I’m a liberal.
I’m a liberal in the 18th and 19th Century British sense of the word.
I believe in free enterprise, laissez-faire economics, democracy, free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free movement, the individual, human rights and freedom to live life as the individual sees fits as long as another individual isn’t harmed in the process.
As with people like Ron Paul, my mind cannot fathom a universe without God. I’m hard-wired that way. And I believe God gave Man free will to act and be judged when God so chooses. See, freedom at every turn, as God intended.
I believe there is a role for government insofar as it protects – as Locke put it – the right to life, liberty and property. That it should be strictly confined to the bare essentials of parliament, a small executive, the judiciary, the police and a strong military to protect it all. Beyond that, you’d have to make a compelling case for more government as far as I’m concerned.
This is what a liberal believes.
In the 1980s, that’s what we called someone with this outlook in life. In the 1960s too. And the 1940s, 1920s, turn of the 20th Century and … back through the Enlightenment … and, because historians can see a clear movement in the West of unleashing human flourishing as we emerged from the Middle Ages, we’ve come to identify the birth of liberalism as 1689 with John Locke.
As a Western philosophy, its inextricably linked to our Christian roots. Liberalism thrives best when Christianity is in its full flourish, when citizens are practicing Christians AND liberals, side by side, the first informing the second.
Not conservatism. I’ve never described myself as a conservative.
Conservatives seek to conserve. At the same time, if you listen carefully to conservatives, there’s a tendency towards pessimism, a kind of bemoaning at things lost. Well, to this I say, if we have lost the schools, lost the universities, lost the boardrooms, lost the public service, lost the media, lost the churches, lost the very institutions of society and even the culture, what’s left to conserve? You can’t conserve something that’s lost!
So, as far as politics goes, I’m an unabashed ‘liberal’ and I claim the word because it describes my politics. Freedom. For me, it’s personal. It’s mine. I’m not giving it up.
I’m not budging even though American social democrats at the time of the New Deal skewed its meaning, twisting it into the opposite, something more like big government, centralised control and social welfare. In my weak moments, I’ll helpfully say ‘classical liberal’ for an American but I see the word classical as redundant.
Liberal. That’s it.
I’m not shifting from this policy even though Australia’s very own Liberal Party of Australia has long ago ceased to embody the philosophy. Despite it’s name, the Liberal Party of Australia is now illiberal in their actions and policies. I concede, at the present time, they’ve tainted the word.
I ran a Twitter poll recently, asking people what words they use for the beliefs of a liberal. The results were:
Liberal – 10%
Classical Liberal – 17%
Libertarian – 73%
Liberal Party of Australia, a pox be on you!
Still I persist. Liberal, with a small l.
I’m not relinquishing the word because young Australians watch too much US television and YouTube clips, thinking that ‘liberal’ means what Americans say it means.
And I’m definitely not giving-up the word in favour of an alternative. Sure, I relent sometimes – like here in Liberty Itch – and call myself a ‘libertarian’ to avert misunderstandings by Americans, young Australians and those quick to judge me a member of the Liberal Party.
So, yes, I sometimes allow myself to be described ‘classical liberal’ and ‘libertarian’ unchallenged.
Before either of those two terms came about, a person with my beliefs was called a ‘liberal.’
So that’s what I am and perhaps you are too.
Own it. Say it aloud unashamedly. Reclaim our language. Use the word without qualification.
Do not yield the space.
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An entrepreneur who has employed 1,470+ people, Kenelm was admitted to the BRW Fast 100 three times with businesses in Australia, NZ, Singapore and New York, where he lived for 12 years. Kenelm’s investment firm performs mid-market leveraged roll-ups. He was a regular columnist for the Australian Financial Review. Kenelm is the Founder of Liberty Itch.