Thursday, April 17, 2008
On this day:

Yes, I'm a proud liberal...kinda

Don't spew your coffee just yet...

Following is my (slightly-edited) response to a comment on the previous post:

I would be happy to call myself a liberal if that perfectly good word hadn't been co-opted by the Left. American conservatism is actually quite liberal - in the classical sense of the word. Most modern American conservatives adhere to a brand of liberalism that is premised on man's inherent and inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property, and which is tempered by deference to the importance of morality, tradition, and prescription to the life of a good and just society.

Russell Kirk - who many acknowledge to be the father of American conservatism - put forth ten general principles of conservative thought, which you can read firsthand here.

While each of Kirk's principles is essential to a free and just society, the last four are worth noting here because they suggest a classically liberal approach to government. (It's important to point out that Kirk was often critical of classical liberalism for what he believed to be its overemphasis on individualism and unbridled capitalism to the detriment of moderating forces like custom and continuity):
7. Conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked.

8. Conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism.

9. The conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions.

10. The thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society.
Left liberalism is fundamentally at odds with each of these four principles (and with the other six, for that matter).

Leftists do not believe that individual freedom and private property are closely linked. In fact, they have very little regard for either freedom or property for their own sakes. To the extent that Leftists value them at all, it is only because they serve as useful means to achieving collectivist objectives.

As collectivists, Left liberals generally believe that human freedom - if such a thing can be said to exist at all - must be channeled through the various mechanisms of the State in order to bring about a radically egalitarian society in which the old Marxist slogan "from each according to his ability to each according to his needs" can be fully realized. Liberty and rights are not viewed as inherent to our nature; rather, they are "goodies" that are selectively doled out by the State, since it is in the State - not God and not nature - that all liberty and all rights can be said to have their source. Due to the ever-changing wants and needs of the State and the society it governs, the reconciliation of permanence and change is not a Leftist objective; permanent change in accordance with fashion and convenience is.

Although both Left and Right in America can be said to be "liberal" in a certain sense, they can't be measured on the same "liberal scale," if by "liberal," you mean the classical liberalism of the Revolution. There's very little about the political philosophy of the Left that can rightly be called "liberal" under that definition, and it's unfortunate that such an admirable term is now associated with such foul-minded folks.