On Calling a Spade a Shovel

An interesting posting to the OWL discussion group by Erik Herbertson, of Sweden:
I have a suggestion for especially those of you who are Americans. When you write about “liberals” of the American variety, i.e. welfare statists, it would be good if you used quotation marks to underscore that it’s a false liberalism. Ayn Rand used to do that. It’s also a point to state, if there’s room for it, the reasons.
In most countries in the world, except apparently in the U.S., the terms “liberal” and “liberalism” can be used in the sense we approve of, namely a position in favour of free markets, individual freedom and limited government.
Sure, “liberalism” can even in Europe (and my country Sweden) be used in the welfare statist meaning, but there’s no problem for me to attach my pro-capitalist, pro-individualist views to the word “liberalism”. The welfare statist variety of liberalism is often called “socialliberalism” in Scandinavia, or “sozialliberalismus” in German-speaking countries.
Free market liberalism sometimes is called neo-liberalism, classical liberalism, old liberalism (confusing for beginners :-)), laissez-faire-liberalism or Manchester liberalism, but also just liberalism or “pure liberalism”.
The Liberal parties throughout the world are not always the same as true liberalism. But in most countries, those parties who call themselves liberal are the most free-market-oriented.
The Liberal Party of Canada and the Liberal Democrats of UK belongs to the left wing of the Liberal International. But in especially the European continent and Eastern Europe, Liberal parties are the parties of low taxes, free markets and personal freedom, even though they are not libertarian (Partito Liberale in Italy is libertarian).
The Estonian Reform Party and Polish Freedom Union have libertarian leanings, and the Costa Rican Movimiento Libertario (libertarian) is a member of the Liberal International.
One can question if it’s wise for free-market-oriented liberals to cooperate with “social liberals” in an International, but I wanted to make a point about the orientation many Liberal parties have, an orientation you wouldn’t even expect from a U.S. Republican.
Even in Canada, there’s the provincial party “B.C. Liberals” (British Columbia), which is separate from the Liberal Party of Canada, and have a policy in favour of free enterprise and lower taxes. Consistent advocates of laissez-faire could question some of its implementations, but it seems that there’s a change in Canada over the meaning of “liberalism”.
In other English-speaking countries like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, “liberalism” is often meant to be pro-capitalism and pro-individualism.
In France, “liberal” is almost always used in the correct way, and therefore the French left use it as a derogatory term :-). Good that the French at least are right about this terminology.
Erik Herbertson, true liberal