July 20th, 2018

The roots of liberal ideology

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.

Don Ryane


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3 Responses to “The roots of liberal ideology”

  1. johnny57 says:

    “The conservative minority believe that a God-given hierarchy is the only way to run a society”…That’s a scary thought indeed Don!

  2. Yale Belanger says:

    Don, that’s an interesting overview but the rise of neoliberalism beginning in the 1980s is predominately associated with Ronald Reagan, Maggie Thatcher, and Milton Friedman, among other more internationally-recognized individuals. In Canada its greatest proponents were Ontario Premier Mike Harris (C) and our own Ralph Klein (C). Although it is largely a conservative political model Jean Chretien (L) and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty (L) (among others) at times let it influence their policies. That means it’s flexible enough to be attractive to all depending on the context. But the Liberals still support and fund the social economy (see the recent budget), actions that are driven by a belief that there are indeed historic and structural inequalities. The “neoliberalism” of which you speak was most evident in PM Stephen Harper’s policies and is threaded throughout the existing Conservative platform (free market limiting state intervention, cutting expenditures for social services, deregulation, privatization). David Harvey’s work on neoliberalism is a good starting point for those looking to really dig in on the topic. All things being equal, you really don’t have to go to this much effort to challenge the existing Liberal Party’s ongoing relevance — you just have to wait for PM Trudeau to speak at his next event.

  3. biff says:

    excellent reply, yb. trudeau jr is a sad laugh indeed. if the apple does not fall far from the tree, when jr fell he immediately rolled far away.
    as for economic systems in the “free” world, they have been designed to subvert our freedom. in fact, so long as we buy into (no pun) false economic systems – the ones where some people get to skim wealth off of the labour of others; and, where “lenders” get to make interest loan money – lending what they do not even really have – whilst producing nothing, but sucking away big chunks of our production/labour effort…. well, what we have now is a neo-feudal hybrid.
    the general masses have all gotten poorer since the 1980s and the supply side/trickle down economics scam we got shoved upon us. we also were left on the hook for the massive scam that hit the fan in 2008. regular folk got ever poorer while the untouchable gang of thieves all got even richer in the 10 years since. keep in mind, as well, other than a couple sacrificial lambs, the gang of thieves were not prosecuted, nor sent to jail, and did not have their assets seized under proceeds of crime laws as should have been fair. instead, they were given a trillion+ dollars to share around (tax payer money) as a reward for promising to look solemn and assure us suckers they will not do that again.
    in turn, we, the general populace, took full advantage of our illiterate “x” … and changed gov’ts in a number of free world nations. bravo! that showed the thieves our real collective power…only, as i said, the thieves got richer still while we got even poorer. thus, the world’s richest people increased their share of total world wealth from 42% in 2008, to 50% in 2017; the top 1% wealthiest are now richer than the poorest 50%. https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/nov/14/worlds-richest-wealth-credit-suisse
    seems to me we better once again galvanize our power and line up with our angry “x”, and maybe even light up our dumb-phones as we march through the streets (torches might hurt us or cause something bad to happen), and vote yet again for “change”… asap. the very thought of such a show of our most earnest concern will keep our masters scoffing at our ignorance.

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