A year ago, Arizona businessman Kevin Frei started a petition with George Mason University economist Dan Klein, along with 5 other professors to reclaim the word ‘liberal’ as a symbol for liberty, free-markets, and limited government as opposed to its popular usage in American politics as a moniker for expanding the welfare-state, social justice, and other ideas associated with the modern left. See stories at the PanAm Post and Notes on Liberty.
In order to bring notice and attention to this semantic battle, Frei also initiated a global, yearly holiday to commemorate classical liberalism, to be celebrated on June 16th.
This post is my way of marking the day. Liberalism Day also has served to motivate me in my renewed effort to get the Free Liberal publishing on a regular, continual basis after several years of dormancy and infrequent publication.
Liberalism as Classical Liberalism
Prof. Klein has led the charge, giving presentations such as the one linked to above, and also by educating the public by penning history lessons like this one in The Atlantic.
Recently, Klein’s academic journal Econ Journal Watch published a symposium detailing the state of classical liberalism in different countries: Australia, Spain, Poland, Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia,, and the Czech Republic.
I leisurely read through the first third of the Australia article this morning and found it fascinating both as a political history and as a history of thought. Australia followed the arc of liberalism as we are familiar in America and Britain, as classical liberalism and then shifting left-ward, but the Australian history is full of particulars that make it an interesting read, especially given Australia’s origin as a British penal colony.
America can be very insular because we are so big, physically, financially, and as an actor on the global stage. I think it is important that we have some sense of the histories of our deep allies, and also as some indication of (roughly) counterfactual political and intellectual developments.
Liberalism as Transpartisan Liberalism
I agree with Prof. Klein’s approach and deeply admire his intellectual contributions. I am in fact proudly a signatory of the Liberalism Unrelinquished petition.
Nonetheless, Free Liberal was always intended to be a bridge between classical and modern liberals. So, even as I bring attention to this message of taking liberalism back, I don’t necessarily want to throw the current occupants (left-liberals) out of the house, so to speak. I believe that we can live in liberalism together and be stronger for it. One of our efforts is to practice always learning and growing together.
Fans of NBC’s Parks and Recreation know that Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson need each other and are better government officials for having to respond to and counter-point each other.
Free Liberal is classical liberal, but we are also transpartisan. I’m very pleased that my friend Daniel Kuehn has indicated his willingness to be a regular contributor. (Please see his review of Peter Boettke’s Living Economics and his tribute to economist greats Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes).
Our pages are open to all liberals who value reason and friendly debate. The mark of the liberal is openness and tolerance for disagreement. None of us knows everything and we talk to each other to check our premises and our reasoning. It is very much by the light of other minds that we can improve our ability to see and to read, and then to speak.
We also will continue to share messages from our friends in the libertarian movement, Ron Paul and the organizations associated with him, as well as people working to make American democracy work better.
Editor, Free Liberal