“Liberalism was born in an effort to escape oppression and dogma — a critique of the alignment of the Crown and the Altar that was enforced by the Sword. True radical liberalism is a foundational critique, and seeks to set in place constraints and establish extreme limits on the scale and scope of the Crown, Altar and Sword. In operational terms this led to constitutionally limited government, religious toleration, and peaceful relations between nations through the free flow of labor, capital and goods. I have not raised the issue of the abolition of the Crown, the Altar and the Sword, I am just limiting the discussion to the constraints and the machinery of establishing and enforcing those constraints — the institutions of Liberalism.”
Read more of Petter Boettke’s piece at Coordination Problem
“Historian Stephen Davies describes classical liberalism as a comprehensive philosophy, which has had implications in all the major academic disciplines.
At an abstract level, classical liberalism offers three key insights:
1) The goal of life is human happiness and flourishing.
2) Personal choice and individual liberty are crucial in explaining and appreciating how society develops.
3) Commerce, wealth, and trade are preferable to war and conflict.
If you agree with these classical liberal insights, you might be a classical liberal!”
This blog covered Ayn Rand and her philosophy of objectivism yesterday, which is also an important political philosophy and even though classical liberalism ( or liberalism ) and objectivism have things in common and that libertarianism has a lot in common with liberalism as well, there actually different political philosophies than liberalism. And even though they have a lot more in common with liberalism than socialism, they’re actually fairly different. Which is what I’m going to explain here.
When people think of Liberals, they tend to think of people who are so in love with government, ( especially big government ) that they would go to bed with it, if they could and even bang government. Not bang on government like in protest, but bang government, because they’re so attracted to it. And that’s as far as I’m going to go with that metaphor: at risk of disappointing anyone.
When people think of Liberals, ( especially the so-called mainstream media ) they think of people who from Senator’s Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, Representative Alexandria O. Cortez, even though none of these members of Congress self-describe their politics as liberal, to Communists and other left-wing Socialists around the world.
The popular opinion of liberalism and Liberals, is that the more government that someone believes in, the more liberal that they are. People tend to view liberal as less or more: the more government you want, the more liberal you supposedly are. The less government that you, supposedly the more conservative that you are. So the popular view of liberalism is that if you believe in a liberal amount of government, ( meaning a lot of government ) the more liberal that you supposedly are.
But if you’ve been following along so far, that’s not what liberalism is about: the liberal philosophy is not built around government, but built around liberty and even individual liberal, with liberal coming from the word liberty, not government, state, or authoritarian. So the more liberal that you are, the more liberty that you believe in. So a Radical Liberal, is not a Socialist or Communist. Radical liberalism, is not socialism or communism. Radical Liberals, are people who believe in no government and believe in anarchy instead.
A lot of Libertarians today, are essentially Radical Liberals, because they don’t seem to have much if any role for government do do anything for them or for anyone else. A lot of these Liberals, actually call themselves Voluntarists: people who believe that people should interact with each other only through voluntary exchange and not being forced to through government or anyone else to do anything.
So what do Liberals ( or Classical Liberals ) believe in and what does it mean to be a Liberal? ( Or Classical Liberal )
A good way to look at liberalism and Liberals, or Liberal Democrats and liberal democracy, is to look at it like a sporting event or just life in general: where you have people who are free to live their own lives as they see fit, short of abusing innocent people with what they’re doing. So the Liberal believes that people should have a lot of free choice and individual freedom, just as long as they’re not abusing any innocent person with what they’re doing. And where government comes in is to regulate what people can do to each other, but not what people can do to or for themselves.
A liberal society is a society where both personal and economic freedom is not just tolerated, but encouraged. Where society is protected from predators both foreign and domestic. Where government is responsible to only doing for the people what we can’t for ourselves. And that government needs money to perform these limited but critical services., but that it should be limited and decentralized as much as possible, and be as responsible as possible with the limited resources that the people give it.
So when you think of Liberals, don’t think of you new-tech hipster ( or hippie ) who is always walking around with a coffee house cup who thinks they know best what everyone should think and believe and what people should be able to do with their own lives and wants government to manage everyone’s life for them, because they believe that people are essentially stupid ( especially minorities ) and can’t manage their own affairs and handle what people have to say or think about them. Those people are basically Neo-Communists, who might only considered mainstream in the People’s Republic of California. ( Especially in the San Francisco area )
When you of Liberals, think of people who believe in individual liberty, as well as truly racial, ethnic, religious, and gender-blind society. Or to paraphrase the great Dr. Martin L. King: a society where no one’s children are judged based on the color of their skin of any other physical characteristic that they were born with, but by the content of their character and what they bring to society as individuals, not as members of any group.