My libertarian friends and I are reclaiming the term liberal. At some point, the word was stolen by the Democrats. Apparently, there were too few people who understood the meaning of the word liberal to insist that the Democrats were nothing of the kind and they should keep their mitts off of it. Modern day Democrats are all Progressives and often frighteningly illiberal.
Progressives' core value was never individual freedom. Progressivism was a movement for the improvement of the lives of individuals by the management society designed by experts. Progressivism came about in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Progressives envisioned a society "engineered by expert technicians, and operated by obedient functionaries...." Jackson Lears, Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920 (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), page 365.
Even today Progressives believe that the right thinkers, the educated and those having correct views should have the power to organize society. They are prone to write editorials and columns about others voting against their own interests, such as in this Paul Krugman column
. There's no one like a Yale/MIT-educated, Nobel Prize winning, New Yorker, multi-millionaire economist, for really understanding the lives of poor, lower middle class, small town living, Walmart shopping Americans.
The absolute insanity of Krugman having an understanding of what constitutes "good" for such people--good being a SUBJECTIVE determination-- is so readily apparent to this writer, that it seems that it should not need to be stated. That would be an error. Krugman and his ilk actually do believe that they understand the nature of what is good for all Americans, particularly those who are utterly foreign to them and whom they have never met. Further, they want the power to impose that good upon them, without respect to the wishes of those people.
In this writer's opinion, one could not find a more disrespectful view of one's fellow human being than is embodied in the viewpoint that one knows better for one's fellow humans than they know for themselves.
Today Progressives' highest value is equality. Achieving equality requires force to effectuate since it is never the natural state of mankind. Progressives don't like to acknowledge how much they love force and would deny their preference for using force; however, they are perfectly happy to use mandates, taxes, fines, jail sentences, social shaming and force of all kinds as tools to move in the direction of an imagined, undefined, idealized state.They prefer to outsource force to approved agents of the state. By so doing, they avoid a sense of personal responsibility for the destruction of others that they cause.
A liberal, however, must always reject the initiation of force. A liberal knows that he can never truly know what is right and good for another as well as the other can know for himself. A liberal recognizes there is no idealized society that can be created through the use of mandates and rules. There are only people acting and creating. Liberals can envision the good and work for the good of truth, beauty and kindness in our own lives, but we cannot impose our vision of that on others who do not share it or want to participate in it.
At one time Democrats were liberals (valuing freedom and liberty), they gave up those values and have now embraced fully the vision of a man-created idealized society where all animals are equal. In imagining a world where everyone is equal, Progressives always omit the second part of Orwell's famous phrase that "some animals are more equal than others."
You can't be both a Progressive and a liberal because Progressivism requires enforcing some distinctly illiberal ideas. Ask yourself, am I a liberal who wants humans to live freely so long as they do not initiate force against others; or, am I a Progressive, who imagines an idealized world of equality created through properly enforced rules and laws?