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Blupete's Weekly Commentary


July 26th, 1998.

"Despotic Liberalism."

I wrote of the concept of classic liberalism in an earlier commentary: "Liberalism had its origins in the 19th century; it stood for liberty, both individual and national, with as little government as possible. It was a reaction to the aristocratic masters of those times when social privilege and authority were thought to be inheritable rights. Historically, what liberals thought is that there should be limits on social authority and they believed that there existed a private sphere of beliefs and conduct over which the individual should exercise autonomy. As the 19th century progressed the old aristocratic system was worn down ..."

I quote Henry Hazlitt:

"Historically, the liberals fought against government tyranny; against governmental abridgement of freedom of speech and action; against governmental restrictions on agriculture, manufacture, and trade; against constant detailed governmental regulations, interference and harassment at a hundred points; against (to use the phrases of the Declaration of Independence) 'a multitude of new offices' and 'swarms of officers'; against concentration of governmental power, particularly in the person of one man; against government by whim and favoritism. Historic liberalism called, on the other hand, for the Rule of Law, and for equality before the law. The older conservatives opposed many or most of these liberal demands because they believed in existing governmental interferences and sweeping governmental powers; or because they wished to retain their own special privileges and prerogatives; or simply because they were temperamentally fearful of altering the status quo, whatever it happened to be.
Those who flatteringly call themselves 'liberals' today, and to whom confused opponents allow or even assign the name, are for nearly everything that the old liberals opposed. Most self-styled present-day 'liberals,' particularly in America, are urging the constant extension of government 'planning.' They constantly press for a greater concentration of governmental power, whether in the central government at the expense of the States and localities, or in the hands of a one-man executive at the expense of any check, limitation, or even investigation by a legislature. And they look with favor on an ever-growing bureaucracy, and on the spread of the bureaucratic discretion at the expense of a Rule of Law. Those who oppose this trend toward a new despotism, on the other hand, and plead for the preservation of the ancient freedoms of the individual, are today's conservatives. The intelligent conservative, in brief, is today the defender of liberty."

Today's liberal is not much interested in freeing people from the coercions of others, instead,: they engage in acts of regimentation: they are occupied (often in good paying state jobs) in the serious business of spending other people's money on the sole authority of their own deductions and avouchments.

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Peter Landry

July, 1998 (2011)