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Post 0

Saturday, November 13, 2004 - 8:07amSanction this postReply
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It seems that more and more modern-day liberals are asking to be called Progressives. Does this mean that we can take back the word Liberal, to describe our political philosophy?

Craig




Post 1

Saturday, November 13, 2004 - 8:09pmSanction this postReply
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Hell yeah! Why shouldn't we take it back?

Adam



Post 2

Sunday, November 14, 2004 - 4:43amSanction this postReply
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How about calling ourselves "Independents"?

Michael




Post 3

Monday, November 15, 2004 - 1:12pmSanction this postReply
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I'd love to take back the world "liberal," but it seems a lost cause; it's too closely associated with the Left. However, I refer to myself politically as a classical liberal -- and that doesn't muddy the waters.

The trouble with "Independents," Michael, is that it doesn't convey anything at all; no one would have any idea where you stood.

Barbara



Post 4

Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - 5:51amSanction this postReply
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I say take back what was stolen from us! It’s our word and it only fits us.


I generally use the word “leftist” whenever I can, for our foes. Sometimes I use the phrase “social democrat” but I almost never use the word “liberal” for the left. I might use the phrase "welfare state" or "nanny state" and contrast it with a "liberal society." However, when I’m comparing our history to totalitarianism, “liberal democracy” seems to be clear to most.

I often refer to myself as a liberal. I'll add "classical" like Barbara, if it helps. In any case, it sparks a conversation.


I refuse to allow Ted Kennedy to wear our proud moniker. Take it off Ted!



(Edited by Jason Pappas on 11/16, 9:40am)




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Post 5

Tuesday, November 23, 2004 - 11:46amSanction this postReply
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Funny that this topic came up... did you all read the following leader in the recent Economist?

There's a word for that
Nov 4th 2004
From The Economist print edition


And we want it back


ALL through this election campaign, George Bush has flung the vilest term of abuse he knows at John Kerry. You name the policy—Mr Kerry's support for punitive taxes and reckless public spending, as Mr Bush put it; his preference for stifling government and overweening bureaucracy; his failure to stand up for, oh, expensive new weapons systems, microscopic embryos and the sanctity of marriage—and the president's verdict in each case was the same. “There's a word for that,” he said, again and again. “It's called liberalism.”

What more need one say? And Mr Kerry was not just any sort of liberal: he had actually been the most liberal member of the Senate. When told this, appalled Republicans jeered more loudly than if Mr Bush had accused his challenger of eating babies. (That man dared to run for president! Did he think he would not be found out?) Understandably, Mr Kerry was sometimes wrong-footed by this egregious defamation. Occasionally, smiling nervously, he said he was not ashamed to be liberal. (Audacious, but perhaps unwise.) At other times he tried to deny it. (You see, he protests too much.) In America, that kind of accusation cannot easily be shrugged off.

“Liberal” is a term of contempt in much of Europe as well—even though, strangely enough, it usually denotes the opposite tendency. Rather than being keen on taxes and public spending, European liberals are often derided (notably in France) for seeking minimal government—in fact, for denying that government has any useful role at all, aside from pruning vital regulation and subverting the norms of decency that impede the poor from being ground down. Thus, in continental Europe, as in the United States, liberalism is also regarded as a perversion, a pathology: there is consistency in that respect, even though the sickness takes such different forms. And again, in its most extreme expression, it tests the boundaries of tolerance. Worse than ordinary liberals are Europe's neoliberals: market-worshipping, nihilistic sociopaths to a man. Many are said to believe that “there is no such thing as society.”

Yet there ought to be a word—not to mention, here and there, a political party—to stand for what liberalism used to mean. The idea, with its roots in English and Scottish political philosophy of the 18th century, speaks up for individual rights and freedoms, and challenges over-mighty government and other forms of power. In that sense, traditional English liberalism favoured small government—but, crucially, it viewed a government's efforts to legislate religion and personal morality as sceptically as it regarded the attempt to regulate trade (the favoured economic intervention of the age). This, in our view, remains a very appealing, as well as internally consistent, kind of scepticism.

Parted in error

Sadly, modern politics has divorced the two strands, with the left emphasising individual rights in social and civil matters but not in economic life, and the right saying the converse. That separation explains how it can be that the same term is now used in different places to say opposite things. What is harder to explain is why “liberal” has become such a term of abuse. When you understand that the tradition it springs from has changed the world so much for the better in the past two and a half centuries, you might have expected all sides to be claiming the label for their own exclusive use.

However, we are certainly not encouraging that. We do not want Republicans and Democrats, socialists and conservatives all demanding to be recognised as liberals (even though they should want to be). That would be too confusing. Better to hand “liberal” back to its original owner. For the use of the right, we therefore recommend the following insults: leftist, statist, collectivist, socialist. For the use of the left: conservative, neoconservative, far-right extremist and apologist for capitalism. That will free “liberal” to be used exclusively from now on in its proper sense, as we shall continue to use it regardless. All we need now is the political party.




Post 6

Friday, December 17, 2004 - 10:28amSanction this postReply
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Barbara, Jason,

Calling the left "liberal" instead of "Socialist" is provicial American euphemysticism, and no intellectual should be so dishonest as to have anything to do with it. Back in 1978, when I was teaching on the Graduate Faculty of Social and Political Science at the New School, I suggested to some European graduate students the term "neo-Liberalism" for (classical) liberalism informed by American free-market and Libertarian ideas. The "NEO" comes from Ayn Rand's "For the New Intellectual," and I am happy to see that it has caught on. "Neo-Liberal" really does say what we mean.



Post 7

Friday, December 17, 2004 - 2:07pmSanction this postReply
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Adam: "Calling the left "liberal" instead of "Socialist" is provicial American euphemysticism and no intellectual should be so dishonest as to have anything to do with it."

Do you really think I'm dishonest in wanting to be understood?
If I were to call myself a "neo-liberal" as you suggest, no one would know what I meant.

Barbara



Post 8

Friday, December 17, 2004 - 2:16pmSanction this postReply
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Adam,
I really like your post above - "neo" liberal seems to be a good explaniation for what we are, even beyond the fact that it stems from Rand's For the New Intellectual. I like it becuase when I call myself that, I am likely to be asked what it means, and this can open up a dialogue about philosophy and political issues alike.




Post 9

Friday, December 17, 2004 - 7:40pmSanction this postReply
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Brabara,

This is NOT about you. The dishonest parties were (1) Socialists, who appropriated the designation of Liberal as a dishonest pretense, and (2) Conservatives, who dishonestly accepted and used the Socialist's false "Liberal" label in reference to Socialists - as a means of fraudulently discrediting their (the Conservatives') honest Liberal opponents. The essential dishonesty was the religious conservatives' association of secular liberalism with socialism. It was slander of Austin Heller, the Liberal opponent of social and cultural conservatism, for the Conservatives to label Ellsworth Toohey a "Liberal."

The true Liberals' - which I assume includes you - collaboration in the above is something that I have not studied in enough detail to comment on.



Post 10

Saturday, December 18, 2004 - 4:51amSanction this postReply
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I gave up on liberal/conservative and Left/Right labels a few months ago; I looked around and realized that I had no clue what they might mean in today's world.  I've instead begun using "forward" and "backward."



Post 11

Saturday, December 18, 2004 - 5:10amSanction this postReply
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Thanks, David, I didn’t read that article in the Economist; I’m glad you brought it to my attention. I agree. The author makes many good points.

 

My use of the word “leftist” is to free up the word “liberal” for our eventual usage. I, also, agree with Adam in post #6. However, I often don’t have the time to interrupt a political argument to engage in a fight over the word I believe is rightfully ours: liberal. Like Barbara, to make myself clear, I have to use what is available and in usage. But that leaves me with other terms besides liberal. I use leftist or social democrat.

 

Some leftist complain when I call them leftists instead of liberal. That’s when I give a speech like Adam’s – it usually leaves them disoriented and speechless. After all, who ever heard of a pro-capitalist free marketer who calls himself a liberal? But to my surprise I’ve actually had some moderate Democrats reconsider their viewpoint. Some, in their heart, do want to embrace individual liberty and are revolted by the Republican’s fundamentalist religion, corporate welfare, and obvious hostility to individual rights in sexual/reproductive issues. And these "mistaken leftists" aren’t fundamentally hostile to free markets. So it’s not just semantics. It’s a totally new concept to most people. It’s a good way to wake them up to the idea that they’ve been looking at politics via the false alternatives of the current package-deals. And there is an unknown ideal ... well you know the rest of the story.




Post 12

Sunday, December 19, 2004 - 7:01pmSanction this postReply
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Okay, Adam. Thanks for your response.

Barbara



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