Political Labels: The History of “Liberal/Liberalism”

Do you know what the word “Liberal” means?  The term actually has several definitions, but those definitions have changed over the years because a political ideology directly opposed to what “Liberal” originally meant seized control of the word.  The people behind the movement did this to hide themselves from the public after the public had turned on them and their policies because they had nearly destroyed the country.  Fast forward 60-70 years to our modern political arena and we find that these same people have destroyed the word again.  The people have caught on to their deception because the true definition of a word lies in its form and function, not in the word itself.  Consequently, this political movement has changed their label — again.  This time, it has reverted back to its original name, “Progressive.”  This can leave most casual and even some studious observers confused as to what the word “Liberal” actually means.  This post is intended to explain what “Liberal” has meant over time by tracing the history of the word.

As I usually do when dealing with matters such as this, I start with the dictionary definition of the word and then move on to more complete, political explanations:

Definition of LIBERAL

1b archaic : of or befitting a man of free birth

3: obsolete : lacking moral restraint : licentious

4: not literal or strict : loose <a liberal translation>

5: broad-minded; especially : not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms

6a : of, favoring, or based upon the principles of liberalism

b capitalized : of or constituting a political party advocating or associated with the principles of political liberalism; especially : of or constituting a political party in the United Kingdom associated with ideals of individual especially economic freedom, greater individual participation in government, and constitutional, political, and administrative reforms designed to secure these objectives

So far as we are concerned in this post, this dictionary definition contains the core of both definitions we will discuss, starting with 6a and b.  From Wiki:

LIBERALISM (from the Latin liberalis)[1]

A political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality.[2][3] Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas such as free and fair elections, civil rights, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free trade, and private property.[4][5][6][7][8]

Liberalism first became a distinct political movement during the Age of Enlightenment, when it became popular among philosophers and economists in the Western world. Liberalism rejected the notions, common at the time, of hereditary privilege, state religion, absolute monarchy, and the Divine Right of Kings. The 17th century philosopher John Locke is often credited with founding liberalism as a distinct philosophical tradition. Locke argued that each man has a natural right to life, liberty and property[9] and according to the social contract, governments must not violate these rights. Liberals opposed traditional conservatism and sought to replace absolutism in government with democracy and/or republicanism and the rule of law.

And from Conservapedia*:

LIBERALISM

Liberalism can refer to a number of political philosophies derived from Classical liberalism. In this article the American political platform referred to as “liberal” within the United States is contrasted with other meanings of the word, particularly in Europe and in other parliamentary democratic systems.

This is what “Liberalism” originally meant:

liberalism as a distinct philosophical tradition. Locke argued that each man has a natural right to life, liberty and property[9] and according to the social contract, governments must not violate these rights. Liberals opposed traditional conservatism and sought to replace absolutism in government with democracy and/or republicanism and the rule of law.

And it is how the original, European understanding of Left/Right came to be.  In the European legislative bodies, the “Conservatives” sat on the Right and the “Liberals” sat on the Left.

However, after the Progressives destroyed their political franchise in the first couple decades of the 20th Century and the people rejected them, they changed their label.  Progressives have always understood that they have to operate in the shadows.  Wilson openly admitted that the American people would reject their agenda if they were open and honest about it.  So the Progressive movement has always operated on the principles of intentional deception.  Progressives also have an affinity for word games.  In fact, since their very beginning, the purposeful manipulation and confusion of our language has been one of the primary tools of deception in the Progressive quiver.  So, after they had destroyed their credibility with the American people, they tried to gain their favor by seizing on a label which the majority of Americans still embraced because it still meant what it originally meant.  The Progressives started calling themselves “Liberals.”  And, today, they have managed to change the definition of “Liberal” and then destroy the public support for their ideology once again.  Today, “Liberal” is understood to mean:

LIBERAL

A liberal is someone who favors increased government spending, power, and control, as in ObamaCare, as well as censorship of Christianity. Increasingly, liberals side with the homosexual agenda, including supporting homosexual “marriage”. Many liberals favor a welfare state where people receive endless entitlements without working. Liberals are often anti-Christian, or otherwise disagree with moral or social principles held by many American Christians. They prefer atheism over the Christian faith, as atheism has no objective morality to hinder their big government plans. The liberal ideology has worsened over the years and degenerated into economically unsound views and intolerant ideology. Some liberals simply support, in knee-jerk fashion, the opposite of conservative principles without having any meaningful values of their own.

If we go back to the dictionary definition of Liberal, we will find aspects of the characterization of “Liberal” in the new definition:

3: obsolete : lacking moral restraint : licentious

4: not literal or strict : loose <a liberal translation>

5: broad-minded; especially : not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms

Once they are properly understood, these aspects of the “Liberal” character go a long to explain why it is so difficult to pin a modern Liberal down.  While they usually support and advance big government, they will often oppose “authority,” they just define “authority” as anything that forces them to be consistent in their use of language, reasoning or morality.  They do not see the government as “authority,” they see the government as their source of liberty.  It is the restraint of objective reality and the necessity for consistency to the maintenance of a society that they consider to be “authoritarian.”

And this is how the modern understanding of the word “Liberal” has come to mean the opposite of what it originally meant.  It is the result of turning things on their head and was achieved through deliberate deception.  It is also why those who seek fact and to understand Truth should be very cautious before accepting anything coming from someone who is identified with the modern understanding of “Liberal:” because it is connected with turning reality upside-down and inside-out.(Isaiah 5:20-21).  It is because of this deliberate attack on our language that, today, it is necessary to clarify the original meaning of “Liberalism” by referring to it as:

Classical liberalism (also called laissez-faire liberalism) is a term used to describe the following:

Classical liberalism is a political philosophy that supports individual rights as pre-existing the state, a government that exists to protect those moral rights, ensured by a constitution that protects individual autonomy from other individuals and governmental power, private property, and a laissez-faire economic policy. The “normative core” of classical liberalism is the idea that in an environment of laissez-faire, a spontaneous order of cooperation in exchanging goods and services emerges that satisfies human wants.

At this point, I would like to explain that many who consider themselves to be “Conservative” are closer to “Classic Liberalism” in their political beliefs than they actually are to modern American Conservatism.  I tried to explain this in my first two posts on the OYL (you can find them here and here), but this is a subject that requires more time to understand than most people are willing to invest.  This is why the deception works, and how so many have come to call themselves by a name that does not accurately represent what they believe it does.  In my next post, I will expand explore the history of “Conservative/Conservatism” as I have done here with “Liberal/Liberalism.”  If you are among those who consider themselves “Conservative” in the same vein of Ronald Reagan, I would ask that you hold off on making any conclusions about my argument until after you have had a chance to read and consider this next post.

* Please note that, while I used Conservapedia, I am well aware that this site has a conservative slant.  In fact, I would almost go so far as to describe it as conservative propaganda, much the same way Wikipedia tends to have a more “Liberal/Leftist” slant to its political definitions.  However, this does not mean that my use of the site is invalid anymore than my use of Wikipedia.  I’ll leave the reader to determine whether or not my citation of this source contributes to the strength of my over all argument.

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