January 15, 2011
Are You Liberal, a Liberal, or a Liberalist?By Deane Waldman
One of the left's most venerated tactics is the perversion of language -- altering the meaning of important political terms and appropriating them.
A thriving democracy depends on an informed citizenry. For the populace to be truly informed, both the people and the media need to communicate well. Lately, I wonder if the Tower of Babel has been rebuilt in Manhattan at 620 Eighth Avenue -- the New York Times building.
When the same word means different things to different people, communication is flawed, even perverted. Consider the word "liberal."
According to the dictionary, the adjective "liberal" comes from liberalis (latin), meaning "of freedom." "Liberal" describes someone who is has an open mind, free from bigotry or bias, not constrained by standard doctrine -- indeed, someone who actively resists orthodoxy.
Calling oneself "a liberal" connotes an affiliation with the political philosophy known as liberalism. This is a misnomer bordering on oxymoron. Since we desperately need clear communication, let's call the person who believes in liberalism a liberalist (not "a liberal"), just as capitalists, socialists, and communists believe in capitalism, socialism and communism.
Liberalism was founded on the primacy of the individual and the rule of the individual in contrast to the rule of the monarchy, the priesthood, or the central authority. For the liberalist, those who have power govern only by the consent of the governed -- not by heredity, as the exclusive holder of special knowledge, or as the sole conduit to God. The liberalist believes that the individual -- rather than the king, priest, or president -- knows best.
The liberalist is ideologically committed to a person's freedom to choose and then reap the benefits or suffer the consequences. Thus, a true liberalist believes firmly in personal responsibility. Such commitment today seems more associated with the adjective "conservative" than with "liberal."
So in today's world, what is a liberal?
In 2011, calling oneself a liberal is "Newspeak" -- the word created by George Orwell, author of 1984. Using Newspeak, words express the most general possible meaning, almost to the point of meaning nothing at all. Ray Bradbury plays on a variation of Newspeak in Fahrenheit 451; in Bradbury's fictional world, firemen start fires rather than put them out.
Saying you are a liberal today means you are anti-liberal and anti-liberalism. In today's world, "a liberal" believes the following.
Today's a liberal is in fact a socialist. Compare the beliefs of "a liberal" as described above to the tenets of socialism below. Only a socialist would use public (taxpayer) funds to bail out and take ownership of a failing private company such a General Motors. The original liberalist, John Locke, would let General Motors fail as the result of its own bad decisions.
A 20th-century liberalist such as Joseph Schumpeter would see GM being replaced in the market by something better, stronger, and more competitive. He called this "creative destruction."
Socialism is the political and economic philosophy that advocates common ownership and central control of the means of production and the distribution of goods and services. Do the following phrases strike a chord with "a liberal," Democrat, effectively socialist views? "Redistribution of wealth." "The rich must pay their fair share and support the less fortunate." "You have a right to health care." "The government is here to take care of you."
Now we have precise definitions and thus can have clear communication.
Liberal adj. open-minded; considers multiple opinions; does not accept orthodox doctrine.
Liberalist n. someone who believes in the tenets of liberalism, as espoused by John Locke, pictured below:
Liberal n. (pay careful attention to the part of speech) someone who believes in the tenets of socialism; a socialist.
Consider your own political and economic philosophy. Are you liberal, a liberalist, a liberal, or other? Whatever your position, please call yourself what you really are, and I will do the same. That way, you and I can have effective communication based on true beliefs rather than confused, implied, or distorted positions. Thank you.