valuable ideal, and thus citizens have reasons to try to achieve it. But it is not always possible to find the common ground that we would need in order to do so, and thus we should reject Rawls' strong claim that we have an obligation to defend our views in public reason. Because I recognize that we have strong reasons to conduct our political enquiry within the guidelines of political liberalism, but deny that we always have an obligation to do so, one might call my view ‘permissive political liberalism’.