Saturday, April 4, 2009

I'm A Liberal

I am a liberal, and what's more, I'm in pretty good company. No I am not on medication, drinking the Kool Aid, nor has the world flipped on its axis. Neither have I been invited to the Kennedy compound for a global warming summit with Al Gore or an economic summit with Chris Dodd, Charlie Rangel, and Barney Frank. What has in fact happened is that I have decided that words after all, do mean things. 

You see Liberalism (or more accurately defined these days, Classical Liberalism), had it's birth in the Age of Enlightenment and is a philosophy that stresses individual liberty and a limited government. Taken in great part from the works of such writers John Locke, David Hume, and Voltaire it exhorts the concepts of equality of opportunity (not outcome as today's Liberals would like to believe), property rights, and equal rights under the law. 

It's no surprise therefore that I say that I'm in pretty good company when say that I am such a Liberal. Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, John Adams, James Madison, and the rest of the Founding Fathers were all such Liberals in their time. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are in fact based on such thinking. 

In turn, it was the Conservatives of the time who believed in a strong central government, sought government control of prices and wages, and were against the very concept of independence and the American Revolution. So what happened? How did what the Founding Fathers believed become the liberalism that we see today? 

The answer, once again is that words mean things. While Classical Liberalism believed in those principles previously outlined, there is another kind of Liberalism, Social Liberalism. Social Liberalism believes in heavier taxation and more government control of the economy. European Social Liberals of today in fact shows more of a tendency towards Socialism or even Communism than the more pure form of the philosophy. As language often does, the original meaning of words becomes gradually changed over time (some would say even perverted). Those with the loudest or most strident voices eventually decide what words will mean (much as the winners of a war write the history)

In the 19th and early 20th century, and especially during the Depression this led to a change in liberalism; especially in how it related to economic theory. It is here that the theories of John Maynard Keynes took root, in what classical liberals would say was a misguided attempt to get the government more involved with the economy to redress what Keynes felt was an inequality of wealth. It was this philosophy, taking hold in the policies of FDR's New Deal, that formed the basis of today's liberal thinking. Over time, those in power simply took over the meaning of the language, leaving the term Conservative for those seeking to maintain at least the status quo, and who rejected the type of change that these new Liberals were making.  

Time and History march on, and labels stick; but I take the position (as I said in the beginning of this posting) that words can and must have meaning. I believe that true liberal thinking (Classical Liberal thinking) is still of value in today's society. As I consequence, I proudly proclaim that I am indeed a Liberal. 


Brian said...

Robert A. Heinlein once said, "Political tags - such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth - are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire."

I think that's where we are today.

Winky Twinky said...

I completely agree with you and Brian... I've often thought the very same thing..the a revolution of sorts against what is happening now is pretty much reversed...that right-thinking people are now trying to liberate from the over reaching government. I've thought of modern-day leftist thinking people as more like teenagers, who do not know better but think they do...and conservatives as more parental, but just too tired to keep up the arguments at such a pace...

Roland Hansen said...

Excellent post, Tim. I wish more people took an educated interest such as you.

Tim Higgins said...


As a massive Heinlein fan I am ready to concede the floor to him (even though he has assumed room temperature) at any time.

Tim Higgins said...


Winston Churchill onces said that anyone under the age of 30 who is not a liberal has no heart, anyone over the age of 30 who is not a conservative has no brain.

I think we can rest our case with such thinking.

Tim Higgins said...


Kind words indeed and I am proud that I have been edumacated in the important things in life, though me readin' ain't that good, and my sums is not where they should be.

Hooda Thunkit said...


Well dern...

In the classic sense (meaning old/outdated) of the word I'm a liberal too, but in a modern conservative sense.

Roland Hansen said...

The first sci-fi book of the hundreds I have read was by Robert A. Heinlein. What an edumacated awesome author and person!

Now, amigos, let's ride!