Taking back “liberal”

I have a philosophy of sorts, but I’m not a philosopher. I suppose the world needs them, though it’s hard to see why: Philosophers tend to be either deadly dull pedants or – if a government sees an advantage in enforcing their views – downright deadly. See “Marx.”

But I, like I suspect most people who actually have a philosophical position, wish I could brew my views down to a single label. Trouble is, labels don’t stand still and history often gets in my way. For example I think of myself as an anarchist but never use the label out loud because at no time in its history did it mean what I wish it to mean. The first people to use the label were naive socialists at best, bomb-throwing nihilists at worst. The many painful ironies committed in its name in this generation make me steer well clear of it but in my own imagining it’s the perfect label for what I do. I don’t want the world to burn, I just want to live without rulers.

Another word I used when I was young, even though by that time it had another practical meaning than the one I assigned it, was “Liberal.” To me it meant leaving others to do as they will, not throwing arbitrary restrictions on people as long as they’re not doing active harm – and even then keeping the restrictions as minimal as possible. Of course the word hasn’t really meant that in my lifetime if it ever did. But it would be a great, simple label.

This comes to mind this morning, as on my second cup I read this piece called Reclaiming “Liberal”:

… though there were people calling themselves liberals for most of the 20th century, they were actually progressives still clinging to a few liberal points (but willing to compromise on even those in order to establish their social engineering schemes and/or “beat” their so-called “conservative” opponents). Then, less than a generation ago, the term “liberal” was unceremoniously dumped as the progressives finally embraced being just a different flavor of authoritarian, one committed to licking the boots of “experts” while their opponents preferred to lick those of preachers (and both loudly proclaim their love for cops and caging people by the millions).

Well, if they’re not going to use a proud old term (whose memory they insulted by misusing it for a century anyway), I’m going to.

A lovely thought, with which I have a lot of sympathy. But it won’t work well for her. As with us wistful anarchists, she’s going to get tired of having to explain herself every time she opens her mouth.

h/t to Claire.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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2 Responses to Taking back “liberal”

  1. Phssthpok says:

    Kinda reminds me of this short video:

  2. What’s the matter with “libertarian” (note small “l”)?

To the stake with the heretic!