With respect to politics, liberalism is an especially twisted word. As Wikipedia’s ambiguous article on Classical liberalism observes, the definition of Liberalism has shifted over time. Thus, that article sort of begins with the right idea.
Classical liberalism is a political philosophy and ideology belonging to liberalism in which primary emphasis is placed on securing the freedom of the individual by limiting the power of the government.
Yet along the way, that Wikipedia article somehow manages the stunt of equating “extreme” Classical Liberalism with Social Darwinism. How did that Wikipedia article get it so wrong? The author started with the assumption that Classical Liberalism is a type of Liberalism, but Classical Liberalism is actually what people use to call Liberalism.
An NCPA article, Classical Liberalism vs. Modern Liberalism and Modern Conservatism, provides a less muddied perspective. The author, John C. Goodman, wants us to adopt the philosophy of Classical Liberalism. That article observes this distinction with Modern Liberalism.
Most liberals — at least mainstream liberals — believe you should be able to say anything you like (other than yelling fire in a crowded theater), no matter how much it offends and, for the most part, no matter how seditious. They also believe you should be able to publish almost anything as a matter of right. But they reject the idea of economic rights. They reject, for example, the notion of a right to freely sell one’s services in the labor market. The New York Times in particular supports minimum wage legislation that keeps people from working if they cannot produce at least $7.25 an hour.
Anyway, a couple of years ago, I posted HAYEK ON HOW WE DEFINE THE TERMS “LIBERAL” AND “CONSERVATIVE “. Rather than repeat that, let’s just consider why its important to get political labels right.
Consider the Duck test.
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. (from here)
Google around the Web. Some variations of the Duck test replace the phrase “walks like a duck” with “swims like a duck,” but relatively few variations of the Duck test include the phrase “flies like a duck.” Why doesn’t the Duck test usually include flying? Domesticated ducks don’t fly. Add flying and the Duck test excludes domesticated ducks.
Domesticated ducks have owners. The owners of domesticated ducks clip the wings of their pets or livestock. Clipping Duck and Goose Wings to Prevent Flight shows how it is done.
Why is the exclusion “flies like a duck” from the Duck test significant? It hides the fact that ducks have two “political parties”: the Wild Duck Party and the Domesticated Duck Party. Because they want to fly, members of Wild Duck Party believe in fending for themselves. Members of the Domesticated Duck Party, on the other hand, will accept handouts, ignoring the consequences that come with those handouts.
Similarly, we can divide people into two political parties based upon a critical lifestyle choice. When we compare Classical Liberals and Conservatives with Modern Liberals, what is that critical difference? Whereas Modern Liberals are willing to be domesticated in return for handouts, Classical Liberals and Conservatives don’t think the government should be passing out handouts. Classical Liberals and Conservatives would rather be free; they know what happens to domesticated animals. After a farmer fattens up a duck, he serves it up for dinner.
Consider the irony. Don’t Modern Liberal organizations like PETA spend more effort freeing animals into the wild than they do protecting the freedom of human beings? If we warehouse chickens in cages or stage dog fights that upsets the Modern Liberal. Yet if government officials strive to make the poor dependent, the same people look the other way. Why is that?
Look at the matter from a politician’s perspective. When we allow our leaders to purchase our votes and our loyalty, they know we have no honor. Therefore, power-hungry men and women will first try to ensure our loyalty by making us dependent upon them. Then, with the object of leaving us no choice in the matter, they will create a police state. At that point, they can serve us up for slaughter any time they please.
Are you one of the people who voted for President Barack Obama? Did you think you were voting for a savior, someone who would give you all the things you want and eliminate all the things about America you hate? Do you still deny you just elected a self-indulgent man who craves power? Do you still yearn for solution to all your problems from government? Then you are not a Classical Liberal. You are a Modern Liberal.
If you are content to be domesticated, then you are a Modern Liberal. If you would sacrifice your freedom for the security of walking in an untidy barnyard and swimming in a stagnant little pond, then you are a Modern Liberal. If you are afraid to fly — if you think only The Dear Leader can be trusted with flight — then you have already been domesticated. You are no longer wild enough to make decisions for yourself.
Interested in reading other posts on twisted words? Check out OF TWISTED WORDS => FEMINISM. That post contains a list of links.