Skip to comments.Saving the Soul of Classical Liberalism (Hint: Reagan was a classical liberal!)
Posted on 03/24/2013 5:52:47 PM PDT by neverdem
The 1950s were dark days for classical liberals. Big Government was an idea tolerated across the political spectrum in Western nations. In those years my colleague Warren Nutter often used to say that saving the books was the minimal objective of classical liberals. At the very least we had to keep liberal ideas in print. Friedrich von Hayek, the free markets great advocate, broadened Nutters notion to saving the ideas.
Both of these objectives have been achieved. Today liberal, free-market books are still read, and the ideas they advance are more widely understood than at mid-century. Today, for example, most thinking Americans know that the core of classical liberalism lies in an understanding that the advancement of the individual can bring more good than any project that focuses on the collective. Many intuitively understand, too, that classical liberalism bears little relation to the postwar liberalism advanced by the American left.
Despite these successes, we true liberals are failing to save the soul of classical liberalism. Books and ideas are necessary, but alone, they are not sufficient to insure the viability of our philosophy. No, the problem lies in presenting the ideal.
Thus, for example, George Bush (the elder), during his presidency, derisively referred to that vision thing, when someone sought to juxtapose his position with that of Ronald Reagan. The shining city on a hill, the Puritan image that Mr. Reagan invoked to call attention to the American idea, was foreign to Mr. Bushs mind-set. Mr. Bush did not understand what Mr. Reagan meant and failed to appreciate why the image resonated in public attitudes.
In a sense, we can say that Ronald Reagan was tapping into a part of the American soul about which George Bush remained illiterate. The critical distinction between those whose window on reality emerges from...
(Excerpt) Read more at dyn.realclearpolitics.com ...
Since Reagan, Clinton and Obama have been good at countering the advance made by Reagan, regarding how
Americans view and understand our system.
It takes more than a Reagan every few decades, to remind people how it is supposed to work.
The dems hammer away continually, and few conservatives speak with Reagan’s skill.
The difference between classical and modern liberalism revolves around the idea of positive and negative liberty. Negative liberty describes what the founding fathers believed in: limited government. Modern liberalism embraces the idea of positive liberty, however: the idea that liberty is provided to you through government benefits. Therefore, the more power the government has, the more freedom individuals have. It’s ludicrous, but that’s the driving philosophy behind modern liberalism.
“Therefore, the more power the government has, the more freedom individuals have.”
Such is what modern liberals claim to believe. Yet the opposite is how it turns out.
We have Ted Cruz.
The other one who sounds like a classical liberal so far is Pope Francis. Materialism is not the be all end all of life. I hope he doesn’t go global marxist/fascist (modern liberal) on us “to take care of the poor.” I think they call it “social justice” or some such good intention.
“We have Ted Cruz.”
And there are others, too. Remember Reagan was in the arena for quite awhile before winning the nomination.
Same for Nixon.
The tendency of late, for conservatism to discover a new leading light comes from frustration, perhaps even desperation.
The candidate of the week parade last year ought to teach some patience and sobriety, about the process.
It is three full years until the kickoff of the 2016 primary season—plenty of time to let these people show their stuff.
One thing ought to be clear: What the GOP has been doing lately, both the candidates and positions, will need to appeal to an electorate which is different.
That is if the goal is to win.
The GOP won 7 of 10 elections spanning 1952 through 1988.
The GOP has lost the popular vote 5 of the last 6 times, spanning 1992 through 2012.
The problem is that the progressive agenda works like a ratchet: once it advances, it can’t be reversed by ordinary political means. E.g., conservatives originally opposed SS, fiat money, Medicare, etc., but now they simply resist expansions in these programs. Well, sometimes; at other times they push the ratchet with the progressives. “Conservative” President GWB pushed for NCLB and Medicare Part D.
No argument about substance. But when people go looking for “soul” classical liberalism isn’t where they go.