PostHeaderIcon Classical Liberalism

Politics managed to sneak back into the previous thread’s ribald attempt to evade such. Chris eventually explained why he thinks of ‘liberals’ as left-wing ideologues, and how outdated it is of me to omit the qualifier ‘classic,’ while employing the term outside of the modern Left/Right political paradigm. While composing a response, it occurred to me that this discussion probably deserves its own post. So, I fleshed it out as a more fulsome reply. The block quotes below are from his referenced comment

The dictionary is awash in Orwellian distortions of the English language. The venerable term ‘liberal,’ like ‘Liberty,’ is derived from ‘Liber,’ meaning ‘free’ in Latin. Liberal political philosophy was developed by 17th & 18th century philosophers during the enlightenment, known as the Age of Reason. Thinkers like Adam Smith, David Hume, Voltaire, John Locke, et al, and all manner of Liberty loving, anti-tyranny, radicals like America’s founders, would have proudly worn the label ‘liberal’ in their day. Thus, I had always assumed that the Left had deliberately co-opted and inverted the term, as typical Orwellian Newspeak. That is, until I finally took the time to look up the word.

As is not at all unusual, the muddled definition I had been carrying in my head for decades, I had originally surmised from context and common usage, rather than consulting a dictionary. I suppose this is how and why language evolves over time. I would bet that most Americans have only a vague notion that ‘liberal’ means one or more of: left-wing; altruist; collectivist; socialist; communist; Marxist; atheist; Democrat; or simply the opposite of ‘conservative.’ The way it is used so often as an expletive by conservatives, suggests as much. Yet, none of those terms are used to define it, by any dictionary I have checked.

The term is used differently in American politics as I’m sure you know. Liberal and conservative now pretty much refer to attitude regarding adherence to the meaning and intent to the constitution and rule of law.

I reckon Chris’ attempt to define it by one’s attitude toward the U.S. Constitution, is much too parochial. That would only further confuse anyone trying to make sense of politics in other countries, which have conservative political parties called, “Liberal.”

Currently, the Oxford dictionary definition of liberal is simply: “open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values.” I really like the simplicity of that, and it describes me.

The Free dictionary offers: “Favoring reform, open to new ideas, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; not bound by traditional thinking; broad-minded.” That sure doesn’t sound tyrannical to me; quite the opposite.

My thesaurus suggests as synonyms for liberal: open-minded; broad-minded; moderate; freethinking; tolerant; laissez-faire; and noninterventionist. These are all positive values to my mind. Wouldn’t it require a rather staid dogmatist to reject them?

It turns out that all of these current definitions and synonyms, fairly describe my own attitudes and outlook on life. So, the only reason I ever need qualify my liberal bent with the prefix ‘classic,’ is to disavow the collectivist and altruistic nature of most Leftist social justice warriors, who are routinely labeled and disparaged as simply ‘liberals,’ by cultural warriors on the Right. Surprisingly, nowhere have I found the bugaboos of altruism and/or collectivism, mentioned under the heading of liberalism. This would suggest that in this case, the corruption of the English language was likely done by the Right, rather than the Left. They are the ones misusing the term.

More tutoring from Chris:

“I know it’s hard to accept but there will always be government. Always has been. Human nature doesn’t change like that.”

It depends on your definition of ‘government.’ By mine, in terms of systematic ‘rule,’ and ‘rulers’ employing armed enforcers to govern a population, there certainly has not always been. There have always been ungovernable frontiers on this planet, and there still are. E.g. the Pashtun tribal no-man’s-land, between Pakistan and Afghanistan. There are several others in that part of the world. Afghanistan itself is largely ungoverned, despite being considered a nation state.

You might not like the conditions extant in such frontiers; but there is nothing preventing those who choose to live there, from moving to the more ‘civilized’ areas of their countries, where they would be subject to the rule and rulers of the state. How many of us would move to a Galt’s Gulch in a heartbeat, to escape the tyranny of ubiquitous government rulers, tax collectors, and enforcers, if such a frontier still existed in America? I sure would.

“The single document in the world that comes closest to guaranteeing the liberalism you would desire is the constitution of the United States.”

Poppycock. Setting aside my rejection of your premise that a constitutional government is somehow required to maintain Liberty, the U.S. Constitution has obviously done no such thing, and never will. The only way such a document could ever hope to constrain a nation state’s tyrannical rulers, is if the citizenry were indefatigably ready, willing, and able to effectively revolt against their jackbooted thugs if necessary, and summarily hang the offenders without mercy, to strictly enforce it. With the passing of our generation, such will definitely no longer exist among the largely docile, dumbed-down, domesticated, sheeple that remain in America. More the pity… ◄Dave►

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