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Liberalism

posted Oct 14, 2009, 11:51 PM by Hector Falcon
The term liberalism has been transformed (as have so many other terms) from its original meaning. Today, it generally means a leftist ideology based on secular humanism. This is almost the direct opposite from its original meaning. 

Liberal

adj. Politically favorable to governmentally imposed progress,reform, or tolerance.

History: By the 17th century, events suchas the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, and England's GloriousRevolution had given rise to a new ideology that prized the rule of law overabsolutism in government. Championed by the philosopher John Locke in his 1690work Two Treatises, this movement, which would come to beknown as "liberalism," insisted that private individuals had afundamental right to life, liberty, and property. "Liberals" werethus people who opposed tyranny, defended individual liberties, and pushed forthe expansion of civil rights, free markets, and free trade. The American andFrench Revolutions, so different in other ways, both shared the goal of freedomfrom governmental coercion and other external restraints. By the time of theGreat Depression, however, political and economic theorists were insisting onincreased involvement by the state. The economist John Maynard Keynes, inparticular, argued that the free-market system was no longer viable, promptingPresident Franklin D. Roosevelt to launch the New Deal—so-named in partbecause it represented a departure from classical liberal thinking. Roosevelt'snew "social liberalism," as it came to be called, sought moregovernmental involvement not only in economic matters, but in any area favorableto progress, reform, or tolerance. By 1960, when President John F. Kennedydescribed a liberal as "someone who looks ahead and not behind, someonewho welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, [and] someone who cares aboutthe welfare of the people," the term "liberal" had come to havenearly the opposite of its historical meaning.

Etymology: The word "liberal" isderived from the Latin word liberalis, meaning "courteous, generous,gentlemanly." The term was incorporated into Old French in the late 14thcentury, where it similarly meant "befitting free men, noble, orgenerous." It entered the English language in the early 15th century,first meaning "free in bestowing" and then later taking on negativeconnotations with the definition "free from restraint in speech oraction." Shortly after the Enlightenment, "liberal" became againa positive description of someone who "tended in favor of freedom anddemocracy," and by 1823 it meant "free from prejudice in favor of traditionalopinions and established institutions." In England just 83 years later,however, a political faction culled from Radical and Whig elements and callingitself the Liberal Party was elected to Parliamentand began establishing the British welfare state. Consequently, when the New Dealwas instituted in 1933, there were already some who were using"liberal" to mean "favorable to government action to effectsocial change." The enormous popularity of Roosevelt resulted in a largenumber of ideological converts, and by the 1960s the new "socialliberal" had become a permanent component of the world political scene.

Effect: The irony here is obvious. Whereliberals once feared big government, finding it a threat to freedom, today theybelieve that it is the solution to most economic and social problems. Initself, this conviction, while naïve, is not the worst viewpoint ever to comedown the political pike. When combined with the modern liberal commitment totolerance, progress, and reform, however, it represents a serious challenge to liberty.Modern governmental intrusions into marriage, religious expression, lifeissues, and other matters are all predicated upon the belief that one of thepurposes of government is to enact social change. Of course, the nature of thatchange—increased moral relativism under the guise of compassion andbroadmindedness—is likewise determined by today's liberal policymakers. Perhapsthis is why the American political commentator Thomas Sowell describesliberalism as "totalitarianism with a human face." A far cry fromtheir 19th-century namesakes, not to mention from the very meaning of theirshared moniker, contemporary liberals would gladly use the government tocurtail any freedom that stands between them and their progressivist agenda. •

From Salvo15 (Winter 2010)

 

Dennis Prager gives us more details in the following video clip about its beliefs and goals. 

Liberalism