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February 03, 2014

What Is Liberalism and Where Did It Come From?

Via @rdbrewer4, an interesting post by Jonah Goldberg, using a review of a history of liberalism as a jumping off point for various thoughts.

A new book claims that liberalism was born out of the wreckage of progressivism. Progressivism championed the ever-growing power of the state, to do Mighty Things in Many Ways. However, the book argues, progressives themselves became disillusioned with their former advocacy of the Super State due to World War I -- and the truly authoritarian measures beloved progressive Woodrow Wilson used to jail dissidents. Some of whom were truly dangerous and ought to have been jailed, but others of whom were just dissidents.

And so, the book claims, liberalism adopted a strain of "radical libertarianism" as regards personal rights, especially those involving speech and sex, as a tonic, or talisman, to prevent the resurgence of Woodrow Wilson World War I progressivism.

Goldberg calls the alternate historical reading "interesting," but he's not convinced. He's especially not convinced that liberalism contained any strain of libertarianism at all -- he argues it was really a non-libertarian (that is, authoritarian) urge to impose a competing set of values, not to protect all possible values.

As I said: Interesting.

Another interesting thing is that the left tends to shy away the label "liberal" now, but has embraced the label "progressive" -- even though progressivism was previously discredited due to its authoritarianism and grandiosity and incompetency and innate disrespect for the individual human being outside of his corporate capacity as a cell of the state.


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posted by Ace at 07:05 PM

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