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Don’t call them liberals but don’t call them progressives either

I strongly agree with Dan Klein and Kevin Frei that “liberal” and “liberalism” are words that should never be relinquished to those who don’t believe in liberty. They have started something called Liberalism Unrelinquished. Good for them.

We the undersigned affirm the original arc of liberalism, and the intention not to relinquish the term liberal to the trends, semantic and institutional, toward the governmentalization of social affairs.

Way back in 2010, I did a posting here entitled They are not liberals and they are not progressives, so I strongly agree about the “liberal” bit of what Klein and Frei are saying.

The Adam Smith Institute’s Sam Bowman recently talked with Klein (Bowman’s posting being how I heard about LU), and Klein also had this to say:

The left gains enormously by getting away with calling itself “liberal,” so getting them to give up the goods is not even a prayer. Partly, I just want to self-declare, like Popeye, “I yam what I yam.” An Adam Smith liberal; a lovely little subculture. Next, I’d love to see the center-left, in the US, the Democratic Party people, be called by others something other than “liberal” simpliciter.

An important distinction. We can’t change how they talk, but we can change how we talk. (Bowman’s italics are emboldened.)

But then comes this:

Progressive, Democratic, social democratic, leftist, or left-liberal – all good.

No, not “all good”. “Progressive”?

Here’s what I said about that in 2010:

… the word “progressive” is just as wrong as the word “liberal”. The statists who argue for the destruction of the dollar and for bank bail-outs (again) and for nationalised derangement of medical care and for green-inspired economic sabotage aren’t “liberals”. They do not believe in liberty; they believe in curtailing liberty. But neither do they believe in anything which it makes sense to anybody except them to call “progress”. Progress is the exact thing these statists are now trying and have always tried to destroy, and just lately have been doing a pretty damn good job of destroying. Progress means things getting better. These self styled “progressives” are only making things worse.

My piece got linked to by Instapundit, and I like to think it may have set some brain cells in motion on the other side of the Atlantic. Perhaps it even contributed in a tiny way to the founding of LU. If so, it’s a pity that Klein didn’t register the Progressive bit of my argument. I hope he registers it now.

Klein’s answer might be that when campaigning, you do one thing at a time. Quite so. Klein and Frei are right to concentrate on “liberalism”. This word deserves all the focus that they will be bestowing upon it.

But, if they succeed in stopping us opponents of these anti-liberal but self-declared “liberals” from calling them Liberals, it won’t be nearly such a victory if instead these anti-progressive self-declared “progressives” are merely described by us, their truly progressive opponents, as Progressives.

This is no mere quibble. If we say that “liberals” aren’t liberals but are “progressives”, we are conceding to these … whatever-we-call-these-people, a horrible falsehood as being a truth, namely the falsehood that human liberty and human progress are antithetical ideas and that the only way to accomplish human progress is to diminish human freedom. This is a disastrously wrong idea. What these people unleash upon the world is not progress. It is sterility, stagnation, and often far, far worse.

I, and Klein and Frei, are all liberals, and we are all progressives by any sane meaning of the word “progress”.

So, to quote Instapundit: What do we call them?

The Klein/Frei Liberalism Unrelinquished project is positive. They want to keep that word for their side, and mine. Good.

This posting of mine is mostly negative, just as my 2010 posting was mostly negative. Both are about how not to use certain words. Don’t call them liberals, and don’t call them progressives. But two positives are implied. We are liberals. And yes, although I am not for one moment suggesting that Liberalism Unrelinquished should be given a more unwieldy and less focussed name, we are progressives.

I think there may be clue to what we should call them in the first quote above, in which the LU Statement talks about “governmentalization”. This surely gets to the heart of what we are objecting to here.

“Governmentalism” or “governmentalist” has the advantage of getting past any Anglo-American spats about whether to say “governmentalization” or (my English preference) “governmentalisation”. (Strangely, nobody would ever write “governmentalizm” (or for that matter “liberalizm”). So don’t anyone tell me that when you encounter a zzz noise, you always put a z. (And let’s forget about whether a z is a zee or a zed, shall we?))

Such z/s conundra aside, I do like “governmentalist” and “governmentalism”, not least because the inclusion of “-mental-” in these words imparts more than a hint of mental malfunction, as is entirely appropriate.

It is also a bonus that Samizdata’s blogging software puts squiggly red lines under these words, because as far as it is concerned, these are not words. To which I reply: they are now, and they mean what we say they mean, and what we all recognise (another squiggly red line!) them to mean, even if encountering them for the first time.

However, “governmentalist” or “governmentalism” are a bit of a mouthful. They contain just too many syllables. I would like my bet would be on our old friends “statism” and “statist”, not least because a lot of verbal spade-work has already been done to make those words mean what we say they mean. But my bet does not go there, because “statist” could just mean thinking that American people ought to be screwed around by their various state governments rather than by their federal government. So, the Instapundit question stands.

The winning word or words will be self-explanatory, and will have us all going: Yes! Don’t hold your breath.

Just one final thought, which I first found myself emitting in the comments on that 2010 posting, in my reply (comment number 2) to Guy Herbert (comment number 1):

Guy

You say: “I don’t think the linguistic battle is the same, or even overlapping, on either side of the Atlantic.”

But this is one of the big things that is now changing, now that the media are joining up with each other.

I wrote this posting mostly for American readers, in connection with an American article, urging Americans to use some words differently to how they do now. Before the www, I could not have done this. Now such things are routine. Which means that there is now pressure to regularise language, throughout each language-sphere.

Time was when my grumbles about the way Americans use these words would have counted for nothing, because I could not have expressed them to the desired target. Now, they count for something, because I can flash my grumbles all around America, if I am eloquent enough about it and if I get lucky with linkage. They can do the same to us with their opinions, including their opinions about how we use words in ways that they may not like, either because they just don’t, or because how we use a word is different to the way they use it, and want to go on using it.

So now, whatever may have been the story in the past, it is the same battle, on both sides of the Atlantic.

If we don’t resist it, the American way with these words will spread to here. In fact, I think it already is spreading, especially “liberal”, despite liberal having in the past meant something quite different here to what they now mean by it.

This is something that the LU guys thoroughly understand.

77 comments to Don’t call them liberals but don’t call them progressives either

  • Yup, this is a fight worth fighting… and I am of the view it is actually a winnable fight.

  • RRS

    Perhaps the best label for all those classifications such as “Progressives,” “Social Democrats,” etc., would be “The Determinators.”

    They all share the characteristics of preconceptions of how things should be and, further, how those preconceived conditions should be brought about.

    They” (the cogently non-liberals) propose that they can determine how things should be, and can determine what is the best to be attained; further, they can determine the most effective (the most desirable, the least harmful, the “only”) means of attaining the determined ends.

    They” are marked by the strong conviction that the determination of preconceived objectives in education, economics, political organization and social intercourse – by some, dominating the conduct of most others should prevail.

    No proofs have been offered; but it has made for strong demagoguery.

    A few words will be added further on about the identification of “Social Democracy.”

  • RRS

    Social Democracy

    In the same vein in which liberalism has been reinterpreted, we are now seeing a similar inversion of “Socialism” into “Social Democracy.” So how can we identify the ideological proposition of “Social Democracy?”

    Critical examination of that proposition will reveal that it requires that the Democratic process be conducted for objective purposes; principally social or economic objectives, or some manner of attaining the social through the economic, or the economic through the social, or even some combination of both. The essential point being that the Democratic process shall be conducted for predetermined objectives.

    In both the textbook stages, and the political installations, of Socialism, governments (states), however established and maintained, are to be operated for social and economic objectives.

    Thus, we have the definitive link between “Socialism” and “Social Democracy.”

    The impacts on individual liberty and on the relationships within a social order from attempts to structure that social order by predetermined objectives have been well delineated.

    Social Democracy perverts the Democratic process; and, like Socialism, will not work.

  • RRS

    On further thought:

    A more fluent label would be:

    DETERMINISTS

    We could then refer to them as “Determinists of all stripes.”

  • Russ in TX

    How about “sheep?” These people pride themselves on being forward-thinking non-conformists, and yet every one of their solutions is that somebody should be telling people what to do.

    “You’re not liberal. You’re sheep. You don’t have the guts to take care of yourself or your neighbor, so you need a union to do it for you.”

    “You’re not liberal. You’re sheep. You just bleat whatever it is makes you popular with all the other sheep, instead of having the courage to actually look at whether any of these ideas *actually work.* ”

    “You’re not liberal. You’re sheep. A liberal isn’t afraid to face unpleasant things head on — you on the other hand need “trigger warnings” in case anybody dares to bleat the wrong thing and upset your little herd brain.”

    “Bleating louder and with more name-calling is not the same thing as actually making an argument.”

  • Laird

    I don’t like “determinist” (or variants thereof) because it is far from self-explanatory and thus fails Brian’s “Yes!” test. My preference would be the old standby “statist”. It’s accurate, and I rather doubt that even in the US anyone would confuse that with being a states-rights advocate.

    And of course there is the ever-reliable “fascist”. Yes, it is a word which means all things to all people. But it carries a lot of emotional weight, and if we start charging leftists with fascism it brings the debate to a screeching halt while they defend themselves. It could become our version of the “racist” trump card.

  • I reckon this is a losing battle. It’s probably already lost: there are far more “liberals” in the world than (real) liberals, and they’re quite happy with the current usage; there are far more conservatives in the world than (real) liberals, and they’re quite happy to use ‘liberal’ as a catch-all term for anyone they don’t like. Then there are people who use it to mean something approximating liberalism – and they hate liberalism, too!

  • Sigivald

    Statist has the very minor problem that that’s also what anarchists and Rothbardites call, well, Hayekians. “You don’t think the State can be abolished, so you’re a mean ol’ Statist!”.

    I was bemused the first time I heard that, now, just amused.

    (I am tempted to go along with Laird on “fascist”, which is more accurate that most people outside Samizdata might think.

    A religious relation between citizen and state? A total state, with nothing outside its purview?

    Progressivism, so-called, is nigh-indistinguishable from some form of Fascism, though it’s neither Naziism [as it lacks the racial and Fuhrerprinzip aspects] or the strict Italian form [lacking corporatism and a Council of Fasces or equivalent].

    But it’s more trouble than it’s worth and too easy for the ignorant to simply write off as namecalling.)

  • Sam Duncan

    As an aside in the words-and-terms argument, I like the Statement’s use of “governmentalization”, which really captures the faux-liberal agenda in a way that “nationalization”, “centralization of power”, or even more wordy descriptions can’t. I think I’ll be using that word a lot myself in future.

    Unfortunately the most accurate way to turn it into a name for its advocates would be “governmentalizationist”, which doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. (“Governmentalist” doesn’t quite convey the same meaning.)

  • Sam Duncan

    I’ve just noticed this over at Don Boudreaux’s Café Hayek post about LU:

    They are social creationists

    True – I’ve long held that they’re economic creationists, and the same belief in imposed order holds true for all their ideas – but useful as a day-to-day label?

  • Midwesterner

    “Authoritarians.”

    It is accurate and honest, not in any way flattering or benign, and it has the advantage of having most of the appropriate baggage already attached to it.

  • Kevin B

    I did argue on an earlier thread for the use of the neo- prefix. Thus we can call them neo-socialists, neo-communists, neo-stalinists or neo-fascists, depending on their degree of totalitarian bent. For totalitarianism is their prefered governmental model, (though I would prefer to retain the term neo-totalitarian for the green variety).

    They will of course continue to refer to themselves as the fluffy bunny, treats for everyone, all shall have prizes, we really care about you, liberals, but at least we can call them what they are.

  • RRS, that is excellent. Determinators - consider it stolen and put to use.

  • John Mann

    “Leftists”.

    It’s what they are already called. So why not stick with it? Seems pretty simple to me.

  • Gary

    authoritarian.

  • RRS

    Laird, et al.,

    If we are looking for a displacement of the labeling terms, “Progressive,” “Social Democrat,” etc., and other transitions from “Liberalism,” rather than for some self-explanatory identification of any of those terms (or what they imply) “Statism” would be inadequate for large portions of the ideologies that makes up the participations in many of them; the “Progressive” movements, e.g. .

    Determinists,” as a displacing label would encompass such ideologies as propose determination of the purposes of education, the practice of medicine and other professions, the uses of property, human relations with animals – with or without involvement of the State. The same thing is true of those movements which would displace the order and protections of a Constitution.

    Of course, the possibilities of confusion with “determin ism” as a descriptive term is possible at some levels, but not likely in general public consumption or propaganda. The misuse of “Progressive,” and its success in propaganda and public deception (not being self-explanatory) is a sufficient example of the difference between a displacing label and identifying the characteristics of political, economic or social ideologies.

    “This jar contains nuts”

    We do not explain what nuts are, simply what the contents are.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    I kind of like “Puritans.” Or maybe that useful Australianism, “Wowsers.” Either one captures the self-righteous dourness of the breed.

  • Anthony Cook

    I’ve noticed an increasing number of left statists claiming to be ‘libertarian’ in recent times. I think the word ‘liberal’ is now poison, and time spent trying to reclaim it is time wasted. Defend libertarian, though. If we lose this to the left it’ll take a generation to develop and build another useful descriptor.

  • Snorri Godhi

    It was amazing to look at Brian’s 2010 post and see a comment of mine that i had long forgotten.
    (Apologies for not reading all comments on what must have been one of the most commented-on posts on this site.)

    Even more amazing is that i still agree with the Snorri of 3.5 years ago: much better to write “liberals” or “progressives” with scare quotes, than to make up a label (determinators, determinists, authoritarians) that they have not chosen for themselves.

    Even worse is “leftist”, since the Left had long been associated (before being taken over by socialists and “social liberals”) with economic freedom, freedom of speech, democracy, and anti-anti-semitism.

    I like labels such as “statist” and “fascist sensu lato” (fascism sensu stricto having to do mainly with warmongering in my opinion), but prize for creativity and insight goes to “social creationist”.

    What i would add now to my 2010 comment: i no longer identify as a liberal, independently of etymology: that’s because Locke, Montesquieu, Hume, A. Smith, Burke, the US Founders, and Hayek did not.

  • Gary

    @Midwesterner
    Oops – I didn’t notice you beat me to that one.

  • “Leftists”.

    It’s what they are already called. So why not stick with it? Seems pretty simple to me.

    Nah, meaningless term. Why? Because a great many self described ‘right wingers’ are functionally interchangeable with self described ‘left wingers’ once you look beyond the stylistic differences.

  • Snorri Godhi

    PS: perhaps i can improve on “social creationist”:
    intelligent social designer.

    “Intelligent” might require scare quotes.

  • bloke in spain

    I do like neo-fascist. Yes of course they throw a wobbler. But it’s so much fun pointing out the chapter in Mein Kampf where the idea they’re advocating appears.

  • Midwesterner

    Gary, well it does seem kind of obvious but maybe only to us.

    It is important to not make this complicated. The people we are talking both about and to are not exactly known for philosophical introspection. Looking through the other suggestions on offer, the only one that looks very promising is the idea of keeping their own chosen designation but putting it in ‘scare’ quotes. While that method may be a very effective slap down, I’m not convinced it will register as anything more than an ad hominem with either them or the people we seek to influence.

    On the other hand, “authoritarians” begs refutation, which social creationists (an accurate term but too much in need of narration) are unable to provide since their plans all require first, granting them authority, and then, authorizing them to commit physical violence (either direct or threatened) to gain submission.

  • RRS

    “Social Engineers” are simply one “stripe” of Determinists.

    With “Social Creationist” one is reminded of Hayek’s “What Is Social – What Does It Mean?”

    A point to consider is that many stripes of Determinists do not “create” anything; others of that ilk strive to prevent creative efforts they oppose.

    One of the best laboratories for examining that terminology can be found in the faculties of many of our major universities and the prevalence of monism. That has nothing to do with States, the Mechanisms of Governments, the Creation of anything; but, it does exemplify determinists in full expression.

  • Me at Home

    Authoritarian works best for me.
    the opposite pole to Libertarian.

  • Tedd

    I don’t see the problem with the term progressive. Progressives like it, others don’t want it, and everybody has roughly the same understanding of what it means in the political context. It’s irrelevant to me what the word means outside of the political context, because it’s just a label.

    We once had a party in Canada called the Progressive Conservative party — so named because they were a merger of the Progressive party and the Conservative party. But the contradiction didn’t matter because nobody else was claiming either term for anything else.

  • Bilwick

    I like to call them “tax-happy, coercion-addicted, power-tripping State-fellators.” It’s wordier but more accurate than “liberals.”

  • RRS

    There are stripes of determinists who seek to destroy traditions, customs, institutions, civil manners, acquired culture and predicates of existing social order.

    Among those are some who claim it necessary to do so in order to “build anew;” but, who favor “destroy now, build later.”

    My! I am running on a bit!

  • A few years ago I noticed that left wing French anarchists called their ideology ‘liberitaire’ though of course it was about as far from free enterprise as it was from Transmontane Catholic Monarchism.

    In most Latinate countries ‘liberal’or ‘Neoliberal’ is a term for ‘right wing’ ‘anglo-saxon’ capitalism.

    At some point the leftists are going to give up calling themselves liberals, if only to conform to the liguistic authority of the ghosts of Sartre and the soon-to-be ghost of Fidel Castro.

  • Laird

    “Dirigiste” would be a fine term if anyone understood what it meant. “Retard” counters the “progressive” delusion quite nicely while adding a note of derision (and with a contra-PC element as a bonus).

    But the more I think about it the more I like “paleo-fascist”. It’s accurate (getting back to the original fascist idea of everything for the state, etc., with state control of business while maintaining the fiction of nominal private ownership), but adding the “paleo” prefix forces everyone to stop for a minute and think about it.

  • Midwesterner

    Laird,

    Me thinks you think they think too much. :-)

  • RRS

    A new saying I just made up:

    If you want the public to act or react, do not dabble in trying to make them think.

  • Mike James

    “Governmentalist” is quite handy, as it actually does two things–it accurately describes the instrument that opponents of individual liberty would use to restrict individual liberty, and it also provides a fairly clearly marked boundary, a “do not exceed” limit if you will, for the friends of individual autonomy for use as a guide.

    (A) This thing they want to do–they need the government to do it, they want the government to do it, they love having the government do it, thus they are governmentalists.

    (B) This thing I want to do–do I need the government in order to make it happen? If I do, that makes me a governmentalist. If I don’t, that means I am will be able to refrain from having the government push people around. I am within the bounds of my political-economic philosophy.

    I like “governmentalist“. It has an accusation built right in.

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    I quite like authoritarian. It handily divides people into two, keeping it simple, and since left-right is now meaningless, authoritarian-libertarian can be the new division.

  • Regional

    What happened to Bourgeoise Liberal Socialism and now the Sheeple are into altruism but claiming to be morally and ethically superior while gouging the public trough but the truth is they’re really boring with massive egos.

  • Julie near Chicago

    NOT “Statists.” Too much lack of agreement already about what the word “state” means. Polity? Nation? Country? Government? Government + the Governed? Journals articles entitled “What Is the State?” discuss, well, what is the State. The only people who might have a broad general idea are found amongst those who are “against” “the State,” whatever that might mean. Amongst real (not faux, so-called “left-”) libertarians, “the State” is almost an umbrella term for most anything that resembles any historical example of an institution that includes, at a minimum, those who govern or who help to enable them. It’s a mare’s nest.

    I suggest the neologism Diktatist, as one who believes that the proper order in social, civil, and political affairs can only be achieved by diktat. And that that is the appropriate method of governance of the human commnity. Quite a few of our friends in both “conservative-ish” and “libertarian-ish” circles already know the meaning of the diktat, as in “one who rules by diktat.”

    Second choice would be “authoritarian, authoritarianism.”

    . . .

    Actually, “Progressive” and its -ism are such obviously blatantly filthy-dirty terms with such a great weight of history both illustrating and proving their actual meaning–as do their writings–that I would love to keep that as the insultingly accurate term. (The nasty American-style “Progressivism” of the Ely-Croly etc. crowd, blended with the Communist-New-Leftist-etc. crowd, now alive with a lethal dose consisting of 1 part per megajillion.) Alas, the Progressives have decided to be Proudly Progressive, and this attitude of the coolness and Well-Meaning and Compassion and Right-Thinking-ness of Progressives has been osmosed by practically everyone who has been to college, or who is friends with someone who has.

  • John Mann

    “Leftists”.

    It’s what they are already called. So why not stick with it? Seems pretty simple to me.

    Nah, meaningless term.

    OK, Perry. I’ll recant. “Leftist” would not be a good choice.

    Of the other suggestions, “authoritarian” is a nice simple term, which is already in reasonably common use and is accurate.

    “Statist” isn’t bad.

    I must confess that I do like “governmentalist.” Any educated person can guess instantly what it means – which is more than can be said of the word “progressive” – or, even moreso, the word “liberal”.

    While “classical liberal” is my favorite self-designation these days, I still reckon that the word “liberal”, when used without qualification, has so many meanings that it verges on being meaningless.

  • Frank Ch. Eigler

    “collectivist”?

  • Nick (Blame FrenchMEN) Gray

    How about neo-liberal for the progressives?
    We could be Classic Liberals, or Free liberals, or True Liberals.

  • Nick (Blame FrenchMEN) Gray

    Perhaps a good label for ourselves would be ‘Decentralists’, or (more positively) ‘Pro-localists’. We could adopt the broad slogan ‘Share Power’. Our opponents want to monopolize power so they can ‘share’ the money with their supporters, so why shouldn’t we proudly boast about what we’ll share? Most of us are in favour of smaller governments, and less powerful ones, and this motto would be unobjectionable- except to the closet centralizers.

  • RRS

    Julie,

    A “State” is an embodiment of authority. Historically that embodiment of authority has been imposed by physical and ideological force.

    In the “Modern States” of Western Civilization the embodiment of authority has occurred principally through the passive acceptance or positive consent of those subject to that authority.

    Visit libertylawsite.org for more thrilling insights.

  • Julie near Chicago

    How about this? Let’s just call them “The Coercives” and be done with it. That’s more or less the crux of the major issue anyway, is it not?

    It expresses the idea that these people believe in coercion in a positive sense, as something that is properly ought to be done when people won’t get with the program (whatever program they feel like imposing) voluntarily; they don’t care about non-coercive persuasion, and they care even less whether they’re taking over other people’s lives. It’s for the Greater Good / Common Good / Public Good, don’tcha know.

    . . .

    Yes, RRS, but if there were more-or-less agreement on the meaning of the term, there wouldn’t be journal articles exploring “What is the State,” nor a Wikipedia article giving four somewhat different meanings of the term (plus a fifth, the notion of the “Federated state,” that is, sovereign states which are federations). For what it’s worth, the Foot lists these meanings:

    1. State (polity), an organized political community, living under a government

    2. Sovereign state, a sovereign political entity in public international law; a society having exclusive domain over a territory

    3. “State”, in some contexts virtually synonymous with “government”, e.g., to distinguish state (government) from private schools

    4. Nation state, a state which coincides with a nation

    (5. Federated state)

    Actually, I’ve always taken “the State” as including the people; more or less as in sense 1 above; and thus people don’t live UNDER the State, but rather are a PART of it. And although libertarians and many conservatives raise a ruckus about the illegitimacy of coercive rule by the government, it seems to me that more people don’t so much mind the coercive aspect (taking it for granted in fact — and not really thinking about it as such) as they mind what they see as corruption, or double-dealing, or “not caring.”

  • JTR

    When someone says someone or something is “progressive”, I like to respond “so is syphilis”.

  • Paul Marks

    In Britain is difficult to declare (without being laughed at) that the Liberal Democratic party is not “liberal” – after all Mr Clegg and co can point at a tradition of seeing government as a “liberator” an “enlightener” that goes back to the “New Liberals” of the late 19th century (Thomas Hill Green and so on) and before them to the various pro “public services” types even in the early 19th century – the Westminister Review crowd with their “everybody agrees” that a new DEMOCRATIC state (“liberty” as having control over the government – not being free of the government as with the Old Whigs) should provide XYZ (basically all the 13 or so functions of government pushed from Jeremy Bentham and J.S. Mill to the Economist magazine today).

    Can we really have liberalism without John Stuart Mill? And (this will come as a shock to libertarians who just read his high sounding stuff – not his policy positions, which come as a the logical outcome of his philosophical assumptions) he was NOT on our side. Back in the 1830s he was with the rest of the Westminster Review crowd – supporting reformed local government which would provide lots of nice things for the people…..

    Not all the liberals of the 19th century admired Frederick the Great of the 18th century, or Thomas Cromwell (who, like Bentham, supported government departments covering all sorts of nice-things-for-the-people fortunately the Duke of Norfolk moved against him) of the 16th century – but a lot did.

    There is the noble “voluntarist” tradition (the Leeds Mercury and so on) and the “Retrenchment” bit in “Peace, Retrenchment and Reform” (when liberals dropped “retrenchment”, cutting government spending, liberalism ceased to have any real connection to “liberty” as we would understand the term).

    Perhaps the last time that Liberals went into an election with a programme of reducing the size of government was 1874 – the election that Gladstone pledged the final end of the income tax (but lost to the dreadful Disraeli – who promised the same thing, but was lying).

    But in my home town of Kettering that sort of “liberal” was already a minority position – being a “liberal” around here already meant being in favour of an elected council, being in favour of an elected School Board (against the will of the majority of rate payers – who voted that they did not want one), and (often) being in favour of banning booze and toying with land nationalisation.

    After all the liberal “intellectuals” down in London (James Mill, John Stuart Mill, and so on) were into “free trade in land” – which was cover for a lot of David Ricardo nonsense (on rent – where Ricardo is as wrong headed as he is on the Labour Theory of Value) leading to land nationalisation.

    Remember that “liberty” (to a lot of 19th century liberals – leading, in the end to David Lloyd George and co) meant breaking the “tyranny” of the Anglican Church (in private the “tyranny” of any religion with some of the liberal crowd) and the “Tory landlords” (even if the local landowners were actually Whigs) – the state as “liberator”, “enlightener” (leading to the sun filled uplands of the dreams of Sir Francis Bacon and co going back to “The New Atlantis” of the early 1600s – with the state run by scientific experts).

    Of course there were other strands within liberalism – but Gladstone got pushed out in the early 1890s (having already been forced to accept Progressive, graduated, Income Tax and Death Duties) it makes no sense to talk of mainstream liberals being in favour of smaller government after the election of 1874 (and a lot of them were not in favour of it before the election of 1874) – after the early 1890s being a liberal meant being in favour of bigger government (apart from a few eccentric types – Sir Ernest Benn springs to mind) as long as it was democratic and intended to “help the people”.

    Liberals were not thick on the ground in the membership of organisations fighting the growth of government.

    If one had attended (for example) a meeting of any Liberty and Property defence League one would not have found many Liberal party members there (although there would have been a few).

    And (again) when I used to call myself a “Classical Liberal” I was sometimes asked the following…..

    “We know you do not mean the Liberal party now Paul – but when would you have supported them in the town?”.

    Looking into the matter I was forced to conclude that the only honest answer was “never”.

    I liked the liberal speeches (full of words such as “liberty” and “freedom” – although the KEY word “property” was not often used) but when it came to local POLICIES I could not find a period when I would have been on their side.

    So can we really “reclaim” a word we never really owned? At least not round here.

    It is a complicated and difficult matter.

  • Paul Marks

    Turning from a complicated and difficult matter (“liberal” – does it mean “broad and generous” government spending and so on, or does it mean government being rolled back?) to a simple one…..

    “Progressive” (as far as I know) has never been used to mean a supporter of smaller government (either in Britain or the United States).

    Even when the word “Progressive” was used as cover term by Conservatives and Liberals in Glasgow, it was NOT about reducing the size and scope of government – it was just about increasing the government slower than the socialists wanted to increase it (pathetic really).

    As for the United States my 1911 Concise Oxford Dictionary talks of Republicans having a “liberal” (i.e. broad and generous) view of the powers of the Federal government – that may be a bit unfair on Republicans in 1911 but it is certainly NOT unfair of those Republicans (and those Democrats) who were “Progressive”.

    Perhaps one can have “liberalism” in the United States with “Teddy” (or Franklin) Roosevelt and without Woodrow Wilson – one can fight hard (and Brian is a hard fighter) and insist that the word “liberal” has alternative meanings other than statist (and the word “liberal” HAS INDEED had other meanings), but one really can not do this with “Progressive”.

    One can say the “liberalism” of Europe and Latin America in the 19th century (robbing the Churches, setting up massive state education systems and so on) was a misinterpretation of liberalism – and that it has other meanings in history. And liberalism DOES HAVE OTHER MEANINGS IN HISTORY.

    But “Progressive” does not have any alternative history (at least that can I discover).

    Perhaps one can say that Henry Clay (early 19th century American “Whig”) leader was not a “true” liberal – that one should return to the “Old Whig” view not the “New Whigs” (Edmund Burke tried this back in the late 1700s – arguing that the statist Whigs such as Charles Fox and the rest of the leadership of the Whigs in the House of Commons were not true Whigs).

    But how on Earth can one fight this fight with “Progressive”?

    When and where has “Progressive” meant reducing (not increasing) the size and scope of government?

    What alternative history of the word “Progressive” is there?

    Is not (for example) H. Mann (the “father of American Public Schools”) not in the Progressive tradition?

    Government school systems, government lunatic homes,

    government road systems (throwing aside the reactionary landowners with compulsory buying of land), government canals and ports and …… (well, eventually, everything).

    When Elizabeth Warren (for example) stands up in Massachusetts and declares herself in the “liberal and progressive tradition” of Franklin Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, H. Mann (back in the early 19th century) and on and on…….

    Well one can argue about “liberal” – one can produce counter examples (even in the English speaking world)of liberals who really did want a smaller (not a bigger) government. People in the tradition of Bastiat and so on (French is less confusing than English on the meaning of the word “liberal”).

    But counter examples for “Progressives”?

    What is one supposed to do?

    Say that “every well known person in history who has used the word Progressive to describe their politics has got the meaning of the word wrong”?

    The word “libertarian” was pushed for good reasons.

    Trying to reclaim the word “liberal” is a very difficult task – even “Classical Liberalism” (after all my dear friends the Economist magazine call themselves “Classical Liberal” and they endorsed John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama and 2008 and 2012 PUBLIC SERVICES is what they are about, as well as subsidies for bankers of course).

    Trying to “reclaim” the word “Progressive” is logically impossible – as people wanting a smaller (not bigger) government have never “owned” the word “Progressive”.

    How can we “reclaim” something that has never belonged to us?

  • APL

    “Liberalism Unrelinquished.”

    It’s ok. But I think, ‘Liberalism reclaimed’ would have been better.

  • Paul Marks

    I will end on a positive note.

    When Professor Dave Brat (who has just defeated Eric Cantor – House Majority Leader of the Republicans) calls himself a “Liberal Progressive” I will do the same.

    Invaders are not “immigrants”, an immigrant is someone who is loyal to the country they are going to (not someone who believes the wrong side one in the wars of 1848 and 1836, has a different Independence Day, and is loyal to a different flag) and an immigrant does not come for “Social Justice” (i.e. to loot a population in a country that has “no right to exist” – whether that country is the United States or Israel or….. and intends to vote for whoever he or she thinks most shares their HATRED of the country they are going to).

    There are Hispanic names on the wall of the Alamo who died defended the place – does the Amnesty movement honour these names? Of course not, they hate them – they died on the “wrong” side – and they bring up their children to hate them to (they even oppose American flags in American schools – especially on the “true” Independence Day, i.e. the Mexican one). These are Obama voters – and they will vote for whoever the Dems put up in 2016 (if Mr Cantor really could not see that he needs to go to a eye doctor).

    If Polish people coming to Britain (and their children) claimed that Britain was rightfully part of Poland and that they had a “right” to loot the population of Britain (a country with “no right to exist”) would they be “immigrants”? Thankfully this is NOT so.

    Wild government spending is not – “fiscal conservatism”.

    Subsidising bankers (maintaining the credit money supply bubble) but using different colour note paper in the process is not – “opposing Obama”.

    Mr Cantor had lots of money behind his campaign.

    Mr Brat had virtually none.

    One hundred thousand Dollars – against five MILLION Dollars.

    Mr Brat did not even have any help from any national Tea Party group.

    He just has an interview with Glenn Beck on the radio.

    I am just listening to Mr Cantor making a speech.

    He is talking about his EDUCATION policy.

    And Mr Cantor is talking about his MEDICAL RESEARCH policy.

    Mr Cantor appears to be unaware the Federal government is not supposed to be involved in education or in health research.

    Is it “liberal” to oppose the Federal government “helping educate children”?

    Is it “liberal” to oppose the Federal government “helping the sick”?

    Brian would say that it IS liberal to oppose such things – and therefore Mr Brat is more “liberal” than Mr Cantor.

    But is it “Progressive” to oppose these things?

    If it is then YES being “Progressive” is a good thing to be.

    Almost needless to say Dave Brat and the Tea Party movement (only local ones supported Professor Brat anyway) is being described as “Hard Right”.

    If the Bill of Rights (especially the Tenth Amendment) is “hard right – so bit it.

    If the Bill of Rights is liberal – good for liberalism.

    If the Bill of Rights (especially the Tenth Amendment) is Progressive – then good or Progressivism.

    But if “Social Justice” (looting – which the Pew Research Centre says at least 75% of “immigrants” into the United States are in favour of MORE of) is “liberal” and is “Progressive” – then liberalism and Progressivism can burn in Hell.

  • Mr Ed

    Socialist” is a term that was used in Britain in the 1950s to refer to the Labour Party, “You don’t want the socialists getting in, do you?”. It strikes me as appropriate, and most would hardly deny it.

    Whilst we are on to terms, I prefer ‘Market choices‘ to ‘market forces‘ as markets don’t force anyone to do anything.

    If we left it to market choices, then….“.

  • Well, for myself I just call the Liberal Democrats in particular the Febrile Demonrats. Quite a few of them ought to be shot – preferable in the rectum.

  • Mr Ed

    NickM, I am disappointed to see violence not in immediate and justifiable self-defence advocated on this site (I can see an argument for self-defence, but it is what lawyers call ‘too remote’).

    Anyway, knowing what we know about some Lib Dems, this might be regarded by some of them as an act of friendship?

  • Mr Ed I was not advocating violence. My comment was clearly so OTT that I hoped it would be taken merely as a sign of the inchoate rage I feel against the LDs.

  • CaptDMO

    “Social Democrat”? Maybe, but only with a “They’re special” hyphen.
    Paleo-Fascist? Perhaps, but too much knowledge/thinking on the part of the subject to comprehend
    SEE: Dunning-Kruger Effect
    When I mumble to myself I use “Rent Seekers”, but (ie)Krugman/NYT devotees have no idea what that implies.

    “… I like to think it may have set some brain cells in motion on the other side of the Atlantic.”

    Well, brain cells are relative of course, but I know at least ONE U.S. Mensa dude harasses the nice folks in PJ Media comments as well. I suspect more.

  • Mr Ed

    NickM, I had hoped that sarcasm filters might be set wide-mesh on Samizdata. Anyway, why be angry at the Lib Dems when they are so funny? Mark Oaten, David Steel, Cyril Smith, Mike Hancock, Lembit Opik, Charles Kennedy, Vince Cable. Surely there is enough material there for any stand-up comedy routine? If the link can be made to vile policies from those people, it makes the case for liberty all the stronger.

  • Praetyre

    The modern left is not Progressive, or even Fabian; both of these groups were a thousand miles to the right of modern leftists in terms of views on culture and sociology (for instance, the Fabians promoted eugenics and George Bernard Shaw advocated large-scale gassing of the British proletariat at least a decade before the Austrian corporal even stood for election).

    Progressivism resembles fascism in some ways, but only really by virtue of fascism (in the real, non-swearword sense) copying liberal democratic governments. The Progressives were essentially swept out by the New Left/SDS crowd in the 1960′s (Gabb is good on this) and since then remain only in the form of the leftist managerial ideology and institutions they constructed.

    Furthermore, Progressivism is a development of the liberal ideology, which includes not only Jefferson (himself a radical leftist agrarian in a similar mold to the even more radical and egalitarian Thomas Paine) but also Robespierre and even, in a sense, Marx; liberalism, in essence, is a political movement characterized by the construction of a sovereign State (a form of governance unprecedented before the Renaissance, and built partly by Royal Absolutism and particularily French Etatism, which ironically paved the way for the hypercentralism and revolutionary nationalism of the Jacobins) designed to protect the “rights” (a term previously pertaining solely to contract, and derived from the absurd “social contract” theories of the liberal ideology, which the royalists ironically would agree with the libertarians on in their ridiculousness) of the “citizens” in order to maximize freedom and minimize coercion.

    Progressives and welfare liberals (distinct but related groups) saw the interventionist measures they supported as aiming towards this freedom, by reducing the restrictions economic realities imposed upon the populace. Whether they were right in this assessment is another question, but much like Marxists, there’s no question their ideology was liberal in this sense.

    Libertarians (who for various reasons ought to label ourselves propertarians) are, to the extent we descend from the liberal ideology at all (it’s questionable how much of the libertarian interpretation of liberalism stems from liberalism proper or from the classical Germanic society that preceded it), are a mutant strain focused narrowly on a particular conception of liberty; which is not even solely negative liberty; property acquisition is a positive right, and negative liberties could theoretically include all the anti-racism/smoking/smacking/etc stuff Eurocrats go on about.

    Also, the term “statist” is vague (and rests partly upon the confusion of multilateral polycentric legal networks like Medieval Europe or really, anything preceding the Renaissance with the sovereign People’s State of the liberals and civic republicans), but not as much as “authoritarian”, beyond being in many ways simply a soft version of the Communist tactic of labelling everyone “fascist”, it is even more uselessly vague; it is quite possible (either by the criteria I gave above or some other criteria like Marxian exploitation) to construct a model whereby propertarianism is ultra-authoritarian.

    Further, I’m not clear how social democracy is a “perversion” of the “democratic process”; is this an argument for limiting the franchise to non-recipients (which I would strongly support doing, incidentally, but not to “save democracy’, God forbid). This reminds me of how NeoCons and their funhouse mirrors in Amnestites define “democracy” to mean “democracies with policies we like” and exclude Islamic regimes from that because they don’t like homosexuals or whatever. Admittedly, that’s not as annoying as people who conflate democracy with liberty, but it’s up there somewhere.

    It is by no means clear to me that the modern leftists have any less of a claim to the liberal label than propertarians or, for that matter, Marxists. Even fascism itself accepts a lot of liberal ideas, like the aforementioned sovereign People’s State and nationalism (which is unheard of before the French Revolution).

    Also, while I find the minarchists-are-evil crowd annoying, they’re actually right about Hayek; he was essentially a social democrat in terms of his actual political views, and in many ways was far more scoialist than the oft-maligned Milton Friedman. This, I think, shows in their reception; Hayek is politeiy acknowledged by the Social Democratic Establishment and is at worst portrayed as a misguided cipher in some “neoliberal” conspiracy, whereas Friedman is the “proud father of global misery”.

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Ed – the question is do these people (David Steel and so on) have a claim on the word “liberal”?

    In terms of policy I am hard put to think of a period (at least in the English speaking world – it is different in France) when there were NOT lots of people who wanted a bigger government and called themselves (and were accepted as) “liberal”.

    However, there also used to be a lot of people who wanted there to be a smaller government who called themselves “liberal” (although that stopped being true more than a century ago).

    But “Progressive”?

    Have not the children of Plato always been the Progressives?

    Sir Francis Bacon and “The New Atlantis” of control of everything by an “enlightened” elite of educated Guardian types.

    David Steel (and co) look fairly moderate compared to this.

    I think Brian’s point is that it does not work – that statism (Frederick the Great and so on) does not produce real “progress”.

    I AGREE with Brian on this.

    But it is scary how many people still think that Frederick the Great (and other enlightened ones) did a wonderful “Progressive” (and even “liberal” job).

    Edmund Burke found that most of the “friends of liberty” turned out to be nothing of the kind.

    Or rather, their DEFINITION of what “liberty” meant was totally different (and opposed) to his.

  • RRS

    The Thread:

    Brian began with the consideration of the views of others about the “recapture” of the label, “Liberal.” He went on to the issue of other labels that falsify the contents of their “jars,” such as “progressive,” and “Democrat” modified as “Social Democrat.” Brian did not suggest “recapture” of any of the labels, but rather finding some other single label to glue over each and all of them that would properly identify, and provide warning of, the contents of their “jars.”

    Because of the wide variety (plus pollutions and infections) of “contents” in many of the jars using those various labels (indiscriminately), the task is not about clarifying the misuse of existing labels, but finding some stamp or tag – such as “Toxic” – that will destroy or at least diminish the misleading character of the falsified labels.

    To the PMO:

    In the US, a movement which took on the political title of “Progressive,” developed in the agrarian areas, principally around the concept of the agricultural cooperative movement. Co-ops were largely voluntary collectives which operated under forms of Democratic process. They required group decision making (which has been examined in Public Choice Theory) which “seemed” to their participants as analogous to governmental functions. As a result, views developed that the kinds of objectives sought through the voluntary collectives of co-ops could be attained through the functions of governments (originally, local and state).

    Of course, those views tended to disregard the serious issue of the coercive characteristics of government and the perversion from voluntary collectivity to coercive collectivity.

    [ As to other developments in the co-op movement you are referred to Midwesterner, who has had the more recent experiences.]

    In that case, a concept took hold that the same “public” that established co-op facilities could and would use the facilities of governments in the same manner. That was deemed a “Progressive” use of the facilities of governments.

    Some of the vestiges of those views are still politically resonant in states like Wisconsin, and in certain regions of other states where the co-op movement gained wide acceptance.

    Most co-ops ultimately fell into the need for dedicated management and many became successful commercial ventures with various forms of specializations.

  • Mr Ed,
    I’d forgotten about The Lemsip Optic of Doom. Yeah, they are amusing. But… they are in power (sort of) and they can be very nasty… Simon Hughes and Chris Huhne spring to mind. And of course Jezza Thorpe. Nasty, nasty, nasty people. My serious point is a great many “liberals” or socialists are very nasty pieces of work whilst being seen as nice. Look at how the British Co-Op movement is panning out for an organisation that witters on about being “ethical” or Fairtrade” or Michael Moore’s divorce which reveals his considerable assets (and I’m not taking about his tremendous girth) but $$$ and property from a man who lectures us on the evils of materialism.

    Evil the lot of them. Well, some of them anyway and the rest are either gullible, stupid or mad. It is of course possible to be any permutation of all of the above.

  • I (yet again) agree with Mid that ‘authoritarian’ is the optimal term, on several counts.

  • Snorri Godhi

    In a spirit of reconciliation, let me clarify that i do not think labels such as “authoritarian”, “statist”, “collectivist”, etc, are inappropriate: i only think they are too generic. There were authoritarians long before the emergence of American Progressivism and British social liberalism (which i assume is what we are discussing here). There are still authoritarians in non-Western countries who have no intellectual roots in common with Anglo-American “liberalism(s)”. There are even authoritarians in Western countries who might turn violent at the mere suggestion that they have something in common with the modern “left”!

    Speaking of which:

    Have not the children of Plato always been the Progressives?

    The children maybe, but Plato himself, as far as i understand, was a reactionary.
    But then, perhaps it can be said that he was so “far right” that he was “far left”.

  • Just had a look at the Liberalism Unrelinquished web site and thought of signing their petition, but was baulked by this rather snobbish pronouncement: “Also, to sharpen the character of the statement, we restrict signers to individuals age 30 or over who work in scholarship, research, media, or culture.” Well, that’s me told. I work in software development (cartography and route finding) and I regard that as part of our innovative culture in the West, but I’m sure that would cut no ice.

  • Gary

    Remember, the ask was for a term that we could use while campaigning. That means it needs to be understandable on the Clapham omnibus.
    So while there may be a intellectual elegance to some of these terms (social creationist, etc) and some historical insights that limit the purity of the authoritarian suggestion, it is the only one so far which a) contains an essence of the objection to their position and b) is understandable by my dad.

  • Deep Lurker

    I’ve proposed “aristo-communist” (“aristo-commie” for short). They want to form a new aristocracy, one with a strong dose of neo-clericism, and with themselves as the new “enlightened” clergy-aristocrats. And their plans for the rest of us is communism, in the sense of the antebellum Southern US plantations being “the beau ideal of communism.”

    To them, “the road to serfdom” is no longer an unforseen, unintended – or undesired – consequence.

  • Paul Marks

    One example on how difficult it all is……

    Would Tom Paine be normally considered an “authoritarian” or “collectivist”?

    He seems wonderful (as does J.S. Mill – till one looks behind the curtain) lots of lovely “freedom” and “liberty” talk and lots of talk that is “hostile to the state”.

    I remember Glenn Beck going through a big Tom Paine stage – naming a book “Common Sense” (and so on).

    Of course the left laughed.

    They know that Thomas Paine was in favour of centralised government handing out lots of “Public Services” to the people.

    His anti statism (even as regards fiat money) was anti monarchism (and anti aristocracy also) – if the state was DEMOCRATIC then it should do X, Y, Z.

    This is the same as the “Radical Programme” of Joe Chamberlain in 1865 – accept that it right back in the 1790s.

    It is hard not to see liberalism (at least in part) as a poisoned well – or as an acid lake. A lake that looks wonderful (deep blue and clear) – but (in the end) nothing can live in it.

    After all what is the point of working night and day (indeed risking one’s life) to overthrow the old system of government, to set up a new “enlightened” government (free of Kings and landed aristocrats and a tradition bound Church) if the new government does not do anything?

    Surely the point is for the new government to “help the people” (help them “progress” to a condition where all the basic needs of life would be taken care of by enlightened experts – a bit like “Star Trek: The New Generation”), so Adam’s Curse (earing one’s bread by the sweat of one’s face) would finally be ended.

    Of course not all liberals fell for such fantasies (certainly not) – but such as fantasy is exactly what “Progressivism” is based upon (and always has been).

    An enlightened state (possibly democratic – in FORM, although as with Rousseau there would be hidden safeguards against “reactionary” ordinary people “voting against their true interests”) helping the people in every aspect of their lives.

    Not “authoritarian” (or so its supporters claim) because they want to make people “happy”.

    Have fun boys and girls. Have no thought for tomorrow – for we will take care of you!.

    Thus “true freedom” will be achieved.

    Freedom from want, freedom from fear of poverty and sickness, freedom from work – the sunlit uplands……

    “But it is all nonsense Paul”.

    Did I say it was not nonsense?

    Of course it is.

    Edmund Burke understood it was all nonsense (centuries ago) – but he also understood it was powerful and seductive nonsense.

    By the way…….

    The modern variation of blaming everything on Kings (somehow George III, who lived in a small house, was responsible for the terrible poverty in London – perhaps he was an evil witch who cast a magic poverty spell….), landed aristocrats and reactionary churchmen, is to blame everything on “the rich”, “big business” and “corporate power”.

    If only they were all destroyed, “the people” could be happy and have everything they want…….

    Forget “liberals” and “Progressives” – plenty of people who call themselves “libertarians” teach this.

    At least it is not Father C. and his magazine “Social Justice” back in the 1930s – he blamed “the Jews” for the people not being happy.

    Just rob the Jews (who “stole” their wealth anyway) and all would be well……

    As liberals (as well as Marxists)say – anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools. The mainstream socialist (or Progressive)”understanding” that poverty is the fault of rich people in general (apart from those who support the enlightened ones of course) – not just Jewish rich people.

  • […] now the good man, Brian Mickelthwait from Samizdata UK says that the label “progressive” is still too cheerful to let them use or for us to […]

  • Nevertheless Paul, Common Sense does indeed contain at least some… common sense:

    Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first a patron, the last a punisher.

    Which is why I once wrote:

    In fact, socialism must be the most ironic use of language in the history of human linguistics: it is the advocacy of the complete replacement of social interaction with political interaction, the very negation of civil society itself. ‘Politicalism’ would be a more honest term.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Perry – literally “socialism” should mean the free market. What Edmund Burke called “social freedom” (meaning voluntary interaction in civil society – not robbing other people or ordering them about).

    In fact socialist propaganda films to this day (for example ones about the Spanish Civil War) try and associate socialism with freedom – with people being allowed to live their lives and associate with other freely.

    Accept in reality…… socialists favour(and have ALWAYS favoured) force and fear, plundering people and ordering them about.

    As for Thomas Paine and other liberal icons……

    He was shocked by all the killing in the French Revolution – but it did NOT lead him to change his opinions (he just wanted nicer people in charge – such a deep thinker…….).

    Even when Tom Paine seems to make sense he often does not.

    For example his attack on “hereditary legislators”…….

    Would you support hereditary mathematicians says Paine.

    Sounds clever – smart as paint.

    But it is false.

    Firstly it assumes that governing is about legislation (passing more “laws”), secondly it assumes that this is like mathematics (calling Sir William Petty, Sir Francis Bacon and even Plato – the rule of enlightened experts), it is not.

    Lastly the smuggled in assumption – that ELECTED “legislators” are better than hereditary ones.

    An assumption for which there is no argument (either a priori or empirical).

    Surely (if governing is legislating, which it is not, and legislating is like mathematics, which it is not) then better families who make this their family tradition – than ELECTED mathematicians.

    ELECTING mathematicians would be an ideal way of getting “mathematicians” who can not add up.

    “But then they can be thrown out at the election” – and replaced by people who are even worse at adding up.

    Tom Paine himself is good example.

    His claims (in “The Rights of Man” Part One and Part Two) that X, Y, Z, government services could be based on (firstly) getting rid of the King (and hangers on) and (later) on a big tax on landowners – are all based on false mathematics.

    Either Mr Paine was a liar – or he just was not very good with numbers.

    “Vote for me – because my mathematics means you can have anything you want”.

    Is that it?

  • Paul Marks

    As for the specific example of the United States.

    I agree that written limitations on government power are a good thing – and Lord North and Parliament had no such limitations upon them, which was a bad thing.

    However, written limitations on government power are only useful if they are ENFORCED.

    For example, President Washington marched an army into Penn in 1794 (a conscript army – several people were killed resisting conscription).

    There had been no request for armed intervention from the State Legislature of the Commonwealth of Penn or from the Governor.

    So under Article Four, Section Four, of the Constitution of the United States Mr Washington had no right to do what he did against “domestic violence” (the Federal government may only send armed forces into a State at the request of the State Legislature – or, if there is no time to ask the State Legislature, the State Governor).

    “But Paul – Mr Washington was the President……”.

    I see – so as regards special people (such as Presidents) the rules do not apply.

    Well no point in writing rules then.

    Mr Obama is laughing – you can have all the rules you want, but if they do not apply to Presidents then they are a waste of ink.

    And, if they do apply, there must be a simple way of making them hurt.

    Do not talk to me about “impeachment” – that process has never worked in two hundred years.

    If an ordinary victim of government action can not bring the government to trial (a JURY trial – not a case controlled by government appointed judges as with the Supreme Court) then the thing is a waste of time.

    There some “Common Sense” – would Mr Paine have agreed?

    Perhaps he would – in which case we have some common ground.

  • Paul Marks

    Snorri – Karl Popper called Plato a reactionary in his “The Open Society And Its Enemies”, but that was what Popper called his “war work”.

    In the book Popper claimed that Plato was a collectivist (true – in fact an obvious truth, so obvious that only an intellectual could miss it, hat tip to Cicero about the point that some things are so absurd that only philosophers can believe them, due to the radical alienation from Common Sense one finds in some philsophers) AND that he was a “reactionary”.

    Popper does the same thing with the Fascists and National Socialists – claiming they are “reactionaries” also.

    It is false – both the Fascist and the National Socialisits built new systems that had not existed before.

    Just as Plato advocated a new system that had not existed before – he was not seeking to go back to a system that had existed.

    They are all objectively PROGRESSIVE.

    However, telling a bunch of socialists and left-liberals that the Fascists and Nazis were Progressive was not what they wanted to hear (it would have undermined the war time alliance within Britain).

    So one redefines the collectivism of the Fascists and Nazis as “reactionary” – and the philosophers who influenced all this (even Fichte) get redefined as “reactionary” also.

    Fichte the reactionary………

    Paul Marks the tall man with a full head of hair.

    This is why I prefer such books as “Omnipotent Government” by Mises and “The Road to Serfdom” by Hayek – they are not so interested in keeping the socialists as friends by saying that the Fascists and National Socialists are reactionary.

    The man who dismissed the common experience of humanity as silly people looking at shadows on a cave wall and thinking they were real things, was no reactionary (he was an elite intellectual who wanted to control others and change their traditions – even change the great works of the past such as Homer, in line with what he wanted them to say).

    Reactionaries believe the common experience of humanity over the centuries is the truth (they do not hold that something else is the truth – even though it is contradicted by the common experience of humanity over centuries), and they revere such things as ancient literature (they do not seek to suppress it and replace it with stuff they have just made up).

    Homer wrote what he wrote – he showed the Gods sometimes doing bad thins.

    Mr Plato may prefer if Homer (and other) had not done this – but Mr Plato (and the ideal society he wished to create – which had never existed anywhere) should go and jump in the nearest lake.

    The “shadows on the cave wall” are not shadows on the cave wall – they are real things.

    Justice is not some “ideal” society where everyone does what Plato says they should (via his “Guardians” – like Rousseau’s “Law Giver”).

    Justice is to each their own (the old Greek definition that Plato ATTACKED).

    Justice is “hands off”.

  • Paul Marks

    “Authoritarian” would certainly fit Plato (and Karl Marx) – would it fit Tom Paine?

    It would fit his policies – but not his personality.

    Tom Paine was a bit like George Orwell – he advocated something that he did not like when he came upon it.

    Sadly (also like George Orwell – Mr E. Blair) even after seeing he did not like it, he continued to advocate it.

  • Nick (Blame FrenchMEN) Gray

    Paul, if you are not going to tax the rich to pay for the policies that I happen to like, how will you persuade me to vote for you? You just aren’t getting this democracy thing, are you?

  • Paul Marks

    RRS – Populists may have started off in the West as in favour of coops but they soon were in favour of government marketing boards and state owned cement factories. Populists in the South were not nice either.

    As for Progressive – surely that is the East Coast tradition (going back via Richard Ely all the way to H. Mann and so on).

    Surely (for example) Edward Bellamy’s “Looking Backward” (1887) was the classic hard core Progressive text – and the Bellamy cousins were socialists (although of the National Socialist kind).

    People forget that the Pledge of Allegiance (written by Edward and Francis Bellamy) is to “the flag” (not to “the Constitution”) because the the Bellamys HATED the limited government principles of the Constitution beyond this.

    As the Progressive Woodrow Wilson would explain – they wanted to “evolve” beyond the idea of limiting government, to unlimited government.

    The “New Freedom” which nasty people such as myself call SLAVERY.

    Even the “moderate” alternative to the Bellamy’s socialism – “Philip Dru: Administrator” (by Woodrow Wilson’s “other self” Colonel House) is rather evil.

    Well forget “rather” – it is just evil.

    This is what Progressivism is about – even in its crude Hollywood form.

    See “Gabriel Flew Over The Whitehouse” film pushed by Mr Hurst (it is forgotten that he made his name by having his yellow journalism newspapers attack private enterprise and demand that cities take over X, Y, Z).

    As J. Goldberg points out (in “Liberal Fascism”) this film (like the books of the Progressives that Glenn Beck did a public service by bringing out of hiding) is EVIL.

    It shows (with approval) being shot without trial (and on and on).

    Then Governor Franklin Roosevelt was a script adviser.

    Judging by this film (and books such as “Philip Dru: Administrator”) Mr Roosevelt was actually rather moderate in office.

    I really think it is a waste of time (in fact worse than that) to try and defend Progressivism.

    It is evil – leave it to Mrs Clinton.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Nick – I am not a fan of Pericles (who turned Athenians against each other, and turned the allies of Athens into subjects – all to pay for his re election promises).

    I am told that I will have to present all I have done for Brambleside to be readopted as candidate.

    That will not take long – as I have not looted anybody to pay for any election bribes. So I will have naught to say “what have you done for us?” “nothing”.

    Therefore, it would appear, that I am not a suitable person to be a candidate – your view of democracy is vindicated.

    After all I have not filled any expense claim forms all these years……

    So I am clearly a freak.

  • Bill Reeves

    I recommend we call the Dems (or Lab-Libs in the UK) what my grandmother Reeves used to call them: Bastards.

  • Steph Houghton

    I recommend that they be called “progressives.” The scare quotes lets our opinion of the idea that they are in favor of progress stand out and we can tie them to the proto fascist progressives of the late 19th early 20th century.

  • James Waterton

    Thomas Friedman called American liberals “New Dealers”. Makes sense to me. They’d wear it as a badge of honour, and it would mark them out as Big Government Statists.

  • Paul Marks

    Good Mr Waterton.

    After all one is either for the New Deal or for limiting government.

    It sums up the division nicely – without having to go into the debate about what “liberal” or “progressive” actually is.

    A simple question – are you a New Dealer, do you support the New Deal?

    Many Republicans (as well as Democrats) would say “yes”.

    And in that way one has a RINO detector.