Wednesday, February 28, 2007

We're All Liberals Now? Yes and No.

As you might recall, I recently commented that there should be a Euston Manifesto for conservatives. That call has acutally started to ignite a discussion and I wanted to focus on one part of that discussion here.

In a post today, Callimachus thinks the idea of a manifesto is somewhat ridiculous, because a true conservative doesn't exist. In reality he says "we are all liberals now."

Flag on the play.

I think one has to define what one means by liberal and conservative because there are many different meanings. Alan Stewart Carl agrees somewhat with Callimachus' statement and notes that for as much as the Left carps about George Bush, he is very much a liberal.

Well, what does that mean?

If you mean liberal in the American context (ie: Ted Kennedy is a liberal), then I don't see how one could call our current President a liberal. In the United States, Liberal usually means someone that is probably a Democrat and believes in certain things, such as government intervention in the economy. What we call Liberal is what many in Europe or Latin America would call a "social democrat" or even "socialist."

Michael P.F. van der Galiƫn
, a Dutch blogger, describes what "liberal" means on the Continent and we Americans get the name all messed up.

As a European liberal I have to admit that the meaning and use of the word liberalism in America is both confusing and annoying. I’m somewhat of a ‘proud liberal’. Whenever a person who advocates higher taxes, more government influence, more government programs, etc. is called a ‘liberal’, I shake my head and remember myself of the fact that the term liberalism has underwent quite a significant change in America.

Liberalism, in short, stands for as little government influence as possible. Some liberals (for instance there are progressive or development liberals) agree to more government influence than other liberal do (clasically liberals and liberal conservatives and think less highly of ‘the market’, etc., but generally Nic’s definitions are good and easy usuable.


Now, neither Callimachus or Alan meant liberal in the American sense, but in the more overarching sense, in that most people are "liberal" in the Western sense, (ie: liberal democracy). However, the Euston Manifesto was not a bunch of liberals, but a group of mostly people on the political Left.

I think Callimachus is wrong to say there are no conservatives. They exist and they are liberals as well-just a different kind of liberalism, classical liberalism, the type of liberalism advocated by people like Edmund Burke.

When I say that there needs to be a manifesto of some type for American conservatives, I am looking from the context of what is going on in the Republican Party. It is a party that has strayed from the principles of limited government, freedom, fiscal restraint and tolerance. Many in the GOP and those that have left, became frustrated with the GOP's lurch toward the far right, supporting tax cuts any all times, damning the fiscal implications; going after gays and lesbians and eroding civil liberties. Government has expanded in the Bush years, going in the opposite direction that it had during a Democratic presidency.

The party has been corrupted and there needs to be some gathering of people who say, we stand for limited government, free enterprise, equality of all persons, fiscal restraint and against reckless spending, bigotry, etc. The fact is, there are many people who are not "liberals" in the American sense, who want to stand up for what is decent and against that which corrodes our Republic. I think there are those who either see the GOP as a home or want to, but can't because of it's current sad state who want to state clearly who they are and what they believe.

So, yes we are all "liberals" now, in the larger sense. But I don't have time to simply discuss semantics when radicals are destroying the party whose orginal values mean a lot to me. So, I will push on.

1 comment:

Paul Wartenberg said...

To be honest, the political dynamics have changed beyond the old duality of liberal/conservative.

The duality is now divided between what should be called Realists against Idealogues.