I really was not going to say it because it is obvious to most conservatives and common knowledge, but apparently deserves repeating. Lib-progs are pushing revisions again. And again it is in the language and definitions department.
The first thing is the definition of classical liberalism. And by the way, it is not something conservatives run from or are unfamiliar with. This is old news I realize to conservatives. Yet it deserves repeating. Start with a definition
“Classical liberalism is a political ideology, a branch of liberalism which advocates individual liberties and limited government under the rule of law and stresses economic freedom.”
And from a white paper (National Center for Policy Analysis)
by John C Goodman
Prior to the 20th century, classical liberalism was the dominant political philosophy in the United States. It was the political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson and the signers of the Declaration of Independence and it permeates the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers and many other documents produced by the people who created the American system of government. Many of the emancipationists who opposed slavery were essentially classical liberals, as were the suffragettes, who fought for equal rights for women.
Basically, classical liberalism is the belief in liberty. Even today, one of the clearest statements of this philosophy is found in Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. At that time, as is the case today, most people believed that rights came from government. People thought they only had such rights as government elected to give them. But following the British philosopher John Locke, Jefferson argued that it’s the other way around. People have rights apart from government, as part of their nature. Further, people can form governments and dissolve them. The only legitimate purpose of government is to protect these rights.
Let me skip and offer another excerpt:
“The Collectivist Notion of Rights”
It is worth noting that all forms of collectivism in the 20th century rejected this classical notion of rights and all asserted in their own way that need is a claim. For the communists, the needs of the class (proletariat) were a claim against every individual. For the Nazis, the needs of the race were a claim. For fascists (Italian-style) and for the architects of the welfare state, the needs of society as a whole were a claim. Since in all these systems the state is the personification of the class, the race, society as a whole, etc., all these ideologies imply that, to one degree or another, individuals have an obligation to live for the state.
Despite the fact that 20th century collectivists opposed the classical liberal concept of rights, very rarely did they attack the notion of "rights" as such. Instead, they often tried to redefine the concept of "right" in a way that virtually eviscerated any meaningful notion of liberty. For example, in his 1944 State of the Union Address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called for a "second Bill of Rights," which included the following:
·The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation.
·The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.
·The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.
·The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.
·The right of every family to a decent home.
·The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.
·The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment.
·The right to a good education.
Note that these rights are very different from the rights Locke, Jefferson and the Founding Fathers had in mind.
So you can see a huge difference between an idea of limited government and the collectivists’ unlimited one. Basically that is the struggle we face. The founders had the idea of a limited government and understood that struggle. But the collectivists try to blur that line anytime they can. In essence, what we see today in Liberalism or progressivism is at odds with this limited approach. It is not the same thing. Though that does not stop progressives, under the guise of “Liberalism”, from trying to substitute their views for classical liberalism or the philosophy of the founders.
What brings it up?
Case in point: Alan Colmes has a new book out touting the greatness of liberals, and suggesting this progressivism today is one and the same as the classical liberalism concepts. At least this was the gist of the interview he did on it. He never used the word classical liberalism in making his brief case. He rather just lumped them together under the Liberal banner – i.e. under “thank a liberal”.
It is why I have tried to use a capital L in Liberal to denote the newer, different form. But this is not your forefather’s liberalism, in the “classical liberal” sense. (IOW, theirs is one based on positive obligations not negative ones.) Also most libertarians recognize this and often use classical liberalism correctly in explaining their views. It is the limited government approach. It is hard to mistake them for the same thing once you see the difference.
Though Liberals are busy muddying the waters to blur the lines. The progressive label came in, in the 20th century, which evolved into the Liberal label, and now they are back using the “progressive” term. To compound the ideology, it further expanded with the new wave of Liberalism from the 60’s or 70’s. It disturbs a lot of people, but that matters not to Lib-progs. The modern Left is fond of redefining words and applying their definitions. They are very adept at the process.
But what the hey, he wrote another coffee table ornament for the venomous class warfare crowd.