Liberalism, an ever growing group of people. Let’s examine what a liberal is. According to the dictionaries definition of liberalism, it states; “1) Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry. 2) Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.” According to other people, liberalism is merely a label that refers to a belief in the way government should run within a society. It is a perspective on the proper role of elected officials and a decision on what types of public policies should be prioritized.
In the article, “Dean’s World” the author tells us to look what the definition of liberalism does not say. It does not mention anything about the view of taxes or the views of homosexuality. It does not say anything about the right to keep and bear arms or about abortion, feminism, school prayer, or what issues to vote on. But what it does state is the notion that a person can think and believe in whatever they want to and still be a liberal. Liberals, by this understanding, could believe that abortion is murder or that taxes are too high. They could think legalizing medical marijuana is a horrible idea, or even believe that Bill Clinton was a horrible president. They can think freely and still be considered a liberal because the definition according to the dictionary does not state anything about liberals having to believe in supporting abortion or high taxes but instead being open to new ideas and tolerating the ideas and behaviors of others. What people tend to think is that if someone is a liberal they are strictly and only this, this and this which isn’t true.
Liberalism was made up of two related features from the western culture; the west’s preoccupation with individuality and the emphasis in other civilizations on status, caste, and tradition. Liberalism has been utilized since the early 16th century. In Terrence Ball’s article, “Liberalism” he stated, “Liberalism is the culmination of developments in Western society that produced a sense of the importance of human individuality, a liberation of the individual from complete subservience to the group, and a relaxation of the tight hold of custom, law, and authority.” This particular culmination of developments leads to individualism.
When we look at liberalism, it is a political ideology with the essentials of equal opportunity. Proponents of the ideology believe Americans should be able to look at the government to provide a structure and enacted laws to protect everyone for an equal society. In the 19th century, the government was interfering in trade through importation tariffs. Britain defended the tariffs because it maintained prices and agricultural production, which resulted in a political crisis and it left the poor starving. Something needed to be done, and thus the repeal of the Corn Laws was developed. This law resulted in the formation of a political party which was committed to free trade and was also known as the Liberal party.
“According to modern liberalism, the chief task of government is to remove obstacles that prevent individuals from living freely or from fully realizing their potential. Such obstacles include poverty, disease, discrimination, and ignorance.” (Ball) Supporters of liberalism tend to be very big on advocating public policies to get rid of inequality by using the government. There are also four ideas that guide liberal ideology: acceptance of conflict, resistance to power, belief in progress, and civic respect. When a liberal says that they want liberty, they mean that they want resistance to power. This means not only political power, but economic and social power as well. With liberty, they also want respect for people in their own right. The liberal belief in being adversarial is the conviction that human beings are rational creatures capable of settling political disputes through dialogue and compromising. This aimed more towards ending war and solving disagreements with other states through organizations; such as the League of Nations, the United Nations, and the International Court of Justice.
Through this economic view point; liberals believe the government should provide more services for the less fortunate and increase taxes, if necessary. Through a social view point, they believe in having the same marriage rights for homo and heterosexuals. They are also supportive of abortions, embryonic stem cell research, and restrictions and regulations around the right to bear arms. They are typically opposed with the death penalty and many push to have it removed as a resource for it is a “cruel and unusual punishment.” Though through these view point’s, this does not mean that someone has to abide by these beliefs.
There are many arguments on liberalism. One being how some feel that raising the taxes is unnecessary because, if we really think about it, some of the money is going to things such as maintaining our roads where as the other half is going to people below middle class. People think that liberals fix unemployment by taking money from the employed and redistributing it to anyone below middle class. Others would see this as beneficial. But one could say that when people think of liberals, they think of a specific set of beliefs as explained in the first few paragraphs. One could argue that there are different kinds of liberals as well.
If we come to look at it, not all liberals are “free of bigotry,” “favoring of reform,” “unorthodox,” “broad-minded,” or “anti-authoritarian.” There seems to be a debate on whether one is really a liberal if they do not believe in these set beliefs. But according to some, we can still be a liberal and not agree with how others see and believe liberals are. There has also been a more purely conceptual or philosophical critique of new liberalism which is less concerned with its consequences and instead more focused on its priori injustices.
To sum up, there can be many different perspectives of liberalism but in the end there is only one true definition. With that being said, one can be a liberal and have different beliefs on many laws or societal theories. Though, most of their beliefs are going to be pro-leftist, some people might stray away from the politically correct liberalist and still be considered a liberalist while having opposing beliefs. One could be fiscally conservative and socially liberal while still agreeing with the dictionaries definition of liberalism which does not state specific beliefs such as pro abortion or being against the death penalty. One can have their own political views and still be a liberal.
“Are You a Liberal?” N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Nov. 2015.
Badger, Phil. “What Is Liberalism.” N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Nov. 2015.