Correcting my understanding of Liberalism

This is a very silly meme that has become common relatively recently, for reasons that are ideological but still unfathomable.

It’s true that 200 years ago, the preferred word was republic instead of democracy. It is also true that the meaning of most of the words in the English language has changed, reversed, or accrued over those 200 years. Perfect, in “A more perfect union,” had an entirely different meaning back then, one that barely exists in modern language. (It meant “complete.”)

Democracy is now defined as what the United States is.

That’s the common usage, and the correct usage in any level of writing, no matter how lofty. Saying the U.S. isn’t a democracy goes against every understanding of how the English language works. Using it not only exposes you as an ideologue, but as an ignorant ideologue. I’d advise against it.

Liberalism does not think a world of perfect justice is possible, only that we should be ever striving in that direction. Would your father disagree with that?! I mean, it sounds awfully Christian, don’t it?!

And a Christian (while polemicizing as such) has no business complaining about the impossibility of “proof of perfect truth.” Liberals know enough of the truth, and somewhat more than conservatives do generally speaking, and that is sufficient to act on.

A phrase which, IME, is never used in argument, but only in whining.

The US is a constitutional republic. The US is a representative democracy.

These statements are not contradictory.


if protecting the rights of minorities against a majority is “whining” then maybe so, since that is the difference between a republic and a democracy, which you will note here:
“The chief characteristic and distinguishing feature of a Democracy is: Rule by Omnipotent Majority. In a Democracy, The Individual, and any group of Individuals composing any Minority, have no protection against the unlimited power of The Majority. It is a case of Majority-over-Man.”
“A Republic, on the other hand, has a very different purpose and an entirely different form, or system, of government. Its purpose is to control The Majority strictly, as well as all others among the people, primarily to protect The Individual’s God-given, unalienable rights and therefore for the protection of the rights of The Minority, of all minorities, and the liberties of people in general.”

For the rest of you, is this fringe nutjob site, and the poltical ideals are found on this nutjob page. I feel violated just reading it. Ideological is one word for it. But I’ll stick with nutjob.

Given how warlike both sides are that’d be a really challenging case to make imo. While both share similar goals I’d say in more recent times (post Vietnam) generally Pubs are more for displays of raw strength while Dems are for ‘smart’ war and imperial policies.

As for the OP, I wouldn’t suggest trying to form an independent/democratic movement or resist us in any way. That’s a good way to get bombed by a flying robot or kidnapped and sent to one of our client state torture sites.

And does your father write a lot of fortune cookies in his spare time?

It certainly would be more challenging to blame liberalism for imperialism, as it seems the OP is trying to do.

And ‘liberal’ is not a synonym for ‘Democrat’: even though America’s involvement in Viet Nam was initiated by Democratic presidents, their stated goal was to fight world communism. Kennedy and Johnson were definitely liberal on many issues, but on that issue, they were in agreement with conservatives.

I suppose the War Department were “nutjobs,” too?

The following comes from Training Manual No. 2000-25 published by the U.S. War Department, November 30, 1928.


A government of the masses.
Authority derived through mass meeting or any other form of “direct” expression.
Results in mobocracy.
Attitude toward property is communistic–negating property rights.
Attitude toward law is that the will of the majority shall regulate, whether is be based upon deliberation or governed by passion, prejudice, and impulse, without restraint or regard to consequences.
Results in demogogism, license, agitation, discontent, anarchy.


Authority is derived through the election by the people of public officials best fitted to represent them.
Attitude toward law is the administration of justice in accord with fixed principles and established evidence, with a strict regard to consequences.
A greater number of citizens and extent of territory may be brought within its compass.
Avoids the dangerous extreme of either tyranny or mobocracy.
Results in statesmanship, liberty, reason, justice, contentment, and progress.
Is the “standard form” of government throughout the world.

2011-1928=83. Obviously, it is impossible for meanings to change in a mere 83 years. Nothing else about the country or English has.

If you put that training manual into Google you get this list of hits. Obviously, they have nothing ideological in common at all. Nothing. They’re all completely sane and politically balanced. Why, I would use them as backup for my positions at any time. How could they help but impress others?

It’s hard to pick out a favorite, but United American Freedom Foundation is a candidate.

I wouldn’t call them nutjobs, but they do seem rather uninformed, both on what democracy means and the relative stupidity of elitism. The idea that somehow elected officials are inherently better behaved than the populace is ridiculous, and the idea that people will not just vote for a representative that espouses their ideals, again based on “passion, etc”–they are both ridiculous.

As I pointed out in another thread, it’s actually worse when you have to vote for the person who will vote for an idea you don’t like so they’ll vote your way on something you like. The number of people who agree with Democratic values but vote against them due to their being pro-choice is staggering. And the fact that anyone that is more style than substance has ever been elected is pretty bad too–and both sides agree that that has happened.

I never understood why “democracy” and “republic” were treated as contradictory. A stable nation could be both, or neither, or either.

IME, generally the phrase “A republic, not a democracy!” is used to object to (1) any resented federal intrusion into states’ rights/local autonomy* or (2) anything smacking of redistribution or welfare-state.

  • I even heard Jerry Pournelle, giving a panel discussion at an SF, argue that the U.S. is “no longer a republic,” because of excessive federal presence. Nonsense on which I stood up and called him out. How is France (unitary system) any less a republic than Germany (federal system)?

As far as I know, this conception of the meaning of “democracy” (either direct democracy or mobrule),and the opposition between “democracy” and “republic” is a purely american phenomenon. Someone mentioned that it is, in fact, ideological. I’d like to know which ideology has an interest in this arbitrary narrow definition of “democracy”, and why.

Besides, “constitutionnal republic” tells nothing about the regime. Iceland is a “constitutionnal republic”, but so is Syria.

I, for one, am rather surprised to hear that you and your father are not American. Your father’s views, that you tell us about in your original post, sound very much like the sort of thing that a bigoted American conservative might say about liberalism, as the word “liberalism” is used in the United States. In the USA, over the course of the 20th century, “liberalism” came to be used mainly as a sort of euphemism for what, in other countries would be understood as a (very watered down and politically centrist) form of democratic socialism.

As “liberalism” is used in other countries (except where the US usage has started to influence them), what he says does not make much sense even as a conservative’s misrepresentation of liberalism. I think your father must have been picking up ideas from American conservatives (of the more ignorant and bigoted sort), ideas that probably do not have much relevance to the political situation in your country (wherever that may be).

It is no doubt because the two primary American political parties are the Democrats and the Republicans. I first saw people being very careful to make the distinction in evangelical circles more than a decade ago, saying that democracy was a heathen value, but the republic was a christian value.

Of course what they actually wanted to say was “you should vote republican”, but then they wouldn’t be a tax-free church any more. But making claims about grand distinctions between “democracies” and “republics” and letting the faithful read between the lines was A-OK.

For more depth, try this TVTropes Useful Notes page.


IOW, ISTM, they chose the name “Republican” only because “Democratic” was already taken. Taken by Jefferson’s party, AKA the Democratic-Republicans, later simply the Democrats; and even in Jefferson’s day “Democrat” was used as an antonym to “Federalist.”

Of course, the words “democracy” and “republic” and their associated systems of government were all invented by heathens. Greeks, Romans, all heathens.

Yeah, I didn’t say it made sense, just that I’d heard it said. :slight_smile: