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The Curse of the L-Word

Our Readers Who Comment are in a dither this morning about an Alec MacGillis report that both Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain are attempting to tar Barack Obama with that dreaded term "liberal."

"Of course he is," some argue. "It's simply hate propaganda in a suit, " says another. "Yeah, but look what the Bush administration has done," several others complain.

There are complaints about the use of labels at all (of course that flies in the face of what made America great) and cheerleading for or against candidates. Some of the posts by our overnight regulars take on the nature of a food fight, but that's the subject for another day.

We'll start with bldlcc who said, "All that can really be gained from the Clinton and McCain campaign's consistent appeal to the basest elements of the psyche of the American populance is a resulting base society, a truncated economically weak shell of our former greatness..."

pressF1 wrote, "Oh, we're doing labels now? Listen to these phrases:
"A compassionate conservative"
"A reformer with results"...
It's like you're all out of Robitussin and so you're licking the back of the label from the bottle... Well, like that short guy with the big ears used to say: "Now that is just sad."

keith_in_seattle wrote, "The quickest way for a politician to lose my vote is to stoop to using "liberal" and "conservative" as epithets. It's simply hate propaganda in a suit."

EnoughISEnough said, "The Post is funny. Obama is a liberal. This apparently is news to some of them."

But PMzbob99 wrote. "He is not just defined as a liberal. He is much more complex than that."

And dgloo said, "...Labeling your opponent as a liberal is not the way to win the Democratic nomination. Clearly, she has given up on her own chances, but she can't bear to see another candidate be nominated. She is taking down the Democratic ship with her..."

ichief asked, "If Obama is not a liberal, how do you explain the devotion of all those extreme left-wing blogs - think Daily Kos and the Huffington Post - and their legions of rabid Obama supporters writing hundreds of abusive comments about anyone who dares oppose him on every message board in sight..."

SoldiersMom wrote, "OK, Obama is for balancing the budget. In a time of war, he would (& did) vote to let Bush's tax cuts on the wealthy expire. What's so Liberal about pay-as-you-go?..."

Martinedwinandersen said, "This conservative, Catholic, white person is very happy that we Democrats will have Barack Obama to vote for this November. His promise transcends easy categories. Obviously this article does not."

crews2me wrote that "Labels are the past and Obama politics has become the future. Many will study and find it just a common sense approach! The American public just wants solutions weather they are conservative or liberal but they want the politics to strike a healthy balance of both... the GOP and McCain like the Clintons will under estimate what they are up against."

distin99 asked, "How on earth did Liberalism become a dirty word? America is a VERY strange country. Liberals didn't invade under false pretences, occupy and kill hundreds of thousands of people in a country that posed no threat to them, destroy the American economy and environment or make torture an instrument of state policy. Wake up and smell the coffee."

Casey1 said, "It seems pretty clear to me that Hillary, Bill and McCain (good buddies all) have been colluding together to destroy Obama. They both know that, absent filthy personal attacks, neither the Clintons nor McCain can beat him in the general election..."

And davestickler said, "Ah, the Tonya Harding strategy..."

UrbanHillbilly said that "The word "liberal" has come to mean its exact opposet. Why? Instead of supporting the common folk, the Democratic Party has gone over to the same big money interests that dominate the Republican Party while pushing regulation on common people. If you call Obama "liberal" for supporting the old FDR doctrine of the Democratic Party, then it is a good thing. If it means going back to Bill Clinton and LBJ, then maybe not so good..."

dutchess2 wrote, "Hillary has lost this election. She can't catch up, and hanging around is wasteful. She'd rather lash out at a fellow democrat than accept it. After 8 years of the conservatives in office, where they owned Congress and the supremes, this nation's infrastructure has deterioated, and we are in dept up to our eyebrows. Give me a liberal - please!"

dunnhaupt said, "One cannot help laughing to hear the ultra-left Hillary calling her opponent a leftist. Wake up, Democrats, you have picked TWO candidates from the ultra-left wing of the party this time, and that will help McCain more than all the childish squabble about pastors and Bosnia..."

lindakinne asked, "What's so bad about the "L" word? I'm a liberal and proud of it! I'll choose peace over war and democracy over theocracy any day... You staunch conservatives need liberals like me. In fact, we need each other. So wise up and stop the kindergarten name calling. And as for Hillary, she's looking more Republican every day."

stefankaitschick suggested that "If the L-word won't stick, try the I-word.
That'll do it. Americans would rather elect the devil himself than an intellectual."

Last work goes to ShalomFreedman, who wrote, "The great truth is that no one knows what Barack Obama really will do- if elected President. One can know that he is a person of tremendous charisma, of great literary and intellectual ability, a brilliant communicator. But all that does not say a word about the kinds of priorities he will set and goals he will strive towards as President."

All comments on the Obama as liberal article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  March 26, 2008; 9:50 AM ET
Categories:  Obama  
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Next: The Latino Emigration


The telephone rings it's 3:00 am and Hillary answers .... Bill is that you? No, a woman 's voice answers, Bill is with me and is not coming home tonight..... Hillary goes nuclear !!!

Posted by: MIKE | March 28, 2008 3:30 AM | Report abuse

Barack Obama is a conservative, not a liberal. Barack Obama, like other true American conservatives, is deeply committed to conserving and preserving our American values, ideals, and way of life. The only thing "liberal" about Barack is his openness to fresh solutions to America's many contemporary challenges.

The dictionary definition of the word, "liberal" mirrors the only liberal side of Barack: "not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry; favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded."

American conservatives have always known that cooperative, caring, harmonious relationships among Americans and among nations is a very practical goal, critical to our national security. Certainly, we can sustain neither a desirable standard of living nor our well-loved freedoms at current levels of war spending; yet the problems we face in a violent, unstable world relentlessly compound.

The American dream of "peace in our time" is the essential and constitutional business of a government charged with insuring domestic tranquility, a more perfect union, justice, the common defense, the general welfare, and the blessings of liberty. Peace has always been a conservative idea. Peace conserves lives, resources, good will, money, health, principles and values, our American ideals and traditional way of life, our environment and talents, our time, energy, and property.

We can no longer kid ourselves that America can shoot its way out of a world filled with angry, well-armed enemies and criminals. Growing cycles of hatred, injustice, and violence increasingly threaten the very survival of mankind today, while other serious problems on our small, fragile blue planet go unaddressed. Despite our many prisons, laws, and police forces, despite our huge nuclear and conventional arsenals, our vast military, and our seemingly limitless expenditures for espionage, we are becoming less safe with each passing day.

True conservatives realize that peace and stability, both within and among nations, is a practical mainstream political goal for generations of Americans. What better way could we find to show our troops our appreciation and support for their past and future service than to express our debt of gratitude to them by offering them a President truly charged with partnering with our defense and diplomatic leadership to insure that American soldiers never again march into an ill-planned or unnecessary war?

Although the vast majority of our nation's well-informed, well-educated, and broadly experienced professorial "experts" identify themselves as "liberal," most of them hope to conserve what is best about America through their contributions. It is exactly these same pointy-headed experts we desperately need to bring their knowledge, complexity, and sophistication--i.e., their "expertise"--to urgent contemporary American problems.

Fearing change, we often distrust "fancy-talking" experts as "others" and "outsiders," and thus time and again vote against our own best interests, electing legislators and presidents who themselves distrust experts--with the unsurprising results of bumbling, inexpert political leadership which creates truly bad foreign, domestic, environmental, monetary, social, and defense policy.

Barack Obama realizes we no longer live in our fathers' world. He knows that he cannot find solutions to tomorrow's problems using the same old approaches that got us into trouble in the first place. He sees that, in today's small, interconnected world, what we do to others comes back quickly to help us or to harm us, as we have chosen.

Just as in WWII, we cannot avoid shared sacrifice, nor avoid all injustices, but we can avoid adding to their sum.

We no longer have a choice of changing or not changing. Our only choice now is whether to change for the better, or for the worse. American conservatives everywhere are coming to recognize that Barack Obama is truly our most conservative candidate. With their support, he yet may become our greatest, and most conservative, American President.

(Nancy Pace blogs on breaking news at the intersection of politics, peace, spirituality and culture at

Posted by: Nancy Pace | March 27, 2008 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Does the "L" stand for liar? The more we learn about Obama, the more we see that he is a liar


He made $1,000,000 between 2000 and 2004 and gave a whopping $8,000 to charity.


Not a single republican politician is bragging about how Obama reached out to his party and they figured out how to solve some big problem.


Sat quietly and listened to his minister preach bigotry for 20 years and never asked him to stop or presented an opposing view to church members.


Worked behind the scenes to stop revotes in Florida and Michigan thereby disenfranchising 2 million votes.


Encouraged Bill Richardson, Gov of New Mexico, to commit his superdelegate vote to him even though Clinton won his state.


Obama is currently significantly behind McCain in all of the battleground states (Missouri, Ohio, Florida and Michigan) and not leading in any traditionally red state.

Obama's words really are "just words".

Posted by: Larry | March 26, 2008 11:43 PM | Report abuse


Large numbers of Republicans have been voting for Barack Obama in the DEMOCRATIC primaries, and caucuses from early on. Because they feel he would be a weaker opponent against John McCain. And because they feel that a Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama ticket would be unbeatable. And also because with a Clinton and Obama ticket you are almost 100% certain to get quality, affordable universal health care very soon.

But first, all of you have to make certain that Hillary Clinton takes the democratic nomination and then the Whitehouse. NOW! is the time. THIS! is the moment you have all been working, and waiting for. You can do this America. "Carpe diem" (harvest the day).

I think Hillary Clinton see's a beautiful world of plenty for all. She is a woman, and a mother. And it's time America. Do this for your-self, and your children's future. You will have to work together on this and be aggressive, relentless, and creative. Americans face an even worse catastrophe ahead than the one you are living through now.

Hillary Clinton has actually won by much larger margins than the vote totals showed. And lost by much smaller vote margins than the vote totals showed. Her delegate count is actually much higher than it shows. And higher than Obama's. She also leads in the electoral college numbers that you must win to become President in the November national election. HILLARY CLINTON IS ALREADY THE TRUE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE!

As much as 30% of Obama's primary, and caucus votes are Republicans trying to choose the weakest democratic candidate for McCain to run against. These Republicans have been gaming the caucuses where it is easier to vote cheat. This is why Obama has not been able to win the BIG! states primaries. Even with Republican vote cheating help.

Hillary Clinton has been out manned, out gunned, and out spent 2 and 3 to 1. Yet Obama has only been able to manage a very tenuous, and questionable tie with Hillary Clinton.

If Obama is the democratic nominee for the national election in November he will be slaughtered. Because the Republican vote cheating help will suddenly evaporate. All of this vote fraud and republican manipulation has made Obama falsely look like a much stronger candidate than he really is. YOUNG PEOPLE. DON'T BE DUPED! Think about it. You have the most to lose.

The democratic party needs to fix this outrage. I suggest a Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama ticket. Everyone needs to throw all your support to Hillary Clinton NOW! So you can end this outrage against YOU the voter, and against democracy.

I think Barack Obama has a once in a life time chance to make the ultimate historic gesture for unity, and change in America by accepting Hillary Clinton's offer as running mate. Such an act now would for ever seal Barack Obama's place at the top of the list of Americas all time great leaders, and unifiers for all of history.

The democratic party, and the super-delegates have a decision to make. Are the democrats, and the democratic party going to choose the DEMOCRATIC party nominee to fight for the American people. Or are the republicans going to choose the DEMOCRATIC party nominee through vote fraud, and gaming the DEMOCRATIC party primaries, and caucuses.

Fortunately the Clinton's have been able to hold on against this fraudulent outrage with those repeated dramatic comebacks of Hillary Clinton's. Only the Clinton's are that resourceful, and strong. Hillary Clinton is your NOMINEE. They are the best I have ever seen.



Posted by: jacksmith | March 26, 2008 11:07 PM | Report abuse

Actions speak better than words.

Mr Obama choose Mr. Wright as his spiritual teacher for 20 years and included Mr. Wright in his election staff, these are the actions of Mr. Obama. When shocking hate messages began to flow from the mouth of Mr. Wright on television, hyperbole spin was written for Mr. Obama distancing Mr. Obama from Mr. Wright. The weird thing is, some people actually believe the spin written by Mr. Obama's election machine. But regardless what Mr. Obama says, he chose Mr. Wright as his spiritual teacher for 20 years and added Mr. Wright to his election staff.

If you make the choice to listen and learn from Hitler every week over 20 years, do you expect me or any other rational being to believe that you wouldn't be or want to be influenced by Hitler's ideas? And what does that say of your personal integrity if you chose American hating Mr. Wright, or Mr. Hitler as your guide in life?

And also consider recent announcement that the chief of the firm involved in the State Department's passport breach is one of Obama's adviser. And that Obama has been caught lying about Rezko, regarding the amount of money Rezko gave him, and that Obama still hasn't come clean about his Rezko land deal. Or further, how Mrs. Obama makes a phenomenal $317.000 a month at a hospital in Chicago that is famous for turning away the poor, especially the black poor.

If Obama were to become president, what would stop Mr. Obama from appointing Mr. Wright to his cabinet? And after Mr. Wright's appointment, if anyone complained they would be called racist. And it seems as if this strategy - that it is racist to criticize a black man - is already in effect as Mr. Obama can do anything corrupt with minimal impunity by the public or the press. But if Hillary so much as sneezes, she is taken through the laundry and hung out to dry and then beaten some more. Such bias treatment towards Mr. Obama because of his race is racial discrimination. And I believe another reason why Mrs. Clinton is unfairly criticized to such an extreme is because a handful of powerful men in the media can't stand the idea of a woman for president - likely a libido thing.

We should have as our country's leader someone with wisdom and knowledge, whose goal is the selfless betterment of the world. We should not elect someone with a personal agenda of personal power or select them because of the fashionably of their race or the preference for a gender.

Obama is not old enough or experienced enough to take on the role of the president, and if had simple wisdom, instead of a misguided desire for power, he would know this.

Posted by: olandug | March 26, 2008 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Obama is our Savior. Barak and Reverend Wright are Right, God D*** america. Now is the time to rally around Barak and Michelle and make them proud! And news flash america, Barak is right, your typical white american is a racist! Obama will apologize to our Muslim brothers for arrogant american policies of hate and slavery. Only Obama can forgive an evil nation founded slavery. REPARATIONS NOW

Posted by: Obamamania | March 26, 2008 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Obama is our Savior. Barak and Reverend Wright are Right, God D*** america. Now is the time to rally around Barak and Michelle and make them proud! And news flash america, Barak is right, your typical white american is a racist! Obama will apologize to our Muslim brothers for arrogant american policies of hate and slavery. Only Obama can forgive an evil nation founded slavery. REPARATIONS NOW

Posted by: Obamamania | March 26, 2008 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Obama is our Savior. Barak and Reverend Wright are Right, God D*** america. Now is the time to rally around Barak and Michelle and make them proud! And news flash america, Barak is right, your typical white american is a racist! Obama will apologize to our Muslim brothers for arrogant american policies of hate and slavery. Only Obama can forgive an evil nation founded slavery. REPARATIONS NOW

Posted by: Obamamania | March 26, 2008 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Obama is NOT an unknown quantity. He has clearly said what he will do as president:
Wind down the Iraq war.
Kick the war on Bin Laden into gear.
Reverse the damage GWB has done to the Constitutional balance of powers.
Increase the Social security cap to keep it solvent.
Let Bush's tax cuts expire and use that revenue toward health care.

These are common sense ideas, not radical ideas. The part about restoring the Constitution is downright conservative.

Posted by: SoldiersMom | March 26, 2008 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Hillary is a proven and repeat offender--a liar-in-chief, a second-coming Tanya Harding. As a life long Democrat I never thought I'd agree with Barbara Bush, but Mrs Bush was right on her characterization of Mrs. Clinton. Hillary lies to the unions concerning NAFTA, to the military personnel who are supporting her about coming under sniper fire, to the American people on having been vetted--IF SO, why not release her tax returns, the list of donors for Bill's library, etc, etc? There is NO WAY many of us Democrats will support her ever, and having Hillary "win" in Texas and Ohio because of Rush Limbaugh's mischief and now possibly Pennsylvania because of Republican cross-over to give McCain a better shot in November just shows that the party elders MUST step in to save the party and the republic

Posted by: Anonymous | March 26, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

One thing that has saddened me about my party over the years is that we've allowed the right to turn "liberal" into a dirty word. It is not a bad thing to be a liberal. It is not something to be avoided. It is who many of us in the party are. I proudly consider myself to be a liberal, I won't ever back down from that label, I won't ever apologize for it, and I won't ever let someone use it against me as a slur. In fact, I think what this country needs right now is some good old fashioned liberalism. The kind of liberalism that FDR used to bring us out of the Great Depression.

And frankly, Mrs. Clinton, I will vote for you if you end up on the ticket, but if your campaign is going to start suggesting that being a liberal is a bad thing, when a vast majority of liberals in this country are a member of your is an act of political suicide that utterly bewilders me and makes me more hesitant to pledge you my secondary support in this race.

So keep up the cause, Obama, and if they label you Liberal, don't back down from it. It is not an insult.

Posted by: David | March 26, 2008 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Black-Caribbean, proud naturalized American, voted in every elections for Democrats, even in the primaries.

Latte liberal, I am not an proud of it. working-class Democrat, proud. I didnt' understand Kerry and i don't Obama.

You latte liberals need to understand that we the working-class's not that we're uneducated, it's only that we understand, quite clearly, that there is such a thing as an educated fool.

Question: When last has a wimpy-girlie Kerry-Obama like democrat been elected president? No really! When last!

Look I am sick and tired of you rich liberals, when you are in the mood to tell us exactly what is wrong with us, as you so carefully, while you patronise us, declare that you are not a racist, just because you have accepted someone like me, who is half of something and the other half Black. Get over your self-righteousness! Get over yourselves!

I can't stand Obama. I can't stand lefties and I am a proud Democrat! Wake up, we the ordinary folks, think you guys are from mars with your preppy accents and your over nuancing of plain and simple everday people. You don't know me and my kind and I don't want to know you!

So you get your pretty-boy Obama out of my sight!

I am a Hillary gal! You get it? I am a moderate, centrist Democrat and blasted proud of it. And....well you people just annoy the hell out of me!

And did I mention that I could debate anyone of you on the issues and win! Bloody-well win, and not only will I win, but I will show up in your dreams and haunt you that I am way over your head in logics and common-sense. And guess what? Unlike you, my nose is not stuck up in the air!

Posted by: Roxanne NY | March 26, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse

And Hillary is a "RepublicanLite". That is worst than any branding of Obama as a liberal.
HRC is pandering to the Rethugs.
Does she want to be McCains VP?

Hillary! You are done! Go home and shut-up!

Posted by: The Liberal | March 26, 2008 3:07 PM | Report abuse

And Hillary is a "RepublicanLite". That is worst than any branding of Obama as a liberal.
HRC is pandering to the Rethugs.
Does she want to be McCains VP?

Hillary! You are done! Go home and shut-up!

Posted by: The Liberal | March 26, 2008 3:07 PM | Report abuse

And Hillary is a "RepublicanLite". That is worst than any branding of Obama as a liberal.
HRC is pandering to the Rethugs.
Does she want to be McCains VP?

Hillary! You are done! Go home and shut-up!

Posted by: The Liberal | March 26, 2008 3:07 PM | Report abuse

The president of a prominent watchdog group said Wednesday that he believes Democratic presidential frontrunner Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) "intended to leave no paper trail" during his time in the Illinois Senate.

Judicial Watch, which has been seeking access to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-N.Y.) records from her time in the White House, argued Wednesday that the Illinois senator, who has criticized the former first lady for a lack of openness, has his own "records problem."

"The more we learn about the Illinois Senator, the more obvious it becomes that he is anything but the ethically upright outsider he purports to be," said Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch.

The group rose to prominence when it repeatedly took on former President Bill Clinton during his time in office. It also sought records from the Bush administration regarding Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force.

In a statement, Fitton noted that his group has sought access to Obama's records as a state senator and questioned whether the presidential candidate has been forthcoming with regard to what happened to those documents.

However, he said that "nobody knows where they are, if they exist at all" and claimed that "Obama's story keeps changing."

The senator's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Fitton argues that Obama's public accounts of what happened to his records do not mesh with information from the Illinois Office of the Secretary of State. He added that the Judicial Watch investigation "suggests" that the senator could have had his records archived in a way that would grant the public access to them.

"It appears that Obama never kept records of his time in the Illinois state legislature, or he discarded them," Fitton stated. "Either way, he clearly intended to leave no paper trail."

Posted by: linda | March 26, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

His L-word curse is hangin' out with that LUNATIC-Jeremiah "Impastor" Wright!

Posted by: cheersdk | March 26, 2008 2:46 PM | Report abuse

What's wrong with the term Liberal? I find it to be a compliment.

Jesus was a liberal.

Posted by: cynic | March 26, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Shalom Freedman's comments re Obama are really the greatest concern for voters. It isn't whether he is liberal or conservative - but what he will actually do if elected. To date, he hasn't given us anything at all - which makes one wonder if he is just another 'puff pastry' with no filling.

We know a great deal about Clinton and McCain - warts and all. But exactly WHAT do we really know about Obama? Has anyone checked?

Posted by: Pago | March 26, 2008 2:12 PM | Report abuse

What's wrong with being a liberal anyway? I know it's been a dirty word since Reagan but it's time for the wayward dems to take back the word and associate it with their Liberalism greatest champion: FDR. So the conservatives have Reagan, us liberals have Franklin Delano Roosevelt who brought us out of the Depression and lead a war on two fronts. Really, which era was better? The conservative era of 1981-present (including Clinton who co-opted a conservative agenda to gain power) or 1932-79 (including Ike and Nixon who likewise had to co-opt liberal economic agendas)? I hear many on the right wanting to return to the better days of their childhood. Ironically, this was during a liberal era when economic growth was experienced across the entire society.

Posted by: Bloody Lefty | March 26, 2008 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Concerned Citizen: We're all capable of going to Wikipedia on our own to look up definitions of dubious provenence. All you did here was take up A LOT of space and aggravate my carpal tunnel to scroll past it all. WaPo needs to impose character space limitations on these posts!

Posted by: citizenjane | March 26, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Concerned Citizen: We're all capable of going to Wikipedia on our own to find definitions of dubious provenence. All you did here was take up A LOT of space and aggravate my carpal tunnel to scroll past it. WaPo needs to put character space limitations on these posts!

Posted by: citizenjane | March 26, 2008 1:43 PM | Report abuse

It's a wacky world when a Democrat (in name only) tries to win a Democratic primary by labelling her opponent a liberal. It demonstrates further that there really is _no_ difference between John McCain and The Clintons. But we already knew that, didn't we?

Posted by: Carol | March 26, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Well, politicians are just dirty and good at lying or covering up the truth...

In other news, it looks like McCain has overspent on his campaign using Public Funds... that's our tax payer money, which every tax paying American I'm sure had contributed to at one time or another.

Posted by: john | March 26, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Clinton is a sleazy liar. Obama is a closet racist liar. Neither is good for America. Media bbrainwashed blame America first liberals will choose one of the other. They don't know better.

Posted by: V Racer | March 26, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I have an "L' word for Hillary --


Posted by: Mark | March 26, 2008 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Conservatism is a term used to describe political philosophies that favor tradition and gradual change, where tradition refers to religious, cultural, or nationally defined beliefs and customs. The term is derived from the Latin, com servare, to preserve; "to protect from loss or harm". Since different cultures have different established values, conservatives in different cultures have differing goals. Some conservatives seek to preserve the status quo or to reform society slowly, while others seek to return to the values of an earlier time, the status quo ante.

Conservatism as a political philosophy is difficult to define, encompassing numerous movements, and conservatives sometimes disagree about which parts of a culture are most worthy of preservation. Thus religious conservatives may be at odds with nationalist conservatives. Today, conservatives are considered right-wing, that is, anti-communist, may sometimes be contradictions between alternative conceptions of conservatism as the ideology of preserving the past, and the contemporary worldwide conception of conservatism as a right-wing political stance. But Martin Blinkhorn asks the question, "who are the 'conservatives' in today's Russia? Are they the unreconstructed Stalinists, or the reformers who have adopted the right-wing views of modern conservatives such as Margaret Thatcher?"[1]

Samuel Francis defined authentic conservatism as "the survival and enhancement of a particular people and its institutionalized cultural expressions"[2]; Roger Scruton defines conservatism as the "maintenance of the social ecology" and "the politics of delay, the purpose of which is to maintain in being, for as long as possible, the life and health of a social organism"[3]; and Russell Kirk considered conservatism "the negation of ideology".[4]

Contents [hide]
1 Development of thought
2 Schools of conservatism
2.1 Cultural conservatism
2.2 Religious conservatism
2.3 Fiscal conservatism
3 Ideological interaction and influence
3.1 Patriotism
3.2 Conservatism and economics
4 Conservatism in different countries
4.1 British conservatism
4.2 North America
4.3 Latin America Conservatism
4.4 Australian conservatism
4.5 Europe
5 See also
6 References
6.1 Further reading
7 External links

[edit] Development of thought
Conservatism has not produced, nor does it tend to produce systematic treatises like Hobbes' Leviathan or Locke's Two Treatises of Government. Consequently, what it means to be a conservative today is frequently the subject of debate and a topic muddied by association with various (and often opposing) ideologies or political parties. Scholar R.J. White once put it this way:

"To put conservatism in a bottle with a label is like trying to liquefy the atmosphere ... The difficulty arises from the nature of the thing. For conservatism is less a political doctrine than a habit of mind, a mode of feeling, a way of living."[5]

Although political thought, from its beginnings, contains many strains that can be retrospectively labeled conservative, it was not until the Age of Reason, and in particular the reaction to events surrounding the French Revolution of 1789, that conservatism began to rise as a distinct attitude or train of thought. Many point to the rise of a conservative disposition in the wake of the Reformation, specifically to the works of influential Anglican theologian, Richard Hooker - emphasizing moderation in the political balancing of interests towards the goals of social harmony and common good. But it was not until Edmund Burke's polemic Reflections on the Revolution in France that conservatism gained its most influential statement of views.

Edmund Burke was an Anglo-Irish statesman, who argued forcefully against the French Revolution, but he sympathised with some of the aims of the American Revolution. His classical conservative position often insisted that conservatism has no ideology, in the sense of a utopian program, with some form of master plan. Burke developed his ideas in reaction to the 'enlightened' idea of a society guided by abstract reason. Although he did not use the term, he anticipated the critique of modernism, a term first used at the end of the 19th century by the Dutch religious conservative Abraham Kuyper. Burke was troubled by the Enlightenment, and argued instead for the value of inherited institutions and customs.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797)Some people, argued Burke, had less reason than others, and thus some people will make worse governments than others if they rely upon reason. To Burke, the proper formulation of government came not from abstractions such as "Reason," but from time-honoured development of the state, piecemeal progress through experience and the continuation of other important societal institutions such as the family and the Church.

"We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason, because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and ages. Many of our men of speculation, instead of exploding general prejudices, employ their sagacity to discover the latent wisdom which prevails in them. If they find what they seek, and they seldom fail, they think it more wise to continue the prejudice, with the reason involved, than to cast away the coat of prejudice, and to leave nothing but naked reason; because prejudice, with its reason, has a motive to give action to that reason, and an affection which will give it permanence."

Burke argued that tradition is a much sounder foundation than 'metaphysical abstractions.' Tradition draws on the wisdom of many generations and the tests of time, while "reason" may be a mask for the preferences of one man, and at best represents only the untested wisdom of one generation. Any existing value or institution has undergone the correcting influence of past experience and ought to be respected. Also, Burke claims that man is unable to understand the many ways in which inherited behaviours influence their thinking, so trying to judge society objectively is futile.

However, conservatives do not reject change. As Burke wrote, "A state without the means of change is without the means of its conservation." But they insist that further change be organic, rather than revolutionary. An attempt to modify the complex web of human interactions that form human society, for the sake of some doctrine or theory, runs the risk of running afoul of the iron law of unintended consequences. Burke advocates vigilance against the possibility of moral hazards. For conservatives, human society is something rooted and organic; to try to prune and shape it according to the plans of an ideologue is to invite unforeseen disaster.

Conservatives strongly support the right of property. Carl B. Cone, in Burke and the Nature of Politics,[6] pointed out that this view, expressed as philosophy, also served the interests of the people involved. "As Burke had declared...this law ... encroached upon property rights... . To the eighteenth century Whig, nothing was more sacred than the rights of property, ... the protest could not be entirely frank, and it masked personal interests behind lofty principles. These principles were not hypocritically pronounced, but they did not reveal the financial interests of Rockingham, Burke, and other persons who opposed the East India legislation as members of parliament, as holders of East India stock..."

[edit] Schools of conservatism

[edit] Cultural conservatism
Main article: Cultural conservatism
Cultural conservatism is a philosophy that supports preservation of the heritage of a nation or culture. The culture in question may be as large as Western culture or Chinese civilization or as small as that of Tibet. Cultural conservatives try to adapt norms handed down from the past. The norms may be romantic, like the anti-metric movement that demands the retention of avoirdupois weights and measures in Britain and opposes their replacement with the metric system. They may be institutional: in the West this has included chivalry and feudalism, as well as capitalism, laicité and the rule of law.

In the subset social conservatism, the norms may also be moral. For example, in some cultures practices such as homosexuality are considered wrong. In other cultures women who expose their faces or limbs in public are considered immoral, and conservatives in those cultures often support laws to prohibit such practices. Other conservatives take a more positive approach, supporting good samaritan laws, or laws requiring public charity, if their culture considers these acts moral.

Cultural conservatives often argue that old institutions have adapted to a particular place or culture and therefore ought to persevere. Depending on how universalizing (or skeptical) they are, cultural conservatives may or may not accept cultures that differ from their own. Many conservatives argue based on a universal morality; others appeal only to a moral code existing within their own culture, avoiding the relevance of differing moral codes in other cultures to those in their own culture. That is, a cultural conservative may doubt whether the broad ideals of French communities would be equally appropriate in Germany.

[edit] Religious conservatism
Religious conservatives seek to preserve the teachings of particular ideologies, sometimes by proclaiming the value of those teachings, at other times seeking to have those teachings given the force of law. Religious conservatism may support, or be supported by, secular customs. In other places or at other times, religious conservatism may find itself at odds with the culture in which the believers reside. In some cultures, there is conflict between two or more different groups of religious conservatives, each strongly asserting both that their view is correct, and that opposing views are wrong.

Conservative governments influenced by religious conservatives may promote broad campaigns for a return to traditional values. Modern examples include the Back to Basics campaign of British Prime Minister, John Major. In the European Union, a conservative campaign sought to constitutionally specify certain conservative values in the proposed European Constitution.

Because many religions preserve a founding text, or at least a set of well-established traditions, the possibility of Radical Religious Conservatism arises. These are radical both in the sense of abolishing the status quo and of a perceived return to the radix or root of a belief. They are ante conservative in their claim to be preserving the belief in its original or pristine form. Radical Religious Conservatism generally sees the status quo as corrupted by abuses, corruption, or heresy. One example of such a movement was the Protestant Reformation.

Similar phenomena have arisen in practically all the world's religions, in many cases triggered by the violent cultural collision between the traditional society in question and the modern Western society that has developed throughout the world over the past 500 years. Much of what is labelled as radical religious conservatism in the modern world is in fact an indigenous fusion of traditional religious ideals with modern, European revolutionary philosophy, sometimes Marxist in nature.[citation needed]

[edit] Fiscal conservatism
Fiscal conservatism is the economic philosophy of prudence in government spending and debt. Edmund Burke, in his 'Reflections on the Revolution in France', articulated its principles:

...[I]t is to the property of the citizen, and not to the demands of the creditor of the state, that the first and original faith of civil society is pledged. The claim of the citizen is prior in time, paramount in title, superior in equity. The fortunes of individuals, whether possessed by acquisition or by descent or in virtue of a participation in the goods of some community, were no part of the creditor's security, expressed or implied...[T]he public, whether represented by a monarch or by a senate, can pledge nothing but the public estate; and it can have no public estate except in what it derives from a just and proportioned imposition upon the citizens at large.

In other words, a government does not have the right to run up large debts and then throw the burden on the taxpayer; the taxpayers' right not to be taxed oppressively takes precedence even over paying back debts a government may have imprudently undertaken.

[edit] Ideological interaction and influence
Many forms of conservatism incorporate elements of other ideologies and philosophies. In turn, conservatism has influence upon them. Most conservatives strongly support the sovereign nation (although that was not so in the 19th century), and patriotically identify with their own nation. Nationalist separatist movements may be both radical and conservative. They appeal to tradition and often emphasise rural life and folkways.

[edit] Patriotism
Most patriots appeal to national symbolism: the national flag, national historical icons, founders and emblems, the works of national poets and authors, or the representation of the nation by its artists. Conservatives often express admiration of the patriotic values of duty and sacrifice.

Conversely, some conservatives say that to defend their national identity, they may need to expose the hypocrisy of an existing regime. For example, G. K. Chesterton responded to Decatur in The Defendant, saying "'My country, right or wrong,' is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, 'My mother, drunk or sober.'" Further, paleoconservatives and others say that in this era of the managerial state, there is no clear consensus on what institutions should be conserved; therefore, the term conservative can only mean that any idea or ideology or institution that preserves human rights, and the rights of other sentient beings to exist in peace, is what should be preserved.

[edit] Conservatism and economics
The phrases "economic liberal" and "economic conservative" seem to be antonyms, diverging from modern neoliberalism, and classical liberalism in the tradition of Adam Smith.[7] Some conservatives look to a modified free market order, such as the American System, ordoliberalism, or Friedrich List's National System. The latter view differs from strict laissez-faire in that the state's role is to promote competition while maintaining the national interest, community and identity.

Outside the United States, "liberal" often refers only to free-market policies. For example, in Europe "liberal-conservative" is an accepted term. Differences in meaning and usage of the terms "liberal" and "conservative" have contributed to a great deal of confusion, and often the words seem to be used with no more meaning than "us" and "them". Conservatives and classical liberals are "allied against the common enemy, socialism," but classical liberals are less suspicious of big government than conservatives.[8]

[edit] Conservatism in different countries
Further information: right-wing and political spectrum
In western democracies, 'conservative' and 'right-wing' are two different terms. Certainly, in the west, liberals embody the political left. Although left-wing groups and individuals may have conservative social and cultural attitudes, these attitudes are not accepted as legitimate characteristics of a political group that supports the individual rights of personhood. On economic policy and the economic system, conservatives and the right generally support the free market, although less so in Europe than in other places.

Burkean conservatives favour incremental over radical change, even from the right. Most conservatives distrust the xenophobic and even racist sentiments prominent on the political right, just as most socialists distrust the communistic sentiments prominent on the political left. Protectionism and anti-immigration policies may conflict with free-market conservatives' support for deregulation and free trade. Some conservatives oppose military interventionism, inspired by early British conservative thinkers, such as David Hume and Edmund Burke. Burke saw imperialism as interfering with the traditions and organic make-up of the colonised societies.

The overlap between 'respectable' conservatives and the extreme right is determined by the degree of political taboo, rather than inherent ideological incompatibility. In European parliamentary systems, conservatives currently ally with centrist or even leftist groups, rather than with the xenophobic-populist right, although critics have contended that the conservatives are taking in far-right ideas. For example, in December 2005, Le Canard Enchaîné claimed that Nicolas Sarkozy had implemented almost all of the far-right Front National (FN) measures proposed in its election program. All mainstream parties in Belgium cooperated to exclude the Flemish-separatist and xenophobic Vlaams Belang, although some politicians wish to break this 'cordon sanitaire'. And mainstream parties in France sometimes support each others' candidates in run-off elections, to exclude the Front National party. However, in March 1977, and then March 1983, FN was present on RPR-UDF lists at municipal elections; in 1988, RPR and UDF right-wing conservative parties allied with FN in the Bouches-du-Rhône and Var regions. In March 1989, they had common lists in at least 28 cities of more than 9 000 inhabitants. Those alliances were condemned in 1991, but a dozen conservative deputies gained FN's support in 1997.

[edit] British conservatism
Conservatism in the United Kingdom is related to its counterparts in other Western nations, but has a distinct tradition. Edmund Burke is often considered the father of conservatism in Anglo-American circles. Burke was a Whig, while the short name "Tory" is given to the modern Conservative Party. Being an 18th century Whig does not preclude a person from being a major figure in the development of that Party. The modern day Party system cannot safely be traced back before the French Revolution and subsequent wars. The views of Burke remain a central tenet of conservative thinking across much of the English-speaking world. As one Australian scholar argues, "For Edmund Burke and Australians of a like mind, the essence of conservatism lies not in a body of theory, but in the disposition to maintain those institutions seen as central to the beliefs and practices of society."[9]

The old established form of English and, after the Act of Union, British conservatism, was the Tory Party. It reflected the attitudes of a rural land owning class, and championed the institutions of the monarchy, the Anglican Church, the family, and property as the best defence of the social order. In the early stages of the industrial revolution, it seemed to be totally opposed to a process that seemed to undermine some of these bulwarks. The new industrial elite were seen by many as enemies to the social order.

Sir Robert Peel was able to reconcile the new industrial class to the Tory landed class by persuading the latter to accept the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. He created a new political group that sought to preserve the old status quo while accepting the basics of laissez-faire and free trade. The new coalition of traditional landowners and sympathetic industrialists constituted the new Conservative Party.

Benjamin Disraeli gave the new party a political ideology. As a young man, he was influenced by the romantic movement and the then fashionable medievalism, and developed a devastating critique of industrialism. In his novels he outlined an England divided into two nations, each living in perfect ignorance of each other. He foresaw, like Karl Marx, the phenomenon of an alienated industrial proletariat.

His solution involved a return to an idealised view of a corporate or organic society, in which everyone had duties and responsibilities towards other people or groups. This "one nation" conservatism is still a very important tradition in British politics. It has animated a great deal of social reform undertaken by successive Conservative governments.

Although nominally a Conservative, Disraeli was sympathetic to some of the demands of the Chartists and argued for an alliance between the landed aristocracy and the working class against the increasing power of the middle class, helping to found the Young England group in 1842 to promote the view that the rich should use their power to protect the poor from exploitation by the middle class. The conversion of the Conservative Party into a modern mass organisation was accelerated by the concept of "tory Democracy" attributed to Lord Randolph Churchill.

A Liberal-Conservative coalition during World War I coupled with the ascent of the Labour Party, hastened the collapse of the Liberals in the 1920s. After World War II, the Conservative Party made concessions to the socialist policies of the Left. This compromise was a pragmatic measure to regain power, but also the result of the early successes of central planning and state-ownership forming a cross-party consensus. This was known as 'Butskellism', after the almost identical Keynesian policies of Rab Butler on behalf of the Conservatives, and Hugh Gaitskell for Labour.

However, in the 1980s, under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, and the influence of Sir Keith Joseph, there was a dramatic shift in the ideological direction of British conservatism, with a movement towards free-market economic policies. As one commentator explains, "The privatization of state owned industries, unthinkable before, became commonplace [during Thatcher's government] and has now been imitated all over the world."[10] Some commentators have questioned whether Thatcher's conservatism (Thatcherism) was consistent with the traditional concept of "conservatism" in the United Kingdom, and saw her views as more consistent with radical classical liberalism; Thatcher herself was described as "a radical in a conservative party"[10], and her ideology has been seen as confronting "established institutions" and the "accepted beliefs of the elite",[10] both concepts incompatible with the traditional conception of "conservatism" as signifying support for the established order and existing social convention.

[edit] North America
Main articles: Conservatism in the United States and Canadian conservatism
Conservatism in the United States comprises a constellation of political ideologies including fiscal conservatism, free market or economic liberalism, social conservatism,[11] libertarianism, bioconservatism and religious conservatism,[12] as well as support for a strong military,[13] small government, and states' rights. The Loyalists of the American Revolution were mostly political conservatives, however, the revolutionary Founding Fathers created a republican ideology, which liberals and conservatives alike have drawn from. The Federalist Party, followers of Alexander Hamilton, developed an important variation of republicanism that many American conservatives draw from.

[edit] Latin America Conservatism
The Latin Conservative parties, primarily appear at two-party systems, fighting for the power with Liberal Parties. Most of the conservative parties disappeared, because of the new government structures, except for the Colombian Conservative Party.

Most of these parties create their structure and ideological program at the image of Simon Bolivar.

[edit] Australian conservatism
Conservatism in Australia is related to British and American conservatism in many respects, but has a distinct political tradition. Like conservatism in many other nations, Australian conservatism is traditionally composed of diverse groups and interests, which are united more by opposition to certain political developments than by a distinct shared ideology; as one scholar argues, "Australian conservatives are more readily characterized by what they reject than by any shared set of values."[9]

In terms of partisan politics, conservatism has often been defined as opposition to the Australian Labor Party; as such, many different groups have historically been grouped on the "conservative" side of Australian politics, such as "social conservatives...Empire nationalists, organizations supporting rural interests, anti-socialist Catholics, fundamentalist Christians and free-market liberals."[9] In contemporary Australian politics, the Liberal Party of Australia is often seen as the "conservative" party, which can surprise American observers for whom liberalism is seen as opposed to conservatism.

Historically, for the first seventy years after the Federation of Australia, the non-Labor (and hence implicitly "conservative") side of Australian politics was associated with policies of moderate protectionism in trade, and of support for the welfare state, coupled with maintenance of Australia's ties to the British Empire. Many scholars have seen the government of Robert Menzies as exemplifying this trend.[9] However, from the 1980s, free-market economic policies were increasingly associated with conservatism in Australian politics, following the same trend as the United States and Britain under Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher respectively.[9]

[edit] Europe
In other parts of Europe, mainstream conservatism is often represented by the Christian Democratic parties. They form the bulk of the European Peoples Party faction in the European Parliament. The origin of these parties is usually in Catholic parties of the late 19th and early 20th century, and Catholic social teaching was their original inspiration. Over the years, conservatism gradually became their main ideological inspiration, and they generally became less Catholic. The German CDU, its Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Dutch Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) are Protestant-Catholic parties.

In the Nordic countries, conservatism has been represented in liberal conservative parties like the Moderate Party in Sweden, Høyre in Norway and the Conservative People's Party in Denmark. Domestically, these parties generally support market-oriented policies, and usually gain support from the business community and white-collar professionals. Internationally they generally support the European Union and a strong defense. Their views on social issues tend to be more liberal than, for example, the U.S. Republican Party. Social conservatism in the Nordic countries are often found in their Christian Democratic parties. In several Nordic countries, right-wing populist parties have gained some support since the 1970s. Their policies have often been focused on tax cuts, reduced immigration, and tougher law and order policies.

Generally, one could claim that European conservatives tend to be more moderate on many social and economic issues, than American conservatives. They tend to be quite friendly to the aims of the welfare state, although concerned about a healthy business environment. However, some groups have been more supportive of a stricter libertarian or laissez-faire agenda, especially under influence from Thatcherism. European conservative groups often see themselves as guardians of prudence, moderation, history and tried experience, as opposed to radicalism and social experiments. Approval of high culture and established political institutions like the monarchy is often found in European conservatism. Mainstream conservative groups are often staunch supporters of the European Union. However, one might also find elements of nationalism in many countries.

Posted by: Concerned Citizen | March 26, 2008 11:40 AM | Report abuse

It is far more valuable to read history and political philosophy and then make one's own decision than it is to read or listen to corporate media.

Posted by: Concerned Citizen | March 26, 2008 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Civil rights
Main article: Civil rights
Liberalism advocates civil rights for all citizens: the protection and privileges of personal liberty extended to all citizens equally by law. It includes the equal treatment of all citizens irrespective of race, gender and class. Liberals are divided over the extent to which positive rights are to be included, such as the right to food, shelter, and education. Critics from an internationalist human rights school of thought argue that the civil rights advocated in the liberal view are not extended to all people, but are limited to citizens of particular states. Unequal treatment on the basis of nationality is therefore possible, especially in regard to citizenship itself.

Rule of law
The rule of law and equality before the law are fundamental to liberalism. Government authority may only be legitimately exercised in accordance with laws that are adopted through an established procedure. Another aspect of the rule of law is an insistence upon the guarantee of an independent judiciary, whose political independence is intended to act as a safeguard against arbitrary rulings in individual cases. The rule of law includes concepts such as the presumption of innocence, no double jeopardy, and Habeas Corpus. Rule of law is seen by liberals as a guard against despotism and as enforcing limitations on the power of government. In the penal system, liberals in general reject punishments they see as inhumane, including capital punishment[21]

Neutral government
Liberals generally believe in neutral government, in the sense that it is not for the state to determine personal values. As John Rawls put it, "The state has no right to determine a particular conception of the good life". In the United States this neutrality is expressed in the Declaration of Independence as the right to the pursuit of happiness.

Both in Europe and in the United States, liberals often support the pro-choice movement and advocate equal rights for women and homosexuals.

Racism is incompatible with liberalism. Liberals in Europe are generally hostile to any attempts by the state to enforce equality in employment by legal action against employers, whereas in the United States many liberals favor such affirmative action. Liberals in general support equal opportunity, but not necessarily equal outcome. Most European liberal parties do not favour employment quotas for women and ethnic minorities as the best way to end gender and racial inequality. However, all agree that arbitrary discrimination on the basis of race or gender is morally wrong.

Free market
Main article: Economic liberalism
Economic liberals today stress the importance of a free market and free trade, and seek to limit government intervention in both the domestic economy and foreign trade. Modern liberal movements often agree in principle with the idea of free trade, but maintain some skepticism, seeing unrestricted trade as leading to the growth of multi-national corporations and the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few. In the post-war consensus on the welfare state in Europe, liberals supported government responsibility for health, education, and alleviating poverty while still calling for a market based on independent exchange. Liberals agree that a high quality of health care and education should be available for all citizens, but differ in their views on the degree to which governments should supply these benefits. Since poverty is a threat to personal liberty, liberalism seeks a balance between individual responsibility and community responsibility. In particular, liberals favor special protection for the handicapped, the sick, the disabled, and the aged.[22]

European liberalism turned back to more laissez-faire policies in the 1980s and 1990s, and supported privatisation and liberalisation in health care and other public sectors. Modern European liberals generally tend to believe in a smaller role for government than would be supported by most social democrats, let alone socialists or communists. The European liberal consensus appears to involve a belief that economies should be decentralized. In general, contemporary European liberals do not believe that the government should directly control any industrial production through state owned enterprises, which places them in opposition to social democrats.

Main article: Green liberalism
Many liberals share values with environmentalists, such as the Green Party. They seek to minimize the damage done by the human species on the natural world, and to maximize the regeneration of damaged areas. Some such activists attempt to make changes on an economic level by acting together with businesses, but others favor legislation in order to achieve sustainable development. Other liberals do not accept government regulation in this matter and argue that the market should regulate itself in some fashion.

International relations
Main article: Liberal international relations theory
There is no consensus about liberal doctrine in international politics, though there are some central notions, which can be deduced from, for example, the opinions of Liberal International.[23] Social liberals often believe that war can be abolished. Some favor internationalism, and support the United Nations. Economic liberals, on the other hand, favor non-interventionism rather than collective security. Liberals believe in the right of every individual to enjoy the essential human liberties, and support self-determination for national minorities. Essential also is the free exchange of ideas, news, goods and services between people, as well as freedom of travel within and between all countries. Liberals generally oppose censorship, protective trade barriers, and exchange regulations.

Some liberals were among the strongest advocates of international co-operation and the building of supra-national organizations, such as the European Union. In the view of social liberals, a global free and fair market can only work if companies worldwide respect a set of common minimal social and ecological standards. A controversial question, on which there is no liberal consensus, is immigration. Do nations have a right to limit the flow of immigrants from countries with growing populations to countries with stable or declining populations?

Conservative liberalism and Liberal conservatism
Main articles: Conservative liberalism and Liberal conservatism
Conservative liberalism represents the right-wing of the liberal movement, stressing much on economic issues and combining some conservative elements. Examples include the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy in the Netherlands, the Liberal Party of Denmark and, in some ways, the Free Democratic Party of Germany.

Liberal conservatism is a variant of conservatism which includes some liberal elements. This strain often emerged in countries with strong socialist and/or labour parties, and is often strongly influenced by the writings of Edmund Burke. Examples include the Reform Party of Canada/Canadian Alliance, the Liberal Front Party (Brazil), the Moderate Party (Sweden), Forza Italia, Civic Platform (Poland), the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, National Renewal in Chile, and the Liberal Party of Australia. These parties are mainly member of the International Democratic Union, not of the Liberal International.

Liberal international relations theory
Main article: Liberal international relations theory
"Liberalism" in international relations is a theory that holds that state preferences, rather than state capabilities, are the primary determinant of state behavior. Unlike realism where the state is seen as a unitary actor, liberalism allows for plurality in state actions. Thus, preferences will vary from state to state, depending on factors such as culture, economic system or government type. Liberalism also holds that interaction between states is not limited to the political/security ("high politics"), but also economic/cultural ("low politics") whether through commercial firms, organizations or individuals. Thus, instead of an anarchic international system, there are plenty of opportunities for cooperation and broader notions of power, such as cultural capital (for example, the influence of a country's films leading to the popularity of its culture and the creation of a market for its exports worldwide). Another assumption is that absolute gains can be made through co-operation and interdependence - thus peace can be achieved.

Liberalism as an international relations theory is not inherently linked to liberalism as a more general domestic political ideology. Increasingly, modern liberals are integrating critical international relations theory into their foreign policy positions.

Main article: Neoliberalism
Neoliberalism is a label for some economic liberal doctrines. The swing away from government action in the 1970s led to the introduction of this term, which refers to a program of reducing trade barriers and internal market restrictions, while using government power to enforce opening of foreign markets. Neoliberalism accepts a certain degree of government involvement in the domestic economy, particularly a central bank with the power to print fiat money. This is strongly opposed by libertarians. While neoliberalism is sometimes described as overlapping with Thatcherism, economists as diverse as Joseph Stiglitz and Milton Friedman have been described -- by others -- as "neoliberal". This economic agenda is not necessarily combined with a liberal agenda in politics: neoliberals often do not subscribe to individual liberty on ethical issues or in sexual mores. An extreme example was the Pinochet regime in Chile, but some also classify Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and even Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder as being neo-liberal.

It should be noted that, in the 1990s, many social democratic parties adopted "neoliberal" economic policies such as privatization of industry and open markets, much to the dismay of many of their own voters. This has led these parties to become de facto neoliberal, and has often resulted in a drastic loss of popular support. For example, critics to the left of the German Social Democratic Party and the British Labour Party accuse them of pursuing neoliberal policies by refusing to renationalise industry. As a result of this, much support for these parties has been lost to the Christian Democratic Union and the Liberal Democrats, respectively. This "adopting of the wolves clothes" has led Labour in the UK to spectacular electoral success. However, tensions between the executive and Labour's backbenches is a consistent issue.

Sometimes "Neoliberalism" is used as a catch-all term for the anti-socialist reaction which swept through some countries during the period between the 70s and 90s. "Neoliberalism" in the form of Thatcher, Reagan, and Pinochet claimed to move from a bureaucratic welfare-based society toward a meritocracy acting in the interests of business. In actuality, these governments cut funding for education and taxed income more heavily than wealth, which increased the influence of big business and the upper class.

Some conservatives see themselves as the true inheritors of classical liberalism. Jonah Goldberg of National Review argues that "most conservatives are closer to classical liberals than a lot of Reason-libertarians" because conservatives want to preserve some institutions that they see as needed for liberty.[24] Further confusing the classification of liberalism and conservatism is that some conservatives claim liberal values as their own.

Criticism and defense of Liberalism
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Collectivist opponents of liberalism reject its emphasis on individual rights, and instead emphasize the collective or the community to a degree where the rights of the individual are either diminished or abolished. Collectivism can be found both to the right and to the left of liberalism. On the left, the collective that tends to be enhanced is the state, often in the form of state socialism. On the right, conservative and religious opponents argue that liberalism has removed the traditional mores that informally regulated societies, replacing them with abstract and idealistic principles which are imposed by the liberal-dominated schools, media, courts and bureaucracy. Opponents like Theodore Dalrymple claim that these new principles have actually undermined the concepts of self control and personal responsibility which are vital to any functional society. The liberal answer to this is that it is not the purpose of the law to legislate morality, but to protect the citizen from harm. However, conservatives often see the legislation of morality as an essential aspect of protecting citizens from harm.

Anti-statist critiques of liberalism, such as anarchism, assert the illegitimacy of the state for any purposes.

A softer critique of liberalism can be found in communitarianism, which emphasizes a return to communities without necessarily denigrating individual rights.

Beyond these clear theoretical differences, some liberal principles can be disputed in a piecemeal fashion, with some portions kept and others abandoned (see Liberal democracy and Neoliberalism.) This ongoing process - where putatively liberal agents accept some traditionally liberal values and reject others - causes some critics to question whether or not the word "liberal" has any useful meaning at all.

In terms of international politics, the universal claims of human rights which liberalism tends to endorse are disputed by rigid adherents of non-interventionism, since intervention in the interests of human rights can conflict with the sovereignty of nations. By contrast, World federalists criticize liberalism for its adherence to the doctrine of sovereign nation-states, which the World federalists believe is not helpful in the face of genocide and other mass human rights abuses.

Liberalism has also been accused of being non-political in the works of some critics, for instance in "Imperium: The Philosophy of History and Politics" by Francis Parker Yockey:

Liberalism, however, with its compromising, vague attitude, incapable of precise formulation, incapable also of rousing precise feelings, either affirmative or negative, is not an idea of political force. Its numerous devotees, in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries have taken part in practical politics only as the ally of other groups.[25]

Left-leaning opponents of economic liberalism reject the view that the private sector can act for the collective benefit, citing the harm done to those individuals who lose out in competition. They oppose the use of the state to impose market principles, usually through an enforced market mechanism in a previously non-market sector. They argue that the dominance of liberal principles in economy and society has contributed to inequality among states, and inequality within states. They argue that liberal societies are characterised by long-term poverty, and by ethnic and class differentials in health, by (infant) mortality and lower life expectancy. Some would even say they have much higher unemployment than centrally planned economies.

A response to these claims is that liberal states tend to be wealthier than less free states, that the poor in liberal states are better off than the average citizen in non-liberal states, and that inequality is a necessary spur to the hard work that produces prosperity. Throughout history, poverty has been the common lot of mankind, and it is only the progress of science and the rise of the modern industrial state that has brought prosperity to large numbers of people.

Liberalism and social democracy
Liberalism shares many basic goals and methods with social democracy, but in some places diverges. The fundamental difference between liberalism and social democracy is disagreement over the role of the state in the economy. Social democracy can be understood to combine features from both social liberalism and democratic socialism. Democratic socialism seeks to achieve some minimum equality of outcome. Democratic socialists support a large public sector and the nationalization of utilities such as gas and electricity in order to avoid private monopolies, achieve social justice, and raise the standard of living. By contrast, liberalism, in its distrust of monopolies (both public and private), prefers much less state intervention, choosing for example subsidies and regulation rather than outright nationalization. Liberalism also emphasizes equality of opportunity, and not equality of outcome, citing the desire for a meritocracy. American liberalism, in contrast to liberalism in most countries, never took a major focus on socialism nor ever demanded the same social welfare state programs as its European counterparts. Today, the United States does not share the welfare state programs applied in most of Europe and has implemented fewer social programs to aid those in the lower socioeconomic level than Canada and Australia.[

Posted by: Concerned Citizen | March 26, 2008 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Liberalism and the great depression

Franklin D. RooseveltDespite some dispute whether there was an actual laissez-faire capitalist state in existence at the time [1], the Great Depression of the 1930s shook public faith in "laissez-faire capitalism" and "the profit motive," leading many to conclude that the unregulated markets could not produce prosperity and prevent poverty. Many liberals were troubled by the political instability and restrictions on liberty that they believed were caused by the growing relative inequality of wealth. Key liberals of this persuasion, such as John Dewey, John Maynard Keynes, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, argued for the creation of a more elaborate state apparatus to serve as the bulwark of individual liberty, permitting the continuation of capitalism while protecting the citizens against its perceived excesses. Some liberals, including Hayek, whose work The Road to Serfdom remains influential, argued against these institutions, believing the Great Depression and Second World War to be individual events, that, once passed, did not justify a permanent change in the role of government.

Key liberal thinkers, such as Lujo Brentano, Leonard Trelawny Hobhouse, Thomas Hill Green, John Maynard Keynes, Bertil Ohlin and John Dewey, described how a government should intervene in the economy to protect liberty while avoiding socialism. These liberals developed the theory of modern liberalism (also "new liberalism," not to be confused with present-day neoliberalism). Modern liberals rejected both radical capitalism and the revolutionary elements of the socialist school. John Maynard Keynes, in particular, had a significant impact on liberal thought throughout the world. The Liberal Party in Britain, particularly since Lloyd George's People's Budget, was heavily influenced by Keynes, as was the Liberal International, the Oxford Liberal Manifesto of 1947 of the world organization of liberal parties. In the United States, the influence of Keynesianism on Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal has led modern liberalism to be identified with American liberalism and Canadian Liberalism.

Other liberals, including Friedrich August von Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Ludwig von Mises, argued that the great depression was not a result of "laissez-faire" capitalism but a result of too much government intervention and regulation upon the market. In Friedman's work, "Capitalism and Freedom" he elucidated government regulation that occurred before the great depression including heavy regulations upon banks that prevented them, he argued, from reacting to the markets' demand for money. Furthermore, the U.S. Federal government had created a fixed currency pegged to the value of gold. This pegged value created a massive surplus of gold, but later the pegged value was too low which created a massive migration of gold from the U.S. Friedman and Hayek both believed that this inability to react to currency demand created a run on the banks that the banks were no longer able to handle, and that and the fixed exchange rates between the dollar and gold both worked to cause the Great Depression by creating, and then not fixing, deflationary pressures. He further argued in this thesis, that the government inflicted more pain upon the American public by first raising taxes, then by printing money to pay debts (thus causing inflation), the combination of which helped to wipe out the savings of the middle class.

Only in 1974 was Hayek awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for, among other reasons, his theory of business cycles and his conception of the effects of monetary and credit policies and for being "one of the few economists who gave warning of the possibility of a major economic crisis before the great crash came in the autumn of 1929." [2]

Liberalism against totalitarianism
In the mid-20th century, liberalism began to define itself in opposition to totalitarianism. The term was first used by Giovanni Gentile to describe the socio-political system set up by Mussolini. Stalin would apply it to German Nazism, and after the war it became a descriptive term for what liberalism considered the common characteristics of fascist, Nazi and Marxist-Leninist regimes. Totalitarian regimes sought and tried to implement absolute centralized control over all aspects of society, in order to achieve prosperity and stability. These governments often justified such absolutism by arguing that the survival of their civilization was at risk. Opposition to totalitarian regimes acquired great importance in liberal and democratic thinking, and they were often portrayed as trying to destroy liberal democracy. On the other hand, the opponents of liberalism strongly objected to the classification that unified mutually hostile fascist and communist ideologies and considered them fundamentally different.

In Italy and Germany, nationalist governments linked corporate capitalism to the state, and promoted the idea that their nations were culturally and racially superior, and that conquest would give them their "rightful" place in the world. The propaganda machines of these countries argued that democracy was weak and incapable of decisive action, and that only a strong leader could impose necessary discipline. In Soviet Union, the ruling communists banned private property, claiming to act for the sake of economic and social justice, and the government had full control over the planned economy. The regime insisted that personal interests be linked and inferior to those of the society, of class, which was ultimately an excuse for persecuting both oppositions as well as dissidents within the communists ranks as well as arbitrary use of severe penal code.

The rise of totalitarianism became a lens for liberal thought. Many liberals began to analyze their own beliefs and principles, and came to the conclusion that totalitarianism arose because people in a degraded condition turn to dictatorships for solutions. From this, it was argued that the state had the duty to protect the economic well being of its citizens. As Isaiah Berlin said, "Freedom for the wolves means death for the sheep." This growing body of liberal thought argued that reason requires a government to act as a balancing force in economics.

Other liberal interpretations on the rise of totalitarianism were quite contrary to the growing body of thought on government regulation in supporting the market and capitalism. This included Friedrich Hayek's work, The Road to Serfdom. He argued that the rise of totalitarian dictatorships was the result of too much government intervention and regulation upon the market which caused loss of political and civil freedoms. Hayek also saw these economic controls being instituted in the United Kingdom and the United States and warned against these "Keynesian" institutions, believing that they can and will lead to the same totalitarian governments "Keynesians liberals" were attempting to avoid. Hayek saw authoritarian regimes such as the fascist, Nazis, and communists, as the same totalitarian branch; all of which sought the elimination or reduction of economic freedom. To him the elimination of economic freedom brought about the elimination of political freedom. Thus Hayek believes the differences between Nazis and communists are only rhetorical.

Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman stated that economic freedom is a necessary condition for the creation and sustainability of civil and political freedoms. Hayek believed the same totalitarian outcomes could occur in Britain (or anywhere else) if the state sought to control the economic freedom of the individual with the policy prescriptions outlined by people like Dewey, Keynes, or Roosevelt.

One of the most influential critics of totalitarianism was Karl Popper. In The Open Society and Its Enemies he defended liberal democracy and advocated open society, in which the government can be changed without bloodshed. Popper argued that the process of the accumulation of human knowledge is unpredictable and that the theory of ideal government cannot possibly exist. Therefore, the political system should be flexible enough so that governmental policy would be able to evolve and adjust to the needs of the society; in particular, it should encourage Pluralism and multiculturalism.

Liberalism after World War II
In much of the West, expressly liberal parties were caught between "conservative" parties on one hand, and "labor" or social democratic parties on the other hand. For example, the UK Liberal Party became a minor party. The same process occurred in a number of other countries, as the social democratic parties took the leading role in the Left, while pro-business conservative parties took the leading role in the Right.

The post-war period saw the dominance of modern liberalism. Linking modernism and progressivism to the notion that a populace in possession of rights and sufficient economic and educational means would be the best defense against totalitarian threats, the liberalism of this period took the stance that by enlightened use of liberal institutions, individual liberties could be maximized, and self-actualization could be reached by the broad use of technology. Liberal writers in this period include economist John Kenneth Galbraith, philosopher John Rawls and sociologist Ralf Dahrendorf. A dissenting strain of thought developed that viewed any government involvement in the economy as a betrayal of liberal principles. Calling itself "libertarianism," this movement was centered around such schools of thought as Austrian Economics.

The debate between personal liberty and social optimality occupies much of the theory of liberalism since the Second World War, particularly centering around the questions of social choice and market mechanisms required to produce a "liberal" society. One of the central parts of this argument concerns Kenneth Arrow's General Possibility Theorem. This thesis states that there is no consistent social choice function which satisfies unbounded decision making, independence of choices, Pareto optimality, and non-dictatorship. In short, according to the thesis which includes the problem of liberal paradox, it is not possible to have unlimited liberty, a maximum amount of utility, and an unlimited range of choices at the same time. Another important argument within liberalism is the importance of rationality in decision making - whether the liberal state is best based on rigorous procedural rights or whether it should be rooted in substantial equality.

One important liberal debate concerns whether people have positive rights as members of communities in addition to being protected from wrongs done by others. For many liberals, the answer is "yes": individuals have positive rights based on being members of a national, political, or local unit, and can expect protection and benefits from these associations. Members of a community have a right to expect that their community will to a certain degree regulate the economy since rising and falling economic circumstances cannot be controlled by the individual. If individuals have a right to participate in a public capacity, then they have a right to expect education and social protections against discrimination from other members of that public. Other liberals would answer "no": individuals have no such rights as members of communities, for such rights conflict with the more fundamental "negative" rights of other members of the community.

After the 1970s, the liberal pendulum had swung away from increasing the role of government, and towards a greater use of the free market and laissez-faire principles. In essence, many of the old pre-World War I ideas were making a comeback.

In part this was a reaction to the triumphalism of the dominant forms of liberalism of the time, but as well it was rooted in a foundation of liberal philosophy, particularly suspicion of the state, whether as an economic or philosophical actor. Even liberal institutions could be misused to restrict rather than promote liberty. Increasing emphasis on the free market emerged with Milton Friedman in the United States, and with members of the Austrian School in Europe. Their argument was that regulation and government involvement in the economy was a slippery slope, that any would lead to more, and that more was difficult to remove.

Contemporary liberalism
The impact of liberalism on the modern world is profound. The ideas of individual liberties, personal dignity, free expression, religious tolerance, private property, universal human rights, transparency of government, limitations on government power, popular sovereignty, national self-determination, privacy, "enlightened" and "rational" policy, the rule of law, fundamental equality, a free market economy, and free trade were all radical notions some 250 years ago. Liberal democracy, in its typical form of multiparty political pluralism, has spread to much of the world. Today all are accepted as the goals of policy in most nations, even if there is a wide gap between statements and reality. They are not only the goals of liberals, but also of social democrats, conservatives, and Christian Democrats. There is, of course, opposition.

Overview of political positions of contemporary liberal parties.
Today the word "liberalism" is used differently in different countries. (See Liberalism worldwide.) One of the greatest contrasts is between the usage in the United States and usage in Continental Europe.[20] In the US, liberalism is usually understood to refer to modern liberalism, as contrasted with conservatism. American liberals endorse regulation for business, a limited social welfare state, and support broad racial, ethnic, sexual and religious tolerance, and thus more readily embrace Pluralism, and affirmative action. In Europe, on the other hand, liberalism is not only contrasted with conservatism and Christian Democracy, but also with socialism and social democracy. In some countries, European liberals share common positions with Christian Democrats.

Before an explanation of this subject proceeds, it is important to add this disclaimer: There is always a disconnect between philosophical ideals and political realities. Also, opponents of any belief are apt to describe that belief in different terms from those used by adherents. What follows is a record of those goals that overtly appear most consistently across major liberal manifestos (e.g., the Oxford Manifesto of 1947). It is not an attempt to catalogue the idiosyncratic views of particular persons, parties, or countries, nor is it an attempt to investigate any covert goals, since both are beyond the scope of this article.

Most political parties which identify themselves as liberal claim to promote the rights and responsibilities of the individual, free choice within an open competitive process, the free market, and the dual responsibility of the state to protect the individual citizen and guarantee their liberty. Critics of liberal parties tend to state liberal policies in different terms. Economic freedom may lead to gross inequality. Free speech may lead to speech that is obscene, blasphemous, or treasonous. The role of the state as promoter of freedom and as protector of its citizens may come into conflict.

Main article: Liberal democracy
Liberalism stresses the importance of representative liberal democracy as the best form of government. Elected representatives are subject to the rule of law, and their power is moderated by a constitution, which emphasizes the protection of rights and freedoms of individuals and limits the will of the majority. Liberals are in favour of a pluralist system in which differing political and social views, even extreme or fringe views, compete for political power on a democratic basis and have the opportunity to achieve power through periodically held elections. They stress the resolution of differences by peaceful means within the bounds of democratic or lawful processes. Many liberals seek ways to increase the involvement and participation of citizens in the democratic process. Some liberals favour direct democracy instead of representative democracy.

Posted by: Concerned Citizen | March 26, 2008 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Trends within liberalism
Within the above framework, there are deep, often bitter, conflicts and controversies among liberals. Emerging from those controversies, out of classical liberalism, are a number of different trends within liberalism. As in many debates, opposite sides use different words for the same beliefs, and sometimes use identical words for different beliefs. For the purposes of this article, we will use "political liberalism" for the support of (liberal) democracy (either in a republic or a constitutional monarchy), over absolute monarchy or dictatorship; "cultural liberalism" for the support of individual liberty over laws limiting liberty for patriotic or religious reasons; "economic liberalism" for the support of private property, over government regulation; and "social liberalism" for the support of equality under the law, and relief provided by the government from suffering caused by poverty or natural disaster. By "modern liberalism" we mean the mixture of these forms of liberalism found in most First World countries today, rather than any one of the pure forms listed above.

" Liberalism wagers that a state... can be strong but constrained - strong because constrained... Rights to education and other requirements for human development and security aim to advance equal opportunity and personal dignity and to promote a creative and productive society. To guarantee those rights, liberals have supported a wider social and economic role for the state, counterbalanced by more robust guarantees of civil liberties and a wider social system of checks and balances anchored in an independent press and pluralistic society. - Paul Starr, sociologist at Princeton University, The New Republic, March 2007 "

Some principles liberals generally agree upon:

Political liberalism is the belief that individuals are the basis of law and society, and that society and its institutions exist to further the ends of individuals, without showing favor to those of higher social rank. Magna Carta is an example of a political document that asserted the rights of individuals even above the prerogatives of monarchs. Political liberalism stresses the social contract, under which citizens make the laws and agree to abide by those laws. It is based on the belief that individuals know best what is best for them. Political liberalism enfranchises all adult citizens regardless of sex, race, or economic status. Political liberalism emphasizes the rule of law and supports liberal democracy.
Cultural liberalism focuses on the rights of individuals pertaining to conscience and lifestyle, including such issues as sexual freedom, religious freedom, cognitive freedom, and protection from government intrusion into private life. John Stuart Mill aptly expressed cultural liberalism in his essay "On Liberty," when he wrote,
" The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. "

Cultural liberalism generally opposes government regulation of literature, art, academics, gambling, sex, prostitution, abortion, birth control, terminal illness, alcohol, and cannabis and other controlled substances. Most liberals oppose some or all government intervention in these areas. The Netherlands, in this respect, may be the most liberal country in the world today.
However, some trends within liberalism reveal stark differences of opinion:

Economic liberalism, also called classical liberalism or Manchester liberalism, is an ideology which supports the individual rights of property and freedom of contract, without which, it argues, the exercise of other liberties is impossible. It advocates laissez-faire capitalism, meaning the removal of legal barriers to trade and cessation of government-bestowed privilege such as subsidy and monopoly. Economic liberals want little or no government regulation of the market. Some economic liberals would accept government restrictions of monopolies and cartels, others argue that monopolies and cartels are caused by state action. Economic liberalism holds that the value of goods and services should be set by the unfettered choices of individuals, that is, of market forces. Some would also allow market forces to act even in areas conventionally monopolized by governments, such as the provision of security and courts. Economic liberalism accepts the economic inequality that arises from unequal bargaining positions as being the natural result of competition, so long as no coercion is used. This form of liberalism is especially influenced by English liberalism of the mid 19th century. Minarchism and anarcho-capitalism are forms of economic liberalism. (See also Free trade, Neo-liberalism, liberalization)
Social liberalism, also known as new liberalism (not to be confused with 'neoliberalism') and reform liberalism, arose in the late 19th century in many developed countries, influenced by the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. Generally speaking, social liberals support free trade and a market-based economy in which the basic needs of all individuals are met. Furthermore, socially progressive ideas are commonly advocated by social liberals, based on the idea that social practices ought to be continuously adapted in such a manner as to benefit the well-fare of society. According to the tenets of this form of liberalism, as explained by writers such as John Dewey and Mortimer Adler, since individuals are the basis of society, all individuals should have access to basic necessities of fulfillment, such as education, economic opportunity, and protection from harmful macro-events beyond their control. To social liberals, these benefits are considered rights. These positive rights, which must be produced and supplied by other people, are qualitatively different from the classic negative rights, which require only that others refrain from aggression. To the social liberal, ensuring positive rights is a goal that is continuous with the general project of protecting liberties. Schools, libraries, museums, and art galleries are to be supported by taxes. Social liberalism advocates some restrictions on economic competition, such as anti-trust laws and price controls on wages ("minimum wage laws.")
The struggle between economic freedom and social equality is almost as old as the idea of freedom itself. Plutarch, writing about Solon (c. 639 - c. 559 BCE), the lawgiver of ancient Athens, wrote:

" The remission of debts was peculiar to Solon; it was his great means for confirming the citizens' liberty; for a mere law to give all men equal rights is but useless, if the poor must sacrifice those rights to their debts, and, in the very seats and sanctuaries of equality, the courts of justice, the offices of state, and the public discussions, be more than anywhere at the beck and bidding of the rich. "

Economic liberals see positive rights as necessarily violating negative rights, and therefore illegitimate. They see a limited role for government. Some economic liberals see no proper function of government, while others (minarchists) would limit government to courts, police, and defense against foreign invasion. Social liberals, in contrast, see a major role for government in promoting the general welfare - providing some or all of the following services: food and shelter for those who cannot provide for themselves, medical care, schools, retirement, care for children and for the disabled, including those disabled by old age, help for victims of natural disaster, protection of minorities, prevention of crime, and support for the arts and sciences. This largely abandons the idea of limited government. Both forms of liberalism seek the same end - liberty - but they disagree strongly about the best or most moral means to attain it. Some liberal parties emphasize economic liberalism, while others focus on social liberalism. Conservative parties often favor economic liberalism while opposing social and cultural liberalism.

In all of the forms of liberalism listed above there is a general belief that there should be a balance between government and private responsibilities, and that government should be limited to those tasks which cannot be carried out best by the private sector. All forms of liberalism claim to protect the fundamental dignity and autonomy of the individual under law, all claim that freedom of individual action promotes the best society. Liberalism is so widespread in the modern world that most Western nations at least pay lip service to individual liberty as the basis for society.

Comparative influences
Early Enlightenment thinkers contrasted liberalism with the authoritarianism of the Ancien Régime, feudalism, mercantilism and the Roman Catholic Church. Later, as more radical philosophers articulated their thoughts in the course of the French Revolution and throughout the nineteenth century, liberalism defined itself in contrast to socialism and communism, although modern European liberal parties have often formed coalitions with social-democratic parties. In the 20th century liberalism defined itself in opposition to totalitarianism and collectivism. Some modern liberals have rejected the classical Just War theory, which emphasizes neutrality and free trade, in favor of multilateral interventionism and collective security.

Liberalism favors the limitation of government power. Extreme anti-statist liberalism, as advocated by Frederic Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Herbert Spencer, and Auberon Herbert, is a radical form of liberalism called anarchism (no state at all) or minarchism (a minimal state, or sometimes called "the nightwatchman state.")[7] These anti-state forms of liberalism are commonly referred to as libertarianism. Most liberals claim that a government is necessary to protect rights, yet the meaning of "government" can range from simply a rights protection organization to a Weberian state. Recently, liberalism has again come into conflict with those who seek a society ordered by religious values: radical Islamism often rejects liberal thought in its entirety, and radical Christian sects in Western liberal-democratic states -- especially the US -- often find their moral opinions coming into conflict with liberal laws and ideals.

Posted by: Concerned Citizen | March 26, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

I'm more of a middle of the roader. Sometimes I'm a liberal, and sometimes I'm a conservative. There is a problem when you are always promoting one side.
Working together gets you farther down the road than making either all left turns, or all right turns, as that only leads you in a circle.
The press really needs to have some real journalists for these articles. Having sunk below the surface, and become bottom dwellers, the American people need to come up for air soon, or they'll drown in this crapola called news.

Posted by: cindy | March 26, 2008 11:25 AM | Report abuse

The word "liberal" derives from the Latin liber ("free, not slave"). It is widely associated with the word "liberty" and the concept of freedom. Livy's History of Rome from Its Foundation describes the struggles for freedom between the plebeian and patrician classes. Marcus Aurelius in his Meditations writes about "...the idea of a polity administered with regard to equal rights and equal freedom of speech, and the idea of a kingly government which respects most of all the freedom of the governed... ." Largely dormant during the vicissitudes of the Middle Ages, the struggle for freedom began again in the Italian Renaissance, in the conflict between the supporters of free city states and supporters of the Pope or the Holy Roman Emperor. Niccolò Machiavelli, in his Discourses on Livy, laid down the principles of republican government. John Locke in England and the thinkers of the French Enlightenment articulated the struggle for freedom in terms of the Rights of Man.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) indicates that the word liberal has long been in the English language with the meanings of "befitting free men, noble, generous" as in liberal arts; also with the meaning "free from restraint in speech or action", as in liberal with the purse, or liberal tongue, usually as a term of reproach but, beginning 1776-88 imbued with a more favorable sense by Edward Gibbon and others to mean "free from prejudice, tolerant."

The first English language use to mean "tending in favor of freedom and democracy", according to the OED, dates from about 1801 and comes from the French libéral, "originally applied in English by its opponents (often in Fr. form and with suggestions of foreign lawlessness)". An early English language citation: "The extinction of every vestige of freedom, and of every liberal idea with which they are associated."[6]

The American War of Independence established the first nation to craft a constitution based on the concept of liberal government, especially the idea that governments rule by the consent of the governed. The more moderate bourgeois elements of the French Revolution tried to establish a government based on liberal principles. Economists such as Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations (1776), enunciated the liberal principles of free trade. The editors of the Spanish Constitution of 1812, drafted in Cádiz, may have been the first to use the word liberal in a political sense as a noun. They named themselves the Liberales, to express their opposition to the absolutist power of the Spanish monarchy.

Beginning in the late 18th century, liberalism became a major ideology in virtually all developed countries.

Posted by: Concerned Citizen | March 26, 2008 11:25 AM | Report abuse
Liberalism refers to a broad array of related ideas and theories of government that consider individual liberty to be the most important political goal.[1] Liberalism has its roots in the Middle Ages and Age of Enlightenment.

Broadly speaking, liberalism emphasizes individual rights and equality of opportunity. Different forms of liberalism may propose very different policies, but they are generally united by their support for a number of principles, including extensive freedom of thought and speech, limitations on the power of governments, the rule of law, the free exchange of ideas, a market or mixed economy, and a transparent system of government.[2] All liberals -- as well as some adherents of other political ideologies -- support some variant of the form of government known as liberal democracy, with open and fair elections, where all citizens have equal rights by law.[3]

Liberalism rejected many foundational assumptions that dominated most earlier theories of government, such as the Divine Right of Kings, hereditary status, and established religion. Social progressivism, the belief that traditions do not carry any inherent value and social practices ought to be continuously adjusted for the greater benefit of humanity, is a common component of liberal ideology. Liberalism is also strongly associated with the belief that human society should be organized in accordance with certain unchangeable and inviolable rights. Different schools of liberalism are based on different conceptions of human rights, but there are some rights that all liberals support to some extent, including rights to life, liberty, and property.

Within liberalism, there are two major currents of thought that often compete over the use of the term "liberal" and have been known to clash on many issues, as they differ on their understanding of what constitutes freedom. Classical liberals, believe that the provision of negative rights, that is freedom from coercion alone, constitutes freedom.[4] As a result they see state intervention in the economy as a coercive power that restricts freedom when enforced coercively by law, emphasize laissez-faire economic policy, and oppose the welfare state.[5] Social liberals argue that freedom from economic as well as physical coercion is necessary for real freedom. They generally favor such positive rights as the right to vote, the right to an education, the right to health care, and the right to a living wage. Some also favor laws against discrimination in housing and employment, laws against pollution of the environment, and the provision of welfare, including unemployment benefit and housing for the homeless, all supported by progressive taxation.[4]

Posted by: Concerned Citizen | March 26, 2008 11:23 AM | Report abuse

It's a sad commentary on the level of obfuscation in our corporate media controlled consciousness that labels are bandied about with no regard for their origin or definition. Sadder yet is the new low level to which politics has sunk with the stolen elections of 2000 and 2004. The powerful have NO fear of the population. All viciousness and criminality is practiced by the powerful against the public interest, with impunity and hubris. No candidate from amongst those in the spotlight will change this dreadful trend.

Posted by: Concerned Citizen | March 26, 2008 11:17 AM | Report abuse

How can Obama unify all the races when Latinos, Asians, Jews and all other minorities (except black) vote against him? He reminded me of the former New York City black mayor, David Dinkins. Everybody was excited with the first black mayor back then and expected he could solve racial problems better than whites. Wrong! The Dinkins administration had the most racial tensions, and in fact, the administration spent all the time fighting racial issues and got nothing done. As a result, high unemployment rate, high crime rate. You can ask any New Yorkers about those bitter time. His administration probably is the worst in New York City History. Obama is nothing better, only he brings this to the national level. If you don't believe, look at how he forced to address the racial issues and how he divided all races despite his call for unity, and he's only a presidential candidate. I'm just afraid if he's the president, the "change" he would bring is too much for America to bear.

Posted by: Sherry | March 26, 2008 11:16 AM | Report abuse

And if Hillary thought it would suit the ends to her means she'd call herself a Liberal. If anyone can think of anyone more disingenuous I'd like to know who that is.

Posted by: Noel Wells | March 26, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

This sort of tactic may have worked in 2000 or even in 2004 but after nearly 8 years of "compassionate conservatism" I think liberal doesn't sound like a dirty word to most people anymore. Hillary and McCain are both pathetically out of touch!

Posted by: Kerry, Toledo, OH | March 26, 2008 11:07 AM | Report abuse

the concept is horse-muffins. distraction. hypothetical. red herring. puffer. space-fill. stupidity. nonsense. park it out there with "what if the sky should fall !!??

Posted by: slong tong | March 26, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

the concept is horse-muffins. distraction. hypothetical. red herring. puffer. space-fill. stupidity. nonsense. park it out there with "what if the sky should fall !!??

Posted by: slong tong | March 26, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I really don't understand what the fuss is all about. With our current crisis caused by this administration who suppose to be conservative republican? Puleeeze! Give me ultra, mini, micro,nano liberal any day.

Posted by: Danel | March 26, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

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