Since Feb 27, 1999
The term "liberal," as used in America, has an entirely different connotation than it does - or at least, very recently did - elsewhere. In fact, if you read FA Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, you will see that Hayek used the word in contradistinction to the word "socialist." But Hayek found to his dismay that Americans whom he would call liberals were calling themselves "conservative." His response was to write, Why I Am Not a Conservative. His point was that his political philosophy, called "liberal" in Britain, was not conservative as the British understood the term. Rather, his philosophy was that of the "old Whigs" - basically referring to people who agreed philosophically with the framers of the Constitution of the United States.Testimonial:
Another take on "conservatism" comes from M. Stanton Evans in his superb The Theme Is Freedom : Religion, Politics, and the American Tradition Evans points out that conservatives everywhere conserve the traditional distinctives of their own country. A Russian conservative would conserve Russian distinctives, and an American conservative would conserve American distinctives. And the cardinal virtue which American conservatives seek to preserve is freedom. Yet conserving freedom is a weird form of "conservatism," since freedom is precisely the precondition for change. Freedom is essentially progressive, making sense only if progress is possible. Thus a word which denoted advocacy of liberty would be far more descriptive of American "conservatism" than the word "conservatism" is. And originally, "liberalism" was that word - but that is no longer true in America.
How and by whom was the inversion of the meaning of "liberalism" accomplished in America? According to William Safire, the meaning of the word "liberal" was changed (essentially inverted) during the 1920s; I question whether such a coup as that could be perpetrated without the collusion of journalism. In the long run, words which are intensively used by journalists must tend to take on the connotations of their use in journalism, I suggest that only journalists had the opportunity. And journalists had motive as well. The primary function of journalism is criticism, and socialism is simply the empowering of critics to rule over those who enter Theodore Roosevelt's "arena" and, by committing to concrete courses of action, both accomplish things and make mistakes which are easy to second guess. It follows that journalists have a natural affinity for socialism. And socialism as a brand, though successful elsewhere, was a failure in the United States. Socialism's promise of equality did not compare favorably with the reality of American freedom and American opportunity. American liberalism was a far more successful brand than "socialism" so, apparently, American journalists simply appropriated that name for socialism.
It is implicit in that analysis that journalism functions as a singular entity, and that comports with observed reality. The various journalism outlets compete only on the minor things - they do not challenge each other's so-called "objectivity." In fact journalism functions as the Establishment in America, and that establishment coheres around the solidarity of journalists common cause to reserve the label of "objective journalist" to members of that establishment. Concomitant to the use of "objective" only for members of the journalism establishment, journalists reserve the words "liberal" and "progressive" for use only as favorable labels for those who go along and get along with journalism. Likewise journalism reserves the words "right wing" and "conservative" for use as unfavorable labels for those who have principles other than getting along with journalists. Actually, since journalism as we know it scarcely existed prior to the founding of the Associated Press, it would be astonishing if the Associated Press did not have a homogenizing influence on journalism.
Very well stated, cIc. Though I can't begin to put in words like you or the great Thomas Sowell does, I always enjoy reading you both. -- jazusamoHey - if your writing was mentioned in the same sentence with Thomas Sowell's, wouldn't you want to frame it and put it up on the wall?