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Liberal, Classical Liberal, Libertarian

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The embrace of liberty is the marker of true liberalism. But the term “liberal” has changed over time. Today many people use it to refer to those who want the government to assume a greater role in determining the lives of individuals. A true liberal is one who believes in a free society and who believes that the government’s primary role is to protect individual liberty.

Discussion Questions

  1. What changed the meaning of “liberal” over time?
  2. What does liberalism mean to you?

Additional Resources

  • Watch as Milton Friedman discusses liberty. Available here.
View Transcript

The word liberal once had a simple straightforward meaning 

It means of and pertaining to liberty. 

But, unfortunately, the people who now, in the United States, call themselves liberals are not devoted to maintaining liberty. 

Their aim is to have government assume a greater share of responsibility and a greater role in determining the lives of individuals. 

I would like to classify myself as a real liberal, as a liberal in the original sense of the term, 

And consequently, I am often driven to call myself a libertarian by which I mean exactly the same thing. 

Somebody who believes in a free society and who believes that you can only maintain a free society if government is kept relatively low. 

But in the words of our founders, the real threat to human liberty comes from government, not from individuals. 

That’s why we have a constitution with checks and balances which sought to limit the scope of government.