What we call ‘liberal’ in American politics is but a shell of what liberal used to mean. From a 19th century perspective and still in the United Kingdom liberals espoused individual rights, economic freedom (the fact that individual rights does not automatically imply economic freedom is a travesty), and a minimal state based on a fundamental distrust of government whose sole purpose was to safeguard individual rights. These liberals were the heirs of John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, and to some extent John Stuart Mill. I am myself ‘liberal’ in this sense of the word, but to call myself a ‘liberal’ in the United States would be to label myself as standing in opposition to most of what I really believe.
Though it is not my purpose here to figure out when or how this word was bastardized it is certainly interesting how the meanings of words change or become corrupted.
What I bemoan here is that a perfectly good word with a perfectly good meaning was hijacked to describe a diametrically opposed political philosophy.
Liberals in the United States do not possess a fundamental distrust of government.
Let’s just take one example, that of universal healthcare, which whatever you may think about the issue, it can not be disputed that American liberals, by advocating universal healthcare, implicitly trust the government to administer it in some way, shape, or form. Now remember, this is the same government that can not balance its budget, monitors our private communications, and starts illegal and immoral wars. Why anyone would trust the government with his own or anyone else’s health is far beyond my ability to comprehend.
In addition, the modern American liberal purports to stand for individual liberty, but supports programs like affirmative action and equal opportunity employment. These programs outlaw discrimination for the purposes of employment and other activities, and perhaps they do help some to obtain various positions. But what about an employer’s self-determination? What about his individual freedom? Though racial discrimination is certainly immoral, how is it consistent with individual rights to outlaw the practice? This is social engineering and abuse of the state to control individual behavior. That this policy is called ‘liberal’, simply represents a further bastardization of that word.
Now, I only mention all of this to gripe about how the meaning of the word ‘liberal’ has become corrupted. Where it used to mean individual freedom and limited government it now means limited freedom and virtually unlimited government.
Therefore I am dropping the word ‘liberal’ from my vocabulary. What the rest of the United States knows as ‘liberal’ I will call ‘socialist’, or if I am feeling particularly surly ‘communist’ – though those words have no real difference in meaning. Individuals who espouse totalitarian ideologies, even of the creeping sort, should not be allowed to usurp the word ‘liberal’ for their dubious ends.