Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Liberalism (updated)

Can somebody explain to me why American conservatives use the word "liberal" as a derogatory term for a left-wing person? I look up the word, and none of the definitions fit, it seems it means somebody who is for individual rights. Which is neither left nor right, so far as I know.

TTL helps out:
I hear you. The word "liberalism" has very nearly opposite meanings in Europe and America.

What Europeans call "social democracy" is called "liberalism" in America. And what Europeans call "liberalism" is nowadays called "libertarianism" in America.

Europeans use the word in its original meaning. There is also the expression "classic liberalism" to emphasize that you are talking about liberalism in its original meaning.

It is really confusing since it is the traditional values of the American conservatives/republicans that represent classic liberalism (small government, individual rights, Laissez-faire capitalism), not the left-wingers.

Why did they swap the meaning of the word? I'm not sure. But I understand that modern American liberalism (the left-wingers) really think that their philosophy is some form of refined version of classical liberalism, giving you more liberty, not less. Something like: "Laissez-faire capitalism doesn't work by itself, but if you throw to the mix the right amount of socialism, you get a perfect form of 'liberty'."

And, after the word "liberalism" had been hijacked and perverted this way, the true liberals in American had to come up with a new word for themselves. So they started to call themselves libertarians.

(This post came about because in the Mike post Aniko and I have a discusssion, and we were speaking past each other because we had different definitions of "liberalism".)

---
Update: here's a video which touches on some of these issues. [only near the end though.] It's also one of the most partisan things I've ever seen. The speakers says that literally everything the (leftist) liberal believes is wrong, because the heart of liberalism is the attempt to abolish discrimination of right and wrong. He has a lot of good examples, but he sees everything in black and white. America is Good by definition, so if you're against America going to war, you're against America and against Good.

I wonder if he'd feel the same way about America if he'd been born in France, Sweden, Uganda, or Borneo. Can you imagine somebody grown up and living in any other country being that fiercely pro-American, pro-everything-American? Of course not, never happens. Which proves that such black/white viewpoints are a product of viewpoint and upbringing. (You'll notice I'm not arguing against America or even conservatism, only against blind partisanism. It's not very bright either to consider America the "Great Satan".)

posted by Eolake Stobblehouse @ Tuesday, April 28, 2009   11 comments links to this post

11 Comments:

At 28 Apr 2009, 03:21:00, Blogger Ray said...

Try this site Eolake.
It may answer your questions...

 
At 28 Apr 2009, 11:28:00, Blogger ttl said...

I hear you. The word "liberalism" has very nearly opposite meanings in Europe and America.

What Europeans call "social democracy" is called "liberalism" in America. And what Europeans call "liberalism" is nowadays called "libertarianism" in America.

Europeans use the word in its original meaning. There is also the expression "classic liberalism" to emphasize that you are talking about liberalism in its original meaning.

It is really confusing since it is the traditional values of the American conservatives/republicans that represent classic liberalism (small government, individual rights, Laissez-faire capitalism), not the left-wingers.

Why did they swap the meaning of the word? I'm not sure. But I understand that modern American liberalism (the left-wingers) really think that their philosophy is some form of refined version of classical liberalism, giving you more liberty, not less. Something like: "Laissez-faire capitalism doesn't work by itself, but if you throw to the mix the right amount of socialism, you get a perfect form of 'liberty'."

And, after the word "liberalism" had been hijacked and perverted this way, the true liberals in American had to come up with a new word for themselves. So they started to call themselves libertarians.

 
At 28 Apr 2009, 15:16:00, Blogger ttl said...

Update: here's a video which touches on some of these issues.

Actually, this video is not about classic liberalism vs. sosialism at all. The speaker represents a different political ideology called neoconservatism, which is orthogonal to the forementioned two ~isms.

Neoconservatism is an American idea that emerged in the 20th century. In contrast, classic liberalism came to America from Europe, and is hundreds of years old -- possibly thousands.

 
At 28 Apr 2009, 15:25:00, Blogger eolake said...

Yes, it touches on the only near the end, it really is about (leftist) liberalism vs conservatism.

 
At 28 Apr 2009, 19:36:00, Anonymous US Aussie said...

In Australia the leading conservative party is the "Liberal Party of Australia". It is currently in opposition and the Australian Labor Party is in Government. Economically the Liberal Party tends to promote liberal principles, however socially they are quite conservative.

A curious mix. :-)

 
At 29 Apr 2009, 00:00:00, Anonymous Aniko said...

"Economically the Liberal Party tends to promote liberal principles, however socially they are quite conservative."

What a mix!

If I understand well, "socially conservative", meaning "keeping the actual state of affairs" would be
- in the US: keep the system, no social security, minimal public services.
- in Europe: keep the social security and the public services.

"Liberal" in France means, as I hear it, that there are different rules for the economy and for the social services:
- economically: openness in trade, market rules
- social policies: government in the public services, like health and education
Is this what the "Liberal Party of Australia" is doing?

Now a wave called "neoliberalism" is coming on Europe, where everything is supposed to become a commodity, and the social services tend to be privatized. Big demonstration everywhere in France!

 
At 29 Apr 2009, 00:22:00, Blogger eolake said...

There we have another schism: "conservative" means different things also. It can mean "preserve what we have" and it can mean "the state should not take care of you, and everybody should keep what he earns".

 
At 29 Apr 2009, 01:35:00, Anonymous Kenneth said...

First of all, Eolake, You are one of the few true liberals I can think of (meaning someone who is far individual rights).

Most of the people in America who call themselves "liberal" or "progressive" are anything BUT that. I personally think they're left-wing conservatives. They have their own orthodoxy, as does the right, and woe unto those who deviate from it. Even now they're starting to get pissed off with Obama for not throwing them enough bones (like going after torturers).

I'm sick and tired of both left AND right. The only appropriate quote I can think of for them is that line from Shakespere (no, not the one about killing the lawyers, although that works, too.) It's this: "A plague on both your houses."

On the other hand, with swine flu going around, maybe we should be careful what we wish for.

 
At 29 Apr 2009, 11:44:00, Blogger eolake said...

Thank you, Kenneth.

It is amazing how the bulk of the population, left or right, is really keen on controlling the lives of others. I think it's a deep belief about what will make them feel good. If only everybody else could be made to *behave*!...

 
At 1 May 2009, 08:51:00, Blogger Pascal [P-04referent] said...

"Can you imagine somebody grown up and living in any other country being that fiercely pro-American, pro-everything-American? Of course not, never happens."

Wrong. I personally know such a person.
Of course, it is unsure whether he grew up suffering constant rejection because he felt passionately pro-American. I believe it's the other way round. Growing up in wartime Lebanon, in a region where the majority were fiercely anti-American muslims AND intolerant towards anybody different, "insufficiently islamist" or not enough arab culture/mentality-oriented, is most likely to have given him a fascination for all the things that those hating him also hated.
Another ordinary drama of intolerance in the Third World...

Today he lives in the United States, which brought him immense relief. And he still loves them probably even more than 50% of American natives.

My rather sharp and brooding verif : "cythe"
"Flee to the safety of America! The Grim One cometh!"

 
At 1 May 2009, 22:03:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Can you imagine somebody grown up and living in any other country being that fiercely pro-American, pro-everything-American? Of course not, never happens."

It should be pretty easy to imagine,and anyone who thinks that it could never happen doesn't know much of history. There are many, many people who have immigrated to the U.S. and dreamed of doing so for years. And before, just the New World for the opportunities it presented.

 

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