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What does Liberalism mean?

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Post Tue Jan 22, 2008 6:02 pm
The word "liberalism" seems to mean different things depending on who is saying it. What does it mean to you?

To me, liberalism means "the ideology of freedom". The liberal state is run by laissez-faire economics where the state has little or no interruption in your private life. Your right to property is strong and therefore taxes are low. The state treats all citizens equally. You are free to do whatever you want as long as you don't hurt somebody else.

I don't call my self liberal because I think the state/society/community has social responsibilities. However I'm sure there are many people who would classify me as a liberal BECAUSE I do. Do we need a new terminology?
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Post Tue Jan 22, 2008 10:01 pm
Yes we do. It comes down to this stupid idea called 'positive liberty', which is in fact an admission by liberals that their dogmatic view that 'all the world needs is Liberty and we'll all be happy' is wrong, so to give it a cloak of ideological purity, they go all Orwellian and rebrand 'opportunity' as 'positive liberty'.

I think the best thing is to say that left-wing liberals (what we call 'liberals' at the moment) and right-wing socialists (what we call 'social democrats', who, let's be honest, aren't really socialists) are in fact the same people dressed up in different clothes. There seems to me to be very little water between say, Tony Blair and Hillary Clinton, and big water between they and John Stuart Mill, or they and Hugo Chavez.

So, along those lines, they, and you, are progressives. Left of centre, but not socialist. Quite statist, quite communitarian, socially liberal, who view a significant role for the state in the spread of opportunity, favour a mixed economy with state control of healthcare, education and welfare, and so on.

But ideology is slowly dieing anyway (thank god), so this is becoming increasingly irrelevant.
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Post Tue Jan 22, 2008 10:06 pm
aaker.. your description sounds like libertarianism..
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Post Tue Jan 22, 2008 10:24 pm
Libertarianism = classic liberalism

And how exactly is ideology dying out?
"Nations ... as an inherent political destiny, are a myth. Nationalism, which sometimes takes preexisting cultures and turns them into nations, sometimes invents them, and often obliterates preexisting cultures: that is a reality." - E. Gellner
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Post Wed Jan 23, 2008 3:07 pm
Libertarianism = classic liberalism

Exactly, and since the "libertarians" are quite far from the leftist people who also call them selves liberals, the word liberal does not mean anything at all.
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Post Wed Jan 23, 2008 3:31 pm
Quote:
I think the best thing is to say that left-wing liberals (what we call 'liberals' at the moment) and right-wing socialists (what we call 'social democrats', who, let's be honest, aren't really socialists) are in fact the same people dressed up in different clothes. There seems to me to be very little water between say, Tony Blair and Hillary Clinton, and big water between they and John Stuart Mill, or they and Hugo Chavez.

Precisely right. However, the current prominence of such people in the politics of developed Western countries at the moment should not be a surprise - politicians like to win, and precisely such 'left-wing liberalism'/'right-wing socialism' is what works most effectively in stabilising the economic system of capitalism at its current stage of development in the Western nations. It is therefore a winning political position, so the career politicians are jockeying to occupy that position. John Stuart Mill belonged to an earlier stage of capitalist development, and Chavez is the leader of one of the exploited, underdeveloped capitalist nations; their political positions are therefore different, but are or were still winning positions in their respective societies.
"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Marx (Groucho)
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Post Sun Jan 27, 2008 8:07 pm
Liberalism to me is being free of the intellectual oppression of rigid ideology. Whatever works to best alleviate the suffering and burden of the human condition should be worthy of serious consideration regardless of religion, nationalist pride, or social system. And any God or religion considered too "big" to adhere to the sanctity of human life deserves no worship. Such philosophy requires a belief in the innate decency of the human spirit, not a suspicion and condemnation of it.
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Post Sun Jan 27, 2008 8:16 pm
NoRapture wrote:

Liberalism to me is being free of the intellectual oppression of rigid ideology. Whatever works to best alleviate the suffering and burden of the human condition should be worthy of serious consideration regardless of religion, or nationalist belief, or social system.


So do you think that it would be acceptable for a Country to become a dictatorship for a short while if it lead to a point further on in time where the above considerations could be applied?
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Post Sun Jan 27, 2008 9:03 pm
Quote:
So do you think that it would be acceptable for a Country to become a dictatorship for a short while if it lead to a point further on in time where the above considerations could be applied?
Sure. It'd be a helluva sweet dictate. Just don't ask me to imagine how it would come to be.
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Post Sun Jan 27, 2008 10:31 pm
Quote:
Liberalism to me is being free of the intellectual oppression of rigid ideology.

Translation: "Liberalism means not knowing what you believe in."

Quote:
Whatever works to best alleviate the suffering and burden of the human condition should be worthy of serious consideration regardless of religion, nationalist pride, or social system.

This is actually quite close to the Marxist position that whatever expands the forces of production, by no matter what means, is objectively progressive. We'll make a Commie out of you yet!


Quote:
And any God or religion considered too "big" to adhere to the sanctity of human life deserves no worship. Such philosophy requires a belief in the innate decency of the human spirit, not a suspicion and condemnation of it.

This is actually nonsensical. The 'sanctity of human life' is a meaningless phrase. Only the gods and/or God can be 'sacred'; humans by definition are mundane. This is why traditionally we worship the gods rather than vice versa. What has happened is that as faith in the gods and/or God has declined, the sacred quality of the divine has been transferred onto human beings - we have, in our own minds, gone from being mundane and perishable (most ancient religions, including Judaism, did not believe in the immortality of the human soul) to being sacred, transcendent and immortal. In other words, we have stopped worshipping the gods and started worshipping ourselves. This view of the 'sanctity of human life' directly contradicts our experience of everyday life, of course. Just flick through the news channels for fifteen minutes, and you will quickly realise that human life is not sacred, and in fact cannot be - nation-states can only function effectively if they treat individual people as means to an end rather than as ends in themselves. The belief in the 'sanctity' of human life is therefore an example of false consciousness, rooted in a displaced and now-outmoded religious faith.
"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Marx (Groucho)
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Post Mon Jan 28, 2008 12:17 am
Quote:
"Liberalism means not knowing what you believe in."
Liberalism means being intellectually flexible enough to not allow "what you believe in" to effect your judgement upon reality. Which means an ability and willingness to consult science and philosophy from all angles in order to solve human problems.

As far as expanding the forces of production, Potemkin, hell, I'll leave that to a dogmatist like you. When you figure out how to do it without turning human beings into machines I'll be right there, arm and arm with you. Solidarity among Commies. I've been there in the past against the right, I'll no doubt be there again.

But I truly am a spiritual being. I believe in God. And the one I believe in has sanctified human life above all else. We are condemned for the taking of human life, not the taking of words and ideologies in vain. Words are all there is that is safe to take in vain.
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Post Mon Jan 28, 2008 1:05 am
a bit like a few have already said it's based on respect for individuals above masses/Gods/theories, and therefore demands that the state serve people giving rise to the basic liberal freedoms. A state which ceases to value individuality would cease to be a liberal state. Where it differs from libertarianism is that it can recognise social goals as beneficial, as they can be justified in terms of securing substantive individual freedoms. It should be possible to have another ideology superimposed on top of liberalism which would involve the ins and outs of how to secure the individual rights. However, interference with capital is by definition an interference with the individual and must be justified and proportionate.

Also liberalism's coolness is proportional to its lethality.
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