Liberal, a pejorative word ?

From wikipedia:

Liberalism is a political and moral philosophy based on liberty, consent of the governed and equality before the law. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but they generally support free markets, free trade, limited government, individual rights (including civil rights and human rights), capitalism, democracy, secularism, gender equality, racial equality, internationalism, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion.

Liberalism became a distinct movement in the Age of Enlightenment, when it became popular among Western philosophers and economists. Liberalism sought to replace the norms of hereditary privilege, state religion, absolute monarchy, the divine right of kings and traditional conservatism with representative democracy and the rule of law. Liberals also ended mercantilist policies, royal monopolies and other barriers to trade, instead promoting free trade and free markets.

In fact the founding fathers of the United States were liberals, as Adam Smith or the philosophers who prepared French revolution. Many great people of the 19th century were liberals, even conservative, as Disraeli or Gladstone.

Now, in Europe, “liberal” is a pejorative word referring to people who are for free market, at the expense of the right and the welfare of common people.

And as far as i understand it, in USA liberal has become a pejorative word, used by conservative people, to discredit their opponents, either as a synonym of " communist" or as meaning people without any moral, any restreint, any respect of rules.

In fact, liberalism implied the great laws of the 19th and the 19th, freedom of speech, freedom of press, free trade unions, and so. Economic liberalism showed its limits with the 1929 crisis. The Fordian compromise was set into place and Keynesianism was the new way, free market tempered by social welfare.

After WII, the competition with the communist system implied that capitalism demonstrate that it could be more human and more effective for guaranteeing the welfare of of the workers than the soviet system.

But the lessons of the 1929 crisis were forgotten and the failure of URSS removed the needs of demonstrating anything. the changes in the capitalism and the dominance of the financial and banking companies made the welfare system obsolete for the economic liberals. So in europe liberalism became a pejorative word, meaning people being for free market at the detriment of rights and welfare of ordinary people.

On the other side of the Atlantic, as far as I understand it, these changes promoted individualism and allowed people to claim theirs rights to benefit the promise of liberalism, women, minorities and so, in fact to be themselves.

And as the rich, the leading people are often conservative, politically, socially, and for them liberalism became associated with these claims and was rejected as communism and amorality.

And, on the other side of the political spectrum, an American leftist would not hesitate to call himself a liberal, when an European one would be very reluctant.

Strange no ? In fact when people give different meanings to same words, it does not help to communicate.









I don’t see “liberal” as a pejorative word. Conservatives like to make unions look like a bad thing, when it’s a good thing. The reason being is that many Conservatives think Corporate Greed is a good thing and Capitalism is good government. In reality, those Conservatives who call themselves Xians are extremely greedy, wanting everything for themselves, until they find they have to pay for everything under Capitalism, but they won’t have what they call “handouts”. Oddly enough, Conservatives seem to see Jesus as a white dude (if he existed, he was not) and therefore view themselves at the top of the food chain, better than all other groups. Long story short, they are the complete opposite of a liberal and IMO, should be the ones marginalized, but then again, I’m a liberal.

One thing wrong with your definition- one cannot be a liberal and expect limited government, Capitalism, or free markets IMO. Those three things are part of greedy Capitalism, which isn’t at all liberal or having equality- see Walmart.

Political labels change, don’t they? The tribal nature of it requires some mischaracterization. It doesn’t promote understanding. I once argued with my evangelical uncle that I was a “classical” liberal, as described by Bertrand Russell. He said I couldn’t use an old definition, and that liberal now meant what he thought it meant, closer to what Morgan described above. Anyway.

The “limited government” comment did seem a little off, since lately we have been arguing about regulations, which would be “more government”. However, in practice, conservatives are perfectly happy to have government give money to people who already have it, part of their trickle-down theory. The changes described since 1929 have led to an expansion of rights, but that has been very slow and needed additional social action by the people who were not getting those rights.

The biggest mess has been the confusion with communism and socialism. These words have also lost meaning. They rarely mean how something is funded or who is funding it, rather they mean the programs itself, the thing being funded, is something they don’t like. So, a no interest loan to a large business is good fiscal policy, but promoting solar energy through similar loans would be communism.

Good points about how the term is used in Europe vs America. I think the European definition of liberal is more or less known as neoliberalism in America.

The post WW2 style of liberalism seems to be declining in the US. Younger liberals are into a more explicitly leftist stance that may be similar to leftism in Europe – for example freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, open debate are routinely challenged by young American liberals – something that would have been unthinkable a generation ago.

The world has changed though, so politics have to change with it.