By Letter to the Editor on March 11, 2018.
Historically, liberal ideology comes from the time of the liberal revolutions – French and American – that overthrew monarchies, and brought the merchant “middle” class to power. Adam Smith is credited with the definition as an economic theory in his 1776 book “The Wealth of Nations.”
Yes, 1776, 250 years ago. Family, community and church were the relevancies. If a person lost those connections, life was over. There was no education (except for the rich), no jobs or sickness support. World population then was 700 million. Some people are stuck back there, as if nothing happened since. The key principle was no government intervention in economic matters. Wealth, according to this theory, comes from “free” enterprise, “free” competition” and “free” trade (the protestant work ethic).
After 1870, liberalism was modified by people who believed it was appropriate for government to regulate economic matters to some degree. World population had jumped to two billion, but government and market had replaced family. John Maynard Keynes defined modifications in the 1930s which inspired the New Deal of the F.D. Roosevelt government.
Since 2015, world population has reached seven billion, and some political and economic players have worked to return liberalism to its roots. This “neoliberalism” promotes the free market with no state intervention, cutting expenditures for social services, deregulation, privatization, and elimination of the concept of the public good.
Liberals put a great deal of emphasis on individual freedom, seeing people as basically equal. Liberal societies are shaped by those who love power and money; it is assumed that they got through merit. Liberals are reluctant to recognize historical and structural inequalities. Majority vote ignores who votes and who does not, who can purchase influence and who cannot. The conservative minority believe that a God-given hierarchy is the only way to run a society.
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