Calling All Classical Liberals and Libertarians

What is Liberalism Day?

It’s a day when classical liberals and libertarians will blog, tweet, and talk on a common theme: the word “liberal” used to mean something different than it does today.

What’s the goal of Liberalism Day?

To correct a misconception. Most people don’t know that “liberal” used to mean small government and free markets. If we all state this simple point at the same time, each in our own way, it could spread.

Why make a fuss about a word?

It’s not really about the word. It’s about using the word to illuminate an important ideological tradition.

What are the guidelines?

On (or near) June 16th you can blog, vlog, tweet, publish a paper, comment on a message board, make a gif, post a link, call in to a radio show – anything you’d like. Help the event spread by using the hashtag #LiberalismDay, and tell your friends and colleagues. If you plan to participate, you can email me at Kevin (dot) Frei (at) gmail (dot) com or leave a comment below and I will link to you from the site.

9 thoughts on “Calling All Classical Liberals and Libertarians

  1. Cool. Murray Rothbard once argued in his “Left and Right” essay that libertarians are the true “liberals,” the true leftists.

    He said:

    Part of the dimensions of this struggle has been obscured by a great myth of the history of Western Europe implanted by antiliberal German historians of the late 19th century. The myth held that the growth of absolute monarchies and of mercantilism in the early modern era was necessary for the development of capitalism, since these served to liberate the merchants and the people from local feudal restrictions. In actuality, this was not at all the case; the King and his nation-State served rather as a superfeudal overlord re-imposing and reinforcing feudalism just as it was being dissolved by the peaceful growth of the market economy. The King superimposed his own restrictions and monopoly privileges onto those of the feudal regime. The absolute monarchs were the Old Order writ large and made even more despotic than before. Capitalism, indeed, flourished earliest and most actively precisely in those areas where the central State was weak or non-existent: the Italian cities, the Hanseatic League, the confederation of 17th century Holland. Finally, the old order was overthrown or severely shaken in its grip in two ways. One was by industry and the market expanding through the interstices of the feudal order (e.g., industry in England developing in the countryside beyond the grip of feudal, State, and guild restrictions.) More important was a series of cataclysmic revolutions that blasted loose the Old Order and the old ruling classes: the English Revolutions of the 17th century, the American Revolution, and the French Revolution, all of which were necessary to the ushering in of the Industrial Revolution and of at least partial victories for individual liberty, laissez-faire separation of church-and-state, and international peace. The society of status gave way, at least partially, to the “society of contract”; the military society gave way partially to the “industrial society.” The mass of the population now achieved a mobility of labor and place, and accelerating expansion of their living standards, for which they had scarcely dared to hope. Liberalism had indeed brought to the Western world not only liberty, the prospect of peace, and the rising living standards of an industrial society, but above all perhaps, it brought hope, a hope in ever-greater progress that lifted the mass of mankind out of its age-old sink of stagnation and despair.

    This great heritage must never be scorned by libertarians and anarcho-capitalists. The tradition of Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, John Locke, Herbert Spencer, Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Henry David Thoreau, Voltaire, and many other thinkers—the tradition that fought for liberty and true civilization—is the tradition that we libertarians are rooted in. We are the true heirs to that. Let us remember it always.

  2. Absolutely, – unless we learn to think for ourselves, look after ourselves and be accountable – nothing is going to change. My ex-husband was like this – inactive, infantile and demanding, now he’s sitting on reddit all-day upvoting jokes about jerking off. In case you don’t fight, you lose it. Great post. xOxOx Sarah-

  3. Because plain “liberal” became “welfare-statist,” the original meaning is still present in “classical liberal.” But we want liberal to once again mean “classical liberal.” “Liberal” still has meaning in social policy, being against censorship and other restrictions on expression, and in favor of legal equality. The classical liberals were anti-slavery, and their promotion of equality among men and women and for people of all religions and races implied sympathy for the underdog. That sympathy became misapplied into governmental redistribution and welfare, because the liberals did not understand the originating causes of poverty. Real liberals, classical and libertarian, should promote the extirpation of poverty by advocating eliminating the root cause: taxes, subsidies, and privileged land tenure. To reclaim “liberal,” it is not enough to be opposed to regulations, taxes, and government programs. What is needed is genuine sympathy for the poor and oppressed, and the proposal of remedies that eliminate the causes rather than merely treating the symptoms. Welfare liberals treat symptoms, real liberals eliminate the causes of social problems.

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