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Liberalism

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Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

Ivan Hills says that “There is no place in the Democratic Party today for true (classical) liberals” (Letters, [2] Nov. 15).  Sad, that – but largely true, given the original meaning, especially in Britain, of the term “liberal.”  Today’s “liberals” trust the monopoly state over the competitive market, and see in a vigorous, all-warmly-embracing state humankind’s best hope for achieving order and prosperity.  For them, expanding the power of government might not be sufficient to ensure harmony and widespread wealth, but it is certainly necessary.

Experience and reason recommended to liberalism’s founders the opposite view, namely, restraining the power of government might not be sufficient to ensure harmony and widespread wealth, but it is certainly necessary.

Read F.A. Hayek’s description of the politics of British liberals at their zenith in the mid-19th century and ask how much of this program today’s “liberals” endorse: “Their predominant free trade position was combined with a strong anti‑imperialist, anti-interventionist and anti‑militarist attitude and an aversion to a expansion of governmental powers; the increase of public expenditure was regarded by them as mainly due to undesirable interventions in overseas affairs.  Their opposition was directed chiefly against the expansion of the powers of central government, and most improvements were expected from autonomous efforts either of local government or of voluntary organizations.”*

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

* F.A. Hayek, “Liberalism” [3] (1973).

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