Correcting my understanding of Liberalism

People have corrected my understanding of Liberalism before here. So I approach you again.

My father, a Christian, always told me that liberalism is an over-reaction to imperfection. It is the idea that no one, especially the weakest, should never be held responsible for their actions…since no one is perfect.

Do I have the wrong understanding?

Do you mean economic liberalism, or social liberalism?

  1. You’ve probably got a Great Debate here, not a General Question.

  2. “It is the idea that no one, especially the weakest, should never be held responsible for their actions” — :confused: Did you mean to type “no one…should ever be held responsible for their actions”?

  3. No, liberals’ views on the social contract are nowhere near as simplistic or extreme as your father suggests. Liberals do not advocate, e.g., getting rid of penal servitude for convicted criminals or banning the firing of employees for whatever reason, which is what they’d have to do if they really believed that no one should ever be held responsible for their actions.
    Your father’s description is comparable to, say, explaining conservatism as an over-reaction to human diversity. If someone said to you that the fundamental idea of conservatism is that there is an ideal, universal norm of family and social structure and individual lifestyle that everybody should conform to and should be punished for deviating from (for their own good, of course), would you acknowledge that as an accurate understanding of conservatism?

Of course you wouldn’t: it’s a prejudiced and ill-informed distortion, just like your father’s capsule take on liberalism.

Is your father a Christian of the type who believes that *any *sin will be forgiven if the sinner repents/loves Jesus/is absolved by confession/etc?

Does he believe that we are all sinners?

If so, I would suggest that he may be projecting a negative (to him) reflection of his own beliefs on liberals with his contention that liberals believe “no one … should never (sic) be held responsible for their actions …since no one is perfect”.

I like where you’re going. Can you explain more?

He says that liberalism thinks a world of perfect justice is possible in a world where proof of perfect truth is impossible.

That is pretty silly. I know of no one who things that a world of perfect justice is possible, at least not if that world contains humans. A world of better justice, sure.

As far as what liberalism is, “liberal” and “conservative” aren’t really ideological positions that remain fixed over time, just labels for factions that vary by time and place. My best description of “modern American social liberalism” is the precept that government, when trying to help people, does and can do some things that are worth doing, as opposed to the “modern American social conservative” precept that when trying to help people, the government usually only makes things worse, so it shouldn’t try.

Liberals would say that your father makes stupid statements because he has been deprived of the opportunity to be fully educated. Conservatives would say your father is just stupid.

Remind him that Jesus was a socialist. :stuck_out_tongue:

Way to win friends and influence people, dude! Insult his father. That’s the ticket!:rolleyes:


As to the OP, a dictionary might help. How about The American Heritage Dictionary?

There is more - liberal is actually a complicated word with several, sometimes contradictory, meanings - but what I have quoted are the senses most relevant to the current meaning in political discourse. There is nothing there about people not being held responsible for their actions. (Liberals do tend to believe that people are not always responsible for the bad, or, indeed, the good, things that happen to them, but that is, like, you know, true. Good people can get run over by a truck; bad people can win the lottery. This has nothing to do with not being responsible for your actions.)

You Americans are so lost in your eternal fight against good and evil that it is beyond the scope of your imagination to acknowledge the world outside of your paradigm of Heaven (American Liberalism) and Satan (American Conservatism.)

Is this your father speaking again, or are you showing us that you can make even less sense with more bombast than he did?

This tells me nothing about your father’s beliefs.

Does he believe, like many Chrisitians, that salvation is attained through the grace of god alone, and cannot be earned by avoiding sin or performing good works?


If you are trying to put me down, there are a lot better ways to do so. Let me help you out:

I come from a poverty stricken nation. My people are weak and have little to no political power. We are kicked around by the world.

My friend, your countries economic and political policies hurt me and my people everyday a lot more than your words ever could. So save your words for those who live in the lap of luxury.

With much love to you,

My guess would be the father in question believes that people get what they deserve. That poor people are worthless lazy shits, and having a government help them is only promoting evil.

At least I’ve seen that sort of nonsense from Christians before.

As for my liberalism, I’d say that I believe that the government’s job is to maximize the possibility for prosperity for as many citizens as is possible. Nothing is perfect, but we should strive for as close as possible.

Also, I believe that science works, so I guess that makes me a liberal by 21st century conservative standards. :smiley:

Generally, poor countries have a corrupt government and a populace that puts up with it. Maybe you should stop trying to figure out what the meanings of words are and try and a create a constitutional democracy so that someday you can kick around other people.

Moved from General Questions to Great Debates.

samclem, Moderator

Wait, I’m confused. You come from a poor unspecified country that Americans have kicked around, yes? Was that the fault of American liberals, though?

What’s the debate here? Is it about how Americans are assholes? Or is it about Liberalism?

If you want to debate how Americans are assholes, maybe you should start a second thread. Or, show some logical connection between American liberalism and American assholery.

C’mon now, sh1bu1. Isn’t the United States also a country with corrupt government which the people tolerate? BTW, we have a constitutional Republic, not a democracy.

Why it should be the goal of poor countries to grow strong enough to kick around other nations doesn’t seem the worthiest goal to me, either.

I guess I’m a little confused.

Downthread, you say that you’re from a poverty-stricken nation, and that U.S. policies have harmed your people.

But American conservatives (with a few exceptions like Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan) have invariably been more supportive of imperialism than American liberals have.

(At least in the last few decades - recently, I have heard far-right criticism of the Democratic President Woodrow Wilson for intervening in WW I, and FDR faced considerable opposition to intervene in WW II (at least until Pearl Harbor).

Perhaps the language barrier is confusing things. Could you say a little about what you and your father mean by ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’? Also, where are you from?

On preview, what Lemur866 said.

You start off by asking us to correct your understanding of liberalism, but then turn around and lecture us on what’s wrong with liberalism.

It sounds to me like you only have a very tenuous grasp of American politics. Aside from some vague generalities, you don’t really understand how the distinction between liberal and conservative plays out in practical terms.

If you’re interested learning more about American politics from real Americans, we’ll be happy to oblige. And if you want an argument over the goals and failings of American imperialism, we’re up for that too. Just decide which.