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The definition of Liberalism[edit]

In the very first line of the article, I noticed that one user edited the definition of another user, basically changing "liberty and justice" to "liberty and equality". Now the choice of the word equality is controversial. What does "equality" mean? Certainly egalitarianism (the way its traditionally known) is not something that Classical Liberalism holds to define "Liberalism". In the classical liberal notion, inequality is the norm; some would call it 'natural inequality' or 'organic conception of society'. Basically, freemarket economics naturally makes a social hierarchy, therefore "equality" is not a tenet of Liberalism. Since this article is tending to both Social/Modern and Classical Liberalism, this definition favors one side over the other. I ask that an alternative definition be sought, i actually prefer the previous one "justice" over "liberty". (talk) 01:43, 10 April 2013 (UTC)

"Equality" is the term used by reliable sources. Although Marxists consider the equality under liberalism to be hollow, because social inequality remains, it is nonetheless a tenet. TFD (talk) 02:42, 10 April 2013 (UTC)
Yes, it is used by "reliable sources", but given that the word "liberal" has so many different meanings, one would assume each 'source' is referring to a separate respective "liberalism" (perhaps, Social Liberalism, rather than Classical). Personally, I'm a classical liberal oriented person myself, and i find the use of the term "equality" questionable. And the cited 'source' isn't very helpful either. (talk) 03:41, 10 April 2013 (UTC)
When terms have different meanings, we use DISAMBIG. TFD (talk) 04:24, 10 April 2013 (UTC)

So called classical liberals do support equality under the law. They would oppose (or most of them would) a law that allowed only rich people to vote. As for so-called equality of outcomes, that is largely a red herring, since no social liberals I know want that. I suppose there are still a few Marxists out there who do, but no matter what certain opponents of liberalism say, liberalism isn't Marxism. In any case, the major sources writing about liberalism say "liberty and equality" are characteristic of liberalism, and distinguish it from other political systems, such as monarchy and dictatorship. Justice, on the other hand, does not have the characteristic of distinguishing between various "isms". Even a king is in favor of justice. Rick Norwood (talk) 12:02, 10 April 2013 (UTC)

I'm not sure why so many different users are bringing up Marxism, or what it has to do with my query. I'm not a Marxist, if i were than i wouldn't have questioned the cited definition of Liberalism. My objection was to the "equality" part, as we classical liberals are not egalitarians, and therefore while some of us may prefer the romantic notion of 'equality' others very much prefer an 'organic hierarchy' or 'natural inequality'. As for the claim that, all men believe in "justice" even if it seems unjust by someone else (monarchy vs democracy); that very much describes what i believe the Classical Liberal notion of "justice" really is. It may seem just for some, but not by others (i.e. there is a wealth gap, and class division); what makes it just from our perspective is not where people stand or were born, but the differentiation between Positive right vs Negative right, or positive liberty vs negative liberty. In such context, to talk about "equality" (egalitarianism) would be an act of coercion, as Negative Rights/Liberty entails the 'individual' to strive for his own interest above others (i.e. inequality). The whole point of my argument is that, we should have a definition that conforms to both the Classical and Social liberalisms, rather than a disputable one. (talk) 19:27, 10 April 2013 (UTC)
Again you need a source that presents the view you believe should be shown. Arguments and personal opinions, no matter how valid are unacceptable because statements in articles must be sourced. Incidentally, the concept of "positive rights" is based on freedom, not equality. TFD (talk) 22:12, 10 April 2013 (UTC)
Seriously now the source says "^ Satoshi Kanazawa once defined liberalism (as opposed to conservatism) as "the genuine concern for the welfare of genetically unrelated others and the willingness to contribute larger proportions of private resources for the welfare of such others." See Kanazawa 2010, p. 38.". Are you sure that this source refers to liber-alism in general (where is liberty in that definition?) or to a particular version of liberalism like social-iiberalism (a mixture of Socialism and liberalism). If we want to be sincere and not push agendas we should state what exactly means liberalism and later refer to its flavors --DagonAmigaOS (talk) 04:56, 13 November 2013 (UTC)
I agree with removing that source, because the writer is using to "contemporary American definition of liberalism". However I disagree with your change of "equality" to "equality of political and civil rights." It is the same error of using a contemporary definition of one form of liberalism. TFD (talk) 17:28, 13 November 2013 (UTC)

The intro to the article cites "free and fair elections" as one of the principles of "liberalism". There is a huge issue with this statement, because if the point of the line was to highlight the common ground between classical and social liberalisms, this does not. Many libertarians and classical liberals such as Gustave de Molinari and Frederic Bastiat are against the concept of government/state in general, so how can "free and fair elections" be counted among? The claim is highly subjective and/or partisan. (talk) 23:35, 15 May 2013 (UTC)

Historical error[edit]

How could liberalism date back to the 17th century, if the first use of the term is to be found in the Cadiz Cortes in 1810? How could (for example) John Locke, a thinker from the 17th century, be identified as a liberal, if the concept of liberal didn't appear until the Spanish Constitution of 1812? This article is clearly ahistorical, since it wrongly analyzes the past using the categories of the present.

--Fulgencio Jr (talk) 18:50, 16 May 2013 (UTC)

Most scholars date the origins of liberalism to the 17th century, although a minority agree with your reasoning. TFD (talk) 19:02, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
By this logic, "science" was created in the 16th/17th centuries and did not exist prior since it was "natural philosophy" before that. And "gravity" did not exist either, since gravity only became a thing after Newton discovered it... Concepts exist before etymology. And of course with "liberalism" we see the prevalence of semantics over substance (multiple contradictory parties claiming the same name), so it makes sense why someone would argue so-and-so isn't a "liberal". But it's something quite cringe-worthy. DA1 (talk) 20:08, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
No, Fulgencio is quite right: liberalism is a 19th-century movement, and attempts to project it back in time are attempts by liberals to find "roots." It is quite cringe-worthy. GeneCallahan (talk) 15:52, 17 July 2013 (UTC)
the issue is not the word "liberal" -- it's the ideas and concepts and all historians date the origins much earlier, to about 1680-1700. see for example : An Intellectual History of Liberalism by Pierre Manent you can see his table of contents at Rjensen (talk) 17:07, 17 July 2013 (UTC)
Well, I think "liberal" is not only a word but a concept that can be --and has been-- used to interpret things. And for that to be possible, it is necessary at least that the word used to signify the concept exists and is used (how could a concept exist if there is no word for it?). Of course gravity --and its concept-- existed long before Newton; he didn't invent that, neither discovered it; he just took a new approach to explain it. I'm not trying to say that (for example) Locke wasn't a liberal; that would be as inadequate as saying he was a liberal. I'm trying to say that Locke wouldn't have known what a liberal is, because by its time that concept had no meaning, since it didn't even exist.
As I said, the word "liberal" didn't appear until the 19th century, so it is impossible that there were "liberal" thinkers before that. It's easy, from our point of view, to see "liberal" ideas in many authors prior to the 19th century, and to identify those authors as liberals, but that is only because we used today's notions to analyze notions from the past. And that is taking an ahistorical approach to the question. There is a historical way of studying thought, which tries to comprehend and author from the notions of his times, from the ground in which he moved. Concepts are not ahistorical; they appear and change their meanings throughout time. Take, for example in this particular case, the work "John Locke's liberalism" by Ruth Grant, which, eventhough it still somehow follows the classical interpretation, it recognises there are many wrong assumptions in the understanding of Locke and other so-called liberal thinkers due to the lack of an historical approach. Fulgencio Jr (talk) 01:08, 31 August 2013 (UTC)

The word used, before the "ism" was added to "liberal", was liberty, as in Locke's life, liberty, and property, Jefferson's life, liberty, and the persuit of happiness, an the French Revolution's liberté, égalité, fraternité. The philosophy did not suddenly spring into being when somebody coined the word. The word was used to describe an already existing philosophy, in an age where "isms" abounded. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Rick Norwood (talkcontribs) 01:32, 31 August 2013


"In Spain, the Liberales, the first group to use the liberal label in a political context, and that is the reason why it is currently used."

This sentence is ungrammatical, and the "reason" supplied is not a reason at all. GeneCallahan (talk) 15:45, 17 July 2013 (UTC)

The Liberales are already mentioned in the "Aftermath of the French Revolution." I do not think the reason why they are called liberals is important enough to include in the lead. TFD (talk) 20:18, 17 July 2013 (UTC)

Liberalism and democracy[edit]

I suggest a new section about the not always easy relationship between liberalism and democracy. D. Cordoba-Bahle (talk) — Preceding undated comment added 22:56, 26 March 2014 (UTC)

Oh? Second Quantization (talk) 18:44, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
democracy is what we just saw in Egypt under Mohamed Morsi. Democracy means the will of the people decides, but that will can indeed be hostile to liberalism. Rjensen (talk) 19:07, 23 August 2014 (UTC)
The will of the people can be hostile to anything. What makes liberalism special? HiLo48 (talk) 19:11, 23 August 2014 (UTC)

On "communist"[edit]

A terminological note, just so the editors have a better perspective. In the "Neo-liberalism" section:

"While communist states and liberal democracies competed against one another, an economic crisis in the 1970s inspired a move away from Keynesian economics, especially under Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the US. [...] Meanwhile, nearing the end of the 20th century, communist states in Eastern Europe collapsed precipitously, leaving liberal democracies as the only major forms of government in the West."

Despite the widespread misconception, communism technically refers to a state-less, class-less, and money-less order, and the states in Eastern Europe in question had a state (obviously), class divisions, and a currency. The "communist state" article suggests, referencing The ABC of Communism (1920), that "communist state" is a contradictio in terminis. Prominent socialists including anarchists & communists have suggested that the USSR was not even socialist and can be more appropriately called state-capitalist:

"Nothing has contributed so much to the corruption of the original idea of socialism as the belief that Russia is a socialist country [...] I had seen little evidence that the USSR was progressing towards anything that one could truly call Socialism." (George Orwell, Animal Farm, 1945)
"Association of socialism with the Soviet Union and its clients serves as a powerful ideological weapon to enforce conformity and obedience to the state-capitalist institutions." (Noam Chomsky, Soviet Union Versus Socialism, 1986)
"Soviet Russia, it must now be obvious, is an absolute despotism politically and the crassest form of state capitalism economically." (Emma Goldman, There Is No Communism in Russia, 1935)
"The proletariat, instead of developing into a revolutionary class within the womb of capitalism, turns out to be an organ within the body of bourgeois society. [...] Lenin sensed this and described “socialism” as “nothing but state capitalist monopoly made to benefit the whole people.”" (Murray Bookchin, Scarcity Anarchism, 1971)

The USSR was state-capitalist in that their mode of production was analogous to that of capitalist corporations, where the few at the top make decisions for & collect the surpluses produced by the many below. Nikolai Bukharin, a major Bolshevik, at a 1926 government conference, acknowledged that their regime was not achieving genuine socialism as a necessary transitional stage toward communism, and explained why they had to pretend to be socialist/communist: "If we confess that the enterprises taken over by the State are state-capitalist enterprises, if we say this openly, how can we conduct a campaign for a greater output? In factories which are not purely socialistic, the workers will not increase the productivity of their labor." (Bolshevism or Communism, 1934). So, it must be noted that the conventional use of "communist", such as adopted by many Wikipedia editors, is based on a pretense/mistake.

Also, it seems misleading that the article begins by defining liberalism as "founded on ideas of liberty and equality" and then sets it against "fascism and communism", when the origin of communism is characterized by a libertarian and egalitarian language. The word "libertarian" as a political descriptor itself was coined by an anarcho-communist, Joseph Dejacque. Living Utopia documents how the anarcho-communist movement in the 1930s Spain stood against both capitalism and Stalinism and made dramatic improvements on people's civil liberty and economic equality. The "liberalism" article does not differentiate genuine communism from Stalinism when it introduces communism as an "opponent" of liberalism. --Mirandansa (talk) 13:48, 23 April 2014 (UTC)

These are good points, but I'm not sure how Wikipedia can deal with them, since we have to deal with the dictionary definition of words, rather than a definition based on philosophy, history, or academic expertise. In common parlance, "communist" means "like Stalin's USSR, Mao's China, and Castro's Cuba", and that meaning is not likely to change.Rick Norwood (talk) 18:01, 23 April 2014 (UTC)

We should capitalize "Communist" - capital "C" Communist refers to states run by Communist parties. Whether they were socialist or state capitalist or something else is something better discussed in other articles. TFD (talk) 21:11, 23 April 2014 (UTC)
Good suggestion, TFD. Rick Norwood (talk) 12:08, 24 April 2014 (UTC)
I agree. In common and academic usage "Communism" is rarely used to suggest the early Christians or the Shakers who shared their possessions equally. Like it or not the Communist Party seized control of the term. Here's the Merriam Webster dictionary definition: 1 a: a theory advocating elimination of private property b: a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed 2 capitalized: a doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism that was the official ideology of the U.S.S.R. b: a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production c: a final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably d: communist systems collectively. Rjensen (talk) 19:12, 23 August 2014 (UTC)