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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13584/what-is-classical-liberalism-2/

What Is Classical Liberalism?

August 16, 2010 by

The political goal of classical liberals must be to counteract the current now leading the world toward what Macaulay called “the all-devouring state” — the nightmare that haunted Burke no less than Tocqueville and Herbert Spencer. FULL ARTICLE by Ralph Raico

{ 14 comments }

dave b August 16, 2010 at 10:43 am

It would make sense that this “new” social form of ‘liberalism’ is better termed as progressive. If they want to control private property, but allow “private property” to exist (in name only), it would be socialistic indeed but that is closer to the economics and thought of some kind of fascism or perhaps democratic fascism. Progressivism is the disease in “modern” liberalism.

I do appreciate the clarification between true liberalism in the classical sense and the “modern” “progressive” liberalism. Its essentially the difference between individualism and collectivism.

Russ the Apostate August 16, 2010 at 11:55 am

dave b wrote:
“It would make sense that this “new” social form of ‘liberalism’ is better termed as progressive.”

Nah, so-called “liberalism” is no more progressive than it is liberal, so it makes no more sense that we call it progressivism than that we call it liberalism. It’s best that we call it what it is; socialism. Let’s out the bastards. That way, if the mindless masses continue to vote for them, they’ll at least have no more excuses that they didn’t know what they were voting for.

Jon Leckie August 16, 2010 at 12:17 pm

I agree with that. Progressive my arse.

Outside of the US (at least in the UK and Australia/NZ) a liberal still means someone who is small government, pro-market, but that’s starting to change so that it’s necessary to say “small-’l’ liberal” or as the article has it, a “classical liberal” to differentiate oneself from the statists. I’m kinda musing here without much prior thought, but a separation would seem possible between the labor/labour movement based in the working class (ghastly expression) who support the Left side of politics through the union movement, and what in Australia has been described as the inner-suburban, latte sipping, chardonnay socialists. The first see the state as the way to ameliorate the “excesses” of the market and contain a lot more Marxists (reconstructed or otherwise), while the second want to use the state to impose a set of woolly feel good values on society (land rights for gay whales, etc), and extend into the mainstream environmental movements (the Greens). It’s this second branch that seems to be taking over the use of the term “liberal”.

And then on the right, we have the moralists, who are also statists, but have a different agenda to impose on society, again top down from the state. These are our “conservatives”, another misnomer. All in all, it’s quite depressing.

Russ the Apostate August 16, 2010 at 12:44 pm

“It’s this second branch that seems to be taking over the use of the term “liberal”.”

This may be the case in Australia, but the stealing of the word “liberal” has been going on for a while now here, and it’s not limited to the soy chai set. The socialist co-opting of the word “liberal” has been going on since FDR, at least. I think that since the original liberals were in favor of the little guy against the monarchy and nobility, some woolly-headed people decided that whoever is in favor of the little guy is a liberal. And since the labor movement and the New Deal were supposedly in favor of the little guy… The civil rights era clinched it. There were real injustices, of course, that were illiberal in the true sense. It’s just that the solutions to those injustices were also illiberal.

Jon Leckie August 16, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Agreed again. No doubt that the theft has been going on for a while. Hayek wrote about it in the preface to The Road to Serfdom (forget which preface, I have one of those anniverary additions with the collected prefaces) and I think Mises goes on it too in his little book “Liberalism: The Classical Tradition”.

Your thought on anyone spruiking for the little guy must be a liberal sounds pretty sensible to me. Also on illiberal solutions to liberal concerns. Really this is at the heart of the issue: I see the state and its mechanisms as the principal cause of much of the inequality in society, elites capturing the state to entrench their interests, regulatory capture, corporatism, all that jazz, and the only solution BOTH sides of politics can come up with is – more of the same. We will regulate away our regulatory failures. Bigger sticks and bigger carrots will produce the desired results. Same with the dreadful Culture Wars, which are breaking out in Australia. Both sides fight so ferociously for control of the state apparatus because the state’s potential to implement the winner’s program is so enormous. No one notices or cares that if you limit the state’s power no group can impose its will on the other as effectively (note I have to position myself as a minarchist until I get a chance to read more on anarchism, so I’m assuming a nightwatchman state, I’m not an Apostate just a Heretic I guess). We’re in a downward spiral all right. I don’t think it’s going to end cataclysmically though – I just see years and years and years of low growth (dipping into recession), high unemployment and steadily increasing inflation – and a continued growth in state power to compensate for “the failings of the market”. So more of a whimper than a bang. Again, depressing stuff.

Jon Leckie August 16, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Dave B’s set out the quote I was looking for below. J

dave b August 16, 2010 at 1:04 pm

I agree they are just socialists hiding behind new or different labels. When i said “progressive”, I really meant “regressive”. Anyways It really irks me that socialists/fascists/statists/collectivists hijacked the once honorable word…liberal…

As Hayek wrote:”I use throughout the term ‘liberal’ in the original, nineteenth-century sense in which it is still current in Britain. In current American usage it often means very nearly the opposite of this. It has been part of the camouflage of leftish movements in this country, helped by muddleheadedness of many who really believe in liberty, that ‘liberal’ has come to mean the advocacy of almost every kind of government control. I am still puzzled why those in the United States who truly believe in liberty should not only have allowed the left to appropriate this almost indispensable term but should even have assisted by beginning to use it themselves as a term of opprobrium. This seems to be particularly regrettable because of the consequent tendency of many true liberals to describe themselves as conservatives.” —F.A. Hayek, in the Forward to “The Road to Serfdom” (1944)Time they get out of their hiding.

Russ the Apostate August 16, 2010 at 5:00 pm

“Anyways It really irks me that socialists/fascists/statists/collectivists hijacked the once honorable word…liberal…”

That’s why nowadays I am more and more using “liberal” to describe myself. When I get into discussions with socialists who identify themselves as liberals, I tell them that they are not liberals, they are socialists, while I am the liberal. It pisses them off to no end. But when I inform them what the word really means, all they can say is that this isn’t what it means nowadays. Au contraire. Words have meanings. And when I talk to liberals who self-describe as conservatives, some of them are equally shocked that I would describe them as liberals. We need to take back the word, and the only way to do that is to unapologetically use it in its correct sense. And we have to make sure that socialism “owns” the problems that it causes, and the only way to do that is to call the socialists of all parties (as Hayek would have said), and their policies, socialist.

“I am still puzzled why those in the United States who truly believe in liberty should not only have allowed the left to appropriate this almost indispensable term but should even have assisted by beginning to use it themselves as a term of opprobrium. This seems to be particularly regrettable because of the consequent tendency of many true liberals to describe themselves as conservatives.”

This is prescient. I think of Reagan using the term “L-Word” as if it were a dirty word, when he himself once said that he didn’t leave the Democratic party, the Democratic party left him.

gregw August 16, 2010 at 9:04 pm

LOL. It left him at the heyday of William Jennings Bryan or maybe Wilson. Grover Cleveland was the last liberal democrat.

Russ the Apostate August 17, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Yeah, well, Reagan was nothing if not old-school. *grin*

dave b August 17, 2010 at 3:39 pm

On Facebook , I display it everywhere “classical liberal/libertarian”. You know, its funny because I do the same exact thing with arguments with socialists/this/that. It does piss them off and makes them actually use their head and think! I used to be on that side and call myself a liberal until my logic(with age) started to conflict with what “liberals” were advocating. Then, I started studying economics, history, and I found this site with the help of others. Then It all became clear. The word was literally hijacked. How sad to see but we can make a difference.

I am too taking the word back. It has become one of my objectives in life. Glad to see you doing it too!

Allen Weingarten August 16, 2010 at 11:40 am

“…social liberalism deviates fundamentally from its namesake at its theoretical root in that it denies the self-regulatory capacity of society”.

It may also be noted that it also deviates fundamentally from the definition of classical ‘liberalism’ of preserving property rights to abrogating them. That is precisely what sophistry does, it modifies a concept so as to include its very opposite (i.e., its antipode), permitting ‘truth’ to become falsity, ‘justice’ to become injustice, ‘law’ to mean its violation, etc.

I find it striking that those who argued for classical liberalism did not appear to notice that it was this violation of the use of language that permitted social liberalism to flourish.

Bruce Koerber August 16, 2010 at 9:38 pm

What Is Classical Liberalism?

Classical liberalism is the discipline with ancient roots that recognizes the uniqueness of the human spirit and that promotes and protects the culture of liberty and justice by educating humans about their true nature and their nobility and their great destiny.

Jon Leckie August 31, 2010 at 9:42 am

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