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Please Don’t Call Them Liberals

by | Feb 9, 2017 | Columns, Education, The Left


17th Century philosopher John Locke, “Father of Liberalism”

For as long as anyone can remember, those in the free market realm have uniformly labeled their political and ideological opponents as “liberals.”  That word has become a permanent fixture in the political lexicon.

But the Democrat party ceased being liberal some time ago. These days, the left has resorted to tactics that more closely resemble fascism than democracy, and betray the most basic meaning of that word.

It used to be that the words “liberal” and “leftist” seemed interchangeable.  But not anymore.  Not for quite some time.  And this is not merely a semantic difference.

The fact is, “liberalism” has always been a stolen, illegitimate term to define the Democratic Party.  And after usurping and corrupting the meaning of the word, they have now virtually abandoned their own radically revised principles.  Ironically, the opposing ideology of classical liberalism in its original form was called conservatism — the very word most commonly used to define the classical liberals of today.

Have I confused you yet? Allow me to explain.

Consider the genesis of the word liberal in the ideological realm.  It was in 18th century Europe and was called then as it still is today: Classical Liberalism. And it was anything but a leftist school of thought. The foundations of its philosophy are limited government and the freedom of individuals — including the freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and markets. It was inspired by 17th-century philosopher John Locke and economist Adam Smith, author of what many consider the bible of free market economics, The Wealth of Nations.

Does that sound even remotely like the belief system to which we ascribe the term liberal today?

So, you will ask, how did this word become so corrupted and attached to people who believe the opposite of classical liberalism’s bedrock principles?

It happened when classical liberalism was the subject of a hostile takeover by social liberalism in the 20th century, and employed in service of expanding the very antithesis of the classical liberal worldview: the welfare state.  It took full root during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, with his New Deal representing the emphatic start of an almost century-long march to larger government and correspondingly diminished market freedom.

Following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, who many believe was the last genuine liberal – classical or social – to grace the White House, liberalism began taking on water.  The free-spending and socially permissive ways of these liberals became increasingly unpopular to the point that the word liberal was employed by Republicans as an almost universal pejorative in defining their Democrat opponents.

But now, even the new definition of liberal is no longer applicable. The attributes with which liberals long defined themselves have been discarded. Openness, tolerance and individual freedom no longer matter to those we persist in naming liberals.  They have closed their minds to all ideas but their own, and seek to punish those with whom they disagree, often with violence.  The recent riots at UC-Berkeley, ironically the home of the free speech movement of the 1960’s, are just the latest in a long line of campus outrages and suppression of free speech that have gone unrenounced by today’s liberals.

The fact is, these liberals have made such a mess of America’s universities that people who favor freedom of expression and ideas should now naturally be more at home in the Republican party.  Their ideas will not necessarily be embraced by the GOP, but at least they won’t be automatically targeted and condemned.

Yes, there remain some genuine, intellectually honest folks of the liberal persuasion on the fringes of the center-left, but they have been overrun in their party’s march to the hard left.

These barbarians trying to shut down all dissent seem blind to an obvious irony: what they are projecting on to Donald Trump and conservatives is precisely what they have become; namely paragons of intolerance.  Fascistic even.  Liberals of today have now become the illiberal left

So call them leftists, statists, socialists, Marxists or collectivists.  But please don’t call them liberals.

Read More From Tim Donner

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