Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What Is Classic Liberalism? Isn't Obama a Liberal?

I’ve been arguing the philosophy of liberty and human dignity since the 9th grade – over 40 years. Mostly against people who called themselves liberals. Eventually I learned that my position was called “Liberalism” until American Progressives started calling themselves “liberals” during the 1930s. Progressives are anything but liberal, so that switch was a nice bit of obfuscation: “liberal” connotes freedom and generosity and general goodness; who could oppose those things?

Progressives call themselves "liberals" but they are not. Well, they are if you accept their redefinition of "liberal" as meaning themselves.

I don't. Not any longer.

Progressivism is a form of collectivism (socialism, if you will), a benevolent soft descendant of the Rousseauean thinking that guided the French Revolution. This Progressive thinking maintains that people shouldn't be left alone to live their lives as they see fit because they are happiest when guided by an educated elite that protects them from the machinations of an evil elite. Manichaean, essentially - the belief that humanity is gripped by the struggle between good and evil. More on Manichaean thinking in another post.

For this reason, Progressivism is Aristocratic, substituting an aristocracy of education and sensibility for an aristocracy of birth or wealth.

Anyway, Progressives act on the (perhaps unconscious) belief that people can't be left at liberty because they will be manipulated by the evil elite (capitalists, nobles, bankers, militarists, the wealthy, Darth Vader, whatever) unless guided by the Progressive elite.

To be fair, not all Progressives consider their opponents as evil; to quote Kathy from the movie Spaced Invaders: "They're not evil, they're just stupid."

Progressives know better than the rest of us. Just ask them.

At various times, Progressives have advocated government control of businesses, sterilization of the mentally (or ethnically) unfit – Planned Parenthood was founded by a Progressive who wanted to discourage Blacks and other inferior races from having children (look it up, she was proud of it) – central planning, forcing parents to send their children to government schools, and taking wealth from people and distributing it according to proper Progressive principles.

Of course, Progressives also favored the availability of contraception, wanted to prohibit child labor (ostensibly for the benefit of the children but driven more by the desire to force up wages by taking people – children – out of the labor pool), establish minimum wages (they were quite frank about doing this to keep Blacks and immigrants out of the labor market - see The State Against Blacks by Dr. Walter E. Williams for more on this) and generally changing things. Some good ideas, some that only sounded good.

Progressive President Wilson changed the U.S. military, for example, segregating Blacks from Whites.

Hey, you want change? It was a change. To a lot of Progressives it was a change they could believe in.

Under his administration, Progressive President Wilson imprisoned people for saying they didn’t want to buy war bonds. An important change to the concept of free speech, for the good of society. Cool, ain’t it?

Those opposed to change are called Conservatives. Some Conservatives oppose change for the sake of preventing any change – sort of a “no change is good” policy – while moderate Conservatives wanted to stick to certain principles (or move closer to them) and resist the “any change is good” approach of the Progressives.

After Progressives became known as “Liberals”, Liberals became know as “Libertarians”. More or less.

More recently, “Liberal” has fallen into disrepute, perhaps because of constant hammering from Rush Limbaugh and the realization that some Progressive programs, such as the 40-year war to end poverty within 5 years, haven’t worked out too well.

So, Progressives are dropping the Liberal label and calling themselves “Progressive” again. Name change can be effective for shedding a reputation or escaping indictment.

President Obama calls himself a liberal, but a Classic Liberal wouldn't agree. The President is a Progressive and I haven't figured out whether he is a Right Wing Progressive or a Left Wing Progressive. I'm not sure he knows.

This is not a Right Wing blog. Liberalism is not of the Right nor of the Left (more on Left vs. Right anon). .

This is not a Conservative blog. Liberalism is neither for change nor against change. Liberalism is for certain principles that enable individual liberty. A Liberal is for change if it moves toward core principles and against change if it moves away from them.

A Classic Liberal, that is; not a Progressive who calls himself a liberal.

Maybe it’s a Libertarian blog; I don’t know. Check out and see what you think.

So, what is Liberalism? The notion that individuals should have liberty, that is people should not be subject to the coercive power of the state (the government). More later.

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