Liberalism is a theory in economics and a political philosophy that is founded on the ideas of liberty and equality. In Classical Liberalism and especially in Social Liberalism these two principles are the most important pillars of the entire philosophy. Liberals around the world have different views on what it entails to be a liberal, though the majority of liberals support: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free markets, civil rights, democratic societies, secular governments and international cooperation.
The 18th century philosopher John Locke is seen as the founder of Modern Liberalism. Locke wrote the foundational text “Two Treatises” where he outlined his major ideas. According to Locke each man has a natural right to life, liberty and property. He made a social contract for governments to not violate. The liberals in that era opposed Traditional Conservatism and found ways to replace this Absolutism with Representative Democracy and the rule of law. After the French Revolution in the 19th century also other parts of the world had liberal governments coming into place. In the 20th century the liberal democracies were the winners of both world wars and thereafter Social Liberalism became the key component in the expansion of the welfare state. Up until today liberal parties are of substantial influence throughout the world.
When we look at the definition and etymology of Liberalism we see that the Merriam-Webster dictionary says the follow about Liberalism:
1 : a theory in economics emphasizing individual freedom from restraint and usually based on free competition, the self-regulating market, and the gold standard.
2 : a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties; specifically : such a philosophy that considers government as a crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities (as those involving race, gender, or class).
Words like liberal, liberty, libertarian and libertine do all originate from the Latin word liber, which means free. The word liberal was first used in the 14th century to describe liberal arts that represented a specific form of education for the free-born man. Up until the 16th century the word liberal was used in a positive way, in the 16th century the word had positive and negative connotations and denotations, though the positive use of the word was most common up until the 19th century. Throughout the years the meaning of the word Liberalism changed, whereas in the USA Liberalism was connected to the welfare-state politics and Europe associated it more with less government influences and a laissez-faire economy. Even now a days being a liberal in one country, doesn’t have to be the same in another country.
Liberalism didn’t just emerge from within the populace, several revolutions took place such as: the American Revolution, the Belgium Revolution and the French Revolution. After the French Revolution, France ended up with the Code of Napoleon, which was a merely libertarian society. Italy gained a lot from the French revolution; they got a better economic and religious situation as well as intellectual intolerance and nationalism that emerged. Also Switzerland had a long-term positive influence after the French Revolution.
During these turbulent times also the Industrial Revolution took place which drastically changed the 18th century society, classes shifted, wealth increased and nations began assuming national identities. Farmers and craftsman became factory workers, women and children started out as cheap labourers till child labour was no longer legal and later in time schools came into place to let the women and men work in the factories. The schools were there to prepare these low class children for the same kind of work their parents did. The liberals didn’t mind schools to be a place to create obedient people, since the never ending economic growth has always been their goal, thus more workers in one’s factory is only stimulating one’s own wealth.
Now the question is how liberal is Liberalism when it comes to practical daily living and how much difference is their within liberty when looking at their opponents the Conservatives. Liberals and Conservatives, especially in the USA, have always been each other’s opponents. Their relationship started of as a polarized relationship and nothing changed since 3 centuries. Which is funny in a way when we hear Obama say he wants change, while under no government real change takes place. The never-ending rivalry between Liberals and Conservatives show us the current political minds that have not transcended a certain level of egoistic toddler behaviour.
Recently a clinical psychiatrist (Lyle Rossiter, USA) declared that Liberalism is a mental disorder. He says: “Liberalism is a wilful failure to mature beyond adolescence that can have catastrophic consequences for society.” While a study funded by the US Government’s National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health has concluded that Conservatism can be explained psychologically as: “a set of neuroses rooted in fear and aggression, dogmatism and the intolerance of ambiguity.” This seems to be a case of the pot calls the kettle black where both political currents are getting dirty. It makes one think about the real differences between the psyche of politicians if there are any. We might be depicted as psychological patients, we probably all want freedom at the end of the day and we probably all mean different things when we say freedom.
So the evidence is in the pudding or more specific the evidence is in the words. Freedom, equality and the right to life are currently noble words and at the same time hollowed out and full of egoism. It is simply not lived and certainly not fully grasped. When my freedom is enslaving you and your freedom is being good to me, it might seem like a win-win situation, but in fact we are abusing ourselves and each other. When the actions that flow from achieving freedom would be in the best interest of all, there would be no misunderstanding at all. Wouldn’t that be a case of liberal thinking? Or shall we say critical thinking? We might have entered a century where freedom on all areas of our lives has to be in the best interest of all and how do we start making people aware of that? Indeed education, the schools that we used so many years for indoctrination can be used to create critical thinkers who are able to live freedom instead of bending freedom into our own or simply dream about true freedom that will never come.
Liberalism is a philosophy about the meaning of humanity and society, which would be meaningful to teach our children. Looking at our educational system right now we see that the foundations are still from centuries ago. We are still training kids to be obedient and do tasks in certain timeframes regardless of the learning pace of the child. We are still moulded into factory workers or office clerks, nothing changed there. How many times did we see the teacher bending natural expressions of kids into obedience and only being able to express oneself when asked? How many times did we see an entire class walk in couples in a row not being able to speak? Does that contribute to learning to cooperate and communicate in a civil way? Does that teach our kids how to practically live life?
There are already schools worldwide that do understand what kids need in the 21th century, but it’s only a few and not enough to give all children the chance to truly learn. Schools that value evidence based learning and teachers that are capable of trusting the students because they trust themselves with the task as coach for these students. Plain language and math needs to be learned and tested in a natural way and once the student is equipped with free accessible information he can start learning in a practical way and direction that is fit for him and his skills and or talents. When we look at Liberal Education for College students we can see that it is a form of learning that does come close to the previous description. It’s an approach that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture and society) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest.
So the pillars of Liberalism can only work when we have our definitions of all types of freedom aligned. In the end it is all about words and releasing our words of any emotional charges. When our freedom has greed as connotation we will never reach what is best for all. When freedom is simply the right to live equally, where we can express our true selves and communicate in equality, then freedom can work. The only but is, whenever our vocabulary is as limited as it generally is we are not able to communicate in an effective way and inequality would meet up with us soon. So here again our basic education needs to be in place and automated so that we are able to function optimal and thus support and assist others and ourselves. Liberal is me, and I can only be liberal when I am able to understand others without the noise of ignorance and lack of proper education.
The Living Income Guaranteed is a valid replacement of Liberalism or better Social Liberalism. It deals more with the outflows of all that needs to be implemented in society in order to maintain freedom and equality. What do certain goals implicate in certain situations? How can we best make a transfer from the old to the new? And never let words and terms be open to fantasy or abuse, be clear and directive in tomorrows world where we can all have a place that gives value to our surrounding and which values ourselves through who we are. We’re able to liberate ourselves from old systems as long as our mind set is what’s best for all we’ll find our way to freedom.