What a Liberal Is.


By the way, all conservatives aren’t bad. Just look at Louis Brandeis.


I’d always heard the definition of a liberal being a conservative who hasn’t been mugged yet…

Or alternately, a conservative is one that when encountering difficult terrain ahead, decides to proceed cautiously and dilligently until the right path is found. A liberal thinks “no we just have to keep moving” and promptly falls off a cliff.


Here in Europe, we view an American liberal as a conservative, and an American conservative as pretty far right-wing.

After all, we have socialists making up our left-wing.

Is it true you can’t use that word in the US? :eek:

There’s one American politician who admits to being a socialist – Congressman Bernie Saunders of Vermont. However, he’s the first socialist to be elected to congress since before WWII, and I suspect that Europeans would consider him merely slightly left of center.

American liberals believed that goverment was needed to reduce inequities in society, and that the government should not stand by while people were suffering. This lead to “big government” (though the services provided by the U.S. government are fewer than any developed country), “high taxes” (though the taxes aren’t that much higher than other developed countries, and may be lower), and “moral breakdown” (though it’s hard to make the case that the U.S. is less moral than anywhere else). The conservatives managed to gain control of the debate simply because the issues are complex and conservatives are superb at taking the down side and coming up with a snappy generalization and keep repeating it for years so that people come to think it’s true (see: “Big lie”).


That’s the US way of thinking. And no one wants to be called a commie or have that label applied to them.

And yeah, you’re right. A liberal in the US would still be a conservative in the UK.

glee and RealityChuck both make good points. And they got me to thinking about something else too.

Was socialism ever really proven to be a failure? Okay, I know communism was. But some were between capitalism and leninism there is this other thing called socialism. Some people call it democratic socialism. And it apparently alot more common than some Americans may realize.

Sweden usually has a socialist government. And they have a higher standard of living than we do in the U.S.! And yes they are one of our allies–they obviously aren’t the evil kind of socialists that all Americans are taught from infancy to fear.

IMHO it is America’s two-party system which itself is admittedly dominated by big, greedy corporations that is to blame for the U.S. never having a serious socialist party. And yet, there is that other thing I spoke of–all Americans fear socialists. Corporations also control the media and poss. have some say in our education system. Have we all been brainwashed or something? Hmmm…

Let’s see how many mischaracterizations we can come up with of all political categories.

[gross generalization]
For me, in the US context, part of the conservative-liberal disctinction deals with the interpretation of the constitution.

Conservatives are the literalists, and liberals are the interpretationists.
[/gross generalization]

Does this really apply anymore? Eh…not across the board, but I think it’s a slightly more accurate representation of American politics than the European distinction between liberal and conservative.

Or maybe conservatives sometimes see a different way of doing things that works as well if not better than more liberal ideas would. And vice versa, hence both parties thriving after all these years. The way you’re phrasing things it sounds a lot like the liberals have all the good ideas and the conservatives simply take an opposing view to gain more influence. At least that’s what I’m inferring.

A conservative turns into a liberal once he’s been arrested. :wink:

“Liberal” has really been used to mean a lot of things. When you think about the etymology of the word, it’s clearly related to liberty and liberation. Therefore one might assume that a liberal is someone who strongly supports individual freedoms. But we usually use the word “libertarian” to describe that person.

And to make it all the more confusing, Republicans in the US tend to crusade against people who support government regulation of business/the environment/firearms/etc. by calling them “whiny liberals”. But in that case, the word is being used to describe someone who wants to add restrictions, not remove them.

Currently in the US, I think the generally accepted definition of a liberal is someone who wants government to regulate business, force environmental protection, and enforce gun control, but also wants government to stay the heck out of issues of religion, morality and personal privacy. In other words, they support some freedoms and reject others. Well, don’t we all. Clearly “liberal” is not a very appropriate descriptive term for this type of person.

By the way, “conservative” has a similar problem. The word itself connotes someone who wants to keep things as they are. However, many of the people who describe themselves as “conservative” actually want to make changes, just not the same changes as the “liberals”. American conservatives tend to support increased interaction between church and state, legislation enforcing “morality” and “family values”, and increased powers for law enforcement (fewer rights for the accused, etc.) We don’t have that stuff now any more than we have a lot of the things the liberals want.

I sometimes describe myself as a liberal because I tend to hold left-wing views on many issues. But after realizing how murky the “liberal” connotation is, I try to just avoid the stupid word altogether now. Sorry about all the “quotes” in this post, but I wouldn’t want it to appear as though I believe that all these buzzwords actually mean what they appear to mean.

-Andrew L

Since socialism is widely used in Europe, I guess that’s not been proved.

The UK has a National Health service (you don’t need health insurance :eek: ), a minmum wage law and a State pension scheme. We used to have a National Rail system, but the Conservatives broke it up.

That’s odd. This story claims otherwise:

I’m not an economist, but as I understand it, standard of living is not necessarily the same thing as household income and GDP. If they can get what they need without spending much, they have a decent standard of living without requiring high incomes. That, as I understand it, is the whole point of socialism. The government takes care of things for you, so you don’t have to.

-Andrew L

Conservatives/Republicans want to have little or no governemental control over the economy and business and personal lives, except of course for constitutional amendments banning desecration of the flag and banning abortion.

Liberals/Democrats want the government to “oversee/regulate” certain areas of the country while leaving others alone.

It’s a lot more complicated then that, but I’m getting a really bad headache.

What several people were trying to qoute was:

“A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged, while a liberal is a conservative who’s been arrested”.

Just to be fair to both.

Liberals have certain areas they feel need to be controlled/regulated.

Conservatives usualy have opposing areas they feel need to be controlled/regulated.

I agree with neither totally, nor do I believe that conservatives hold the monopoly on morals/ethics and that liberals hold the monopoly on tolerance, as they both claim.