Saturday, November 6, 2010

I Am a Liberal

If you've been reading my blog for a while here's some surprising information for you. I am a liberal. Yes it's true. Have been for years, not even realizing it for many of those years.

Now before you faint you might ask just what kind of liberal I am. After all, I have criticized many today who call themselves liberal. The answer is that I am a classic liberal which is almost the polar opposite of what passes for a liberal today.

I believe in liberty and individual responsibility. Furthermore I believe our liberty is a God-given right, not something government doles out to us. I believe strongly in the principles set out in the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...”

Now if each of us has inalienable rights it follows that government should not take away those rights. That is true if government is a monarchy, a democracy, or a republic. Even if 99% of the people want to restrict the rights of the other 1%, they have no justification to do so.

That is liberalism in its true sense. It is the historic meaning of the term. Any political philosophy that unduly restricts liberty is not liberal, it is statist. The appropriation of the word by today's statists is Orwellian newspeak, a triumph of public relations but a detriment to our supposedly free society. Some call themselves “modern liberals,” “positive liberals,” “progressives,” etc. but the fact remains that they want increased government and less individual freedom. They are statists.

Sadly, the real liberals did not step up and point out the fact that "positive liberalism" is in many ways the opposite of true liberalism. Rather than being "progressive," it is in fact a regression to the days when government was regarded as having divine wisdom to which the people should defer.

One example happened recently in Oregon. A farm in the eastern part of the state hosted a wedding. I confess that I fail to see who was harmed by that event. My liberal attitude says that we should allow them to use their property as they see fit. It is their property after all. However the statists who call themselves liberals have created a law that governs how people use property. Farmland must be used for farming until the government blesses some other use. The owners of that farm had to pay a fine for their horrible crime.

The whole thing is reminiscent of the children's game, “Mother May I” in which each child must do exactly as instructed by the child playing the part of the mother. However in this case I would call it “Big Brother May I.” The statist attitude is that Big Brother, that is government, knows best and we all better obey. If we want to do something out of the ordinary we darn well better ask permission first. That is the opposite of the liberal attitude that allows us freedom to do whatever does not infringe on the rights of others.

This newspeak also creates confusion when we read literature written before it came about. I've recently read Hayek's book, “The Road to Serfdom” written during World War II. He continually talks about liberal ideas as opposed to various forms of socialism. What he means by liberal is freedom and individualism. However today's “liberals” tend towards exactly the socialism he was opposing.

We should not fall for the linguistic tricks of the statists. Instead any discussion of the topic should focus on the ideas themselves and how effective they are in benefiting humanity. A start is to use correct language which means we must insist that they are properly called statists. Webster defines statism as, "The principle or policy of concentrating extensive economic, political and related controls in the state at the cost of individual liberty." That obviously fits today's "liberals." In fact it fits many politicians of either party in the U.S., though the parties differ in how they apply their statist ideas.

Today's “liberals” are illiberal statists, not liberals. Our “progressives” are regressive statists, not progressives. They believe in big government, not freedom and individual responsibility. Let's call them what they are.

Next time I plan to discuss some of the problems statism creates.

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If you don't like it please tell me.

1 comment:

OregonGuy said...

Words have meaning. And the meaning of words should be respected. Ambiguity and equivocation are tools used to either shadow, cloud or obscure meaning. These are "tools" often used in court proceedings and political debate. If we can establish an ambiguity, or offer an equivocal meaning, we can shift the debate from one of issues, to one of definitions.

I, too, view myself as a classic liberal, steeped in the words of Hume and Burke. The teachings of our American Founders. An adherent to the idea promulgated by Voltaire, "Monsieur l'abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write." This is, I believe, a reflection upon a prior belief, that the truth is discoverable simply through observation and interpretation, and not dependent upon an intermediation from a master. And, that no man has a master, other than himself. This is the testimony found in Solzhenitsyn. This was the text of "The Gulag Archipelago" and "The Cancer Ward."

Man's natural state is to be free. To be at ones own liberty. Liberty as liberal. Liberal, as libertarian. Contrasted as the antipode to Leftism. Being on the Left, and imposing beliefs, attitudes and action from the Left.

Nice post. Thanks.