We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The meaning of meanings

We received an e-mail from Kevin Connors on the issue of the term ‘liberal’

I believe David’s piece on the label “liberal” is quite ill-advised. I have a hard enough time trying to explain libertarianism to people and differentiate it from conservatism without swimming against the tide on an issue of semantics.

However I must disagree with Kevin. I think this is a useful point to raise for several reasons.

It is useful to put the evolution of the term into historical perspective, as Tom Burroughes has done, in order to understand the evolutionary process by which a term can come to mean the opposite of its original meaning, at least in the USA and to an extent the UK.

It is also useful to note that in the process of defining a word, it forces people to contrast it against opposing concepts and thus discover synonyms and antonyms. It is very helpful indeed to be able to point out that liberal is just a synonym for socialist and that it is mostly because ‘socialist’ has such negative connotations in the USA that members of the Democratic party use the term liberal. Thus a little discursive musing on the term ‘liberal’ makes that point rather hard to avoid. There is little daylight between modern ‘democratic socialists’ in Europe, Liberal Democrats in the UK and Democrats in the USA: they are just the modern faces of socialism.

Pointing this out is far from ill-advised. Many in the UK who vote for the ‘Liberal Democrats’ do so because of quaint ideas that they are the ‘middle way’, whereas the truth is that they are further to the socialist left than the Labour Party. In the USA many who would sooner use the star-spangled banner as a doormat than vote ‘Socialist’ nevertheless vote ‘Democrat’.

All we are doing is trying to introduce a little coherence into the political taxonomy!

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