… is to call things their right names. Ergo, I am (take a deep breath) – a left wing liberal. Yes, you’ve heard it right – left wing liberal. Read on.
It was originally left, not right that was against the king and big government. As for the term liberal being hijacked by FDR and his followers, it is a notorious fact. Now, I understand that things are different today and people recognize these names in different way. But, that is precisely where the problem is.
[T]he original leftists wanted to abolish government controls over industry, trade, and the professions. They wanted wages, prices, and profits to be determined by competition in a free market, and not by government decree. They were pledged to free their economy from government planning, and to remove the government-guaranteed special privileges of guilds, unions, and associations whose members were banded together to use the law to set the price of their labor or capital or product above what it would be in a free market.
The term “liberalism,” from the Latin “liber” meaning “free,” referred originally to the philosophy of freedom. It still retained this meaning in Europe when this book was written (1927) so that readers who opened its covers expected an analysis of the freedom philosophy of classical liberalism. Unfortunately, however, in recent decades, “liberalism” has come to mean something very different. The word has been taken over, especially in the United States, by philosophical socialists and used by them to refer to their government intervention and “welfare state” programs.
The book is highly recommended.
But this brings us to our problem. Those of us who place a high value on human liberty, and who are professionally engaged in the social sciences — in economics, in politics, in jurisprudence — find ourselves in a minority (and it sometimes seems a hopeless minority) in ideology. There is a great vogue in the United States today for “liberalism.” Every American leftist calls himself a liberal! The irony of the situation is that we, we in this room, are the true liberals, in the etymological and only worthy sense of that noble word. We are the true adherents of liberty. Both words — liberal and liberty — come from the same root. We are the ones who believe in limited government, in the maximization of liberty for the individual and the minimization of coercion to the lowest point compatible with law and order. It is because we are true liberals that we believe in free trade, free markets, free enterprise, private property in the means of production; in brief, that we are for capitalism and against socialism. Yet this is the philosophy, the true philosophy of progress, that is now called not only conservatism, but reaction, the radical Right, extremism, Birchism, and only Bill Buckley here knows how many other terrible things it’s called.
So here we have it today – a great scientific liberal thought forced to go under derogatory (even “libertarian” has a stigma attached to it) names, making it an easy target for pushing on the fringes of society. Sigh.
Writes Bettina Bien Greaves:
Mises had decided that the advocates of freedom and free markets should not relinquish “liberalism” to the philosophical socialists. In the Prefaces of both the second (1963) and third (1966) editions of his magnum opus, Human Action, Mises wrote that the advocates of the freedom philosophy should reclaim “the term ‘liberal’ … because there is simply no other term available to signify the great political and intellectual movement” that ushered in modern civilization by fostering the free market economy, limited government and individual freedom.
The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names. Spread the word!