Have You Been Using The Term Liberal Incorrectly?
Kent Lalley, Intellectual Takeout
Liberalism, from the Latin liber, meaning free, referred originally to the philosophy of freedom. “Liberal” was once an honorable word used to describe those who put liberty first.
To the everyday American, a liberal is a person who votes Democrat, wants more government regulation, supports the redistribution of wealth from rich to poor, favors gun regulations, loves public education, and mostly stands in opposition to what passes as “conservative” these days.
This, in reality, is anti-liberalism. In fact, they are rather moderate socialists.
The change in meaning came about somewhere around 1900 in English speaking countries. Tragic, but it's more than just a definition disfigurement.
What Is Liberalism?
Liberalism is a comprehensive philosophy, the political creed, of those who favor liberty above the power of the state.
The use of state power is the use of physical force, one individual manipulating the will of another to his wishes under the threat of physical harm. Recognizing this is important because liberty is about real life, not merely an intellectual abstraction.
Pacifists are forced, through taxation, to pay for killing machines; vegetarians are coerced into subsidizing junk food and grazing land for cattle. Liberalism argues that no one should be faced with torture or death because of where her conscience leads her.
The origins of liberal anti-statism go back at least to the mid-17th-century English Levellers, who said that natural rights could be evolved from natural law.
It is this natural rights tradition that was the basis for the principles expressed in the American Declaration of Independence.
But liberal insights pre-date the Enlightenment and even have precedent in the ancient world.
So, let's get it in still sharper focus.