The subject here is the devolution of the term liberal, not its evolution.
Even out-and-out communists are called liberals. President Barack Obama is called a "liberal." The late Senator Ted Kennedy was called a "liberal." Barney Frank is a liberal. Obama's cabinet is largely staffed by liberals (unless outed, as self-confessed communist Van Jones was). Communism and socialism still carry a bad reputation, so everyone, including the Main Stream Media, and even well-intentioned pundits and commentators friendly to liberty, use the term liberal. The MSM, however, does it to dodge the reputation. Others use it from habit or ignorance, or because calling liberals socialists or communists in drag might open a can of worms they couldn't handle. This is courtesy carried to a fault. Underlying the fault is a fear of the inevitable clash between those who advocate freedom, and those who do not.
Obama's campaign slogan, "Forward," is simply a Progressive marching order. "Forward" to what? To socialism. To communism. To a command economy and a slave state, one half governed by bureaucrats, the other half by an alliance of Islam and quivering religionists of various stripes, willing to pay jizya to Islam in order to be granted their "religious freedom."
The Washington Post trumpeted "Forward" with no reservations or even curiosity about its Communist and Nazi origins. But then the Washington Post has been in the Saul Alinsky camp for over a generation.
One Alinsky benefactor was Wall Street investment banker Eugene Meyer, who served as Chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1930 to 1933. Meyer and his wife Agnes co-owned The Washington Post. They used their newspaper to promote Alinsky.
Agnes Meyer personally wrote a six-part series in 1945, praising Alinsky's work in Chicago slums. Her series, called "The Orderly Revolution," made Alinsky famous. President Truman ordered 100 reprints of it.
In 1989, The New York Times waxed poetic about Alinsky's powerful friends, and also provided some important information in the course of a review of a biography of Alinsky by Sanford D. Horwitt:
By the end of World War II Alinsky had won a measure of national renown. His ''Reveille for Radicals'' (1945) hit the best-seller list, and he secured the fervent support of important liberals like Agnes E. Meyer of The Washington Post and the retail magnate Marshall Field 3d. Though it undercuts his larger portrait, Mr. Horwitt shows that much of Alinsky's acclaim rested upon his promise that social reform and a democratic revival could take place through what Meyer called an ''orderly revolution,'' which would bypass the new power of the unions and reject the growth of an intrusive New Deal state. Thus ''Reveille for Radicals,'' which ostensibly celebrated social conflict, was panned by most of the left but acclaimed by Time, The New York Times and other mass circulation publications.
Neither Time, nor the Washington Post, nor the New York Times has changed its tune. If anything, they have grown more shrill from the standpoint of endorsing not just Alinsky but socialism. But they repress that term socialism, and deny they are of the Left. They'll admit only that they're "progressive" because, you see, they're "humanitarians." Well, so were Pol Pot, and Mao, and Stalin, and Lenin, and Hitler. So are Robert Mugabe, and Hugo Chavez, and Ahmadinejad, and all the Kings of Saudi Arabia.
But, what are uncountable millions of dead of humanitarianism, when "progress" has been made, and man has been nudged "forward" into impoverished, straight-jacketed societies?
Let's set the record straight. Liberals are fundamentally collectivists. Specifically, either socialists or communists. Their policies and programs are demonstrably socialist or communist, whether one is speaking of Social Security, Medicare, the Federal Reserve, the income tax, and innumerable regulatory and confiscatory programs and policies, practically every bit of legislation that has been entered into The Congressional Record and The Federal Register for the last one hundred years. The term liberal should be retired, put out to pasture, and substituted with the appropriate and correct terms.
Here is a sampling of definitions of the term liberal:
1. Having, expressing, or following political views or policies that favor civil liberties, democratic reforms, and the use of government power to promote social progress….3. Of, designating, or belonging to a political party that advocates liberal social or political views, esp. in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada. The American Heritage Dictionary (Houghton Mifflin Company) 1985. (This is the first definition. Root meanings connected with generosity, open-mindedness, tolerance, etc., follow it. This is a significant order.)
6a. Of, favoring, or based on the principles of liberalism. 6b. Of or constituting a political party advocating or associated with the principles of political liberalism; esp. of or constituting a political party in the United Kingdom associated with ideas of individual esp. economic freedom, greater individual participation in government, and constitutional, political, and administrative reform designed to secure those objectives. Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (G. & C. Merriam Company) 1967. (Meanings connected with generosity, tolerance, etc. precede the political meanings.)
II. 1. Any person who advocates liberty of thought, speech, or action; one who is opposed to conservatism: distinguished from radical. 2. Liberal Party, a party in English politics formed by the coalition of the Whigs and Radicals about 1830: opposed to Tory. The Practical Standard Dictionary of the English Language (Funk & Wagnalls Company) 1939. (Meanings connected with generosity, etc. precede the political ones.)
3. (Polit.) Favorable to democratic reform and individual liberty, (moderately) progressive (the Liberal Party). The Concise Oxford Dictionary, Sixth Edition, 1976. (Here, too, meanings connected with generosity, etc., precede the political definition. This is an acceptable condensation of the term from the two-volume Compact edition of the OED, 1971, whose entry is about half a foot in length in very tiny print, most of whose information is not relevant to my purpose here.)
Notice that the older the dictionary, the more liberty-linked the definition is. The American Heritage definition marks the end of the road for the term liberal, stressing the use of government power to promote social progress. Social progress is a catch-all euphemism for the collectivization of society and the assumption of more and more power by the government. It does not mean the liberation of men from other men's alleged needs or claimed "rights," but the forced or legislated chaining of all men to each other's alleged needs or alleged, government sanctioned "entitlements." It is the devious and misleading byword for incremental socialism, or Progressivism.
You will never hear Brian Williams of NBC or Bob Schieffer of CBS counter George Will or Charles Krauthammer with a statement, "But, we the Left don't think that's a good policy…." You will never hear them admit that they are of and for the Left. That would be "telling," as a con artist's "tell" is a warning that he's about to scam you.
One could say that today's liberals are the true conservatives, that is, those who wish to preserve the status quo of the welfare state and government power over individuals and their property, and any and all socialist programs and policies now in force.
And what do the designated "conservatives," or the "right wing," stand for today, that is, those who identify themselves as Republicans? Nothing, except for a watered-down version of what Progressives, socialists and communists have created over the course of a century, most often accompanied by an appeal to "tradition" and religious faith. All Progressive legislation is altruist and collectivist in nature. Conservatives have never challenged the moral foundations of Progressivism. They can't, because they subscribe to the same morality. They will never confess that Progressives have elevated the state to take the place of a deity, and that men should live for the secular deity's moral code of self-sacrifice and obedience to the state's commands. Also known as The Ten Thousand Commandments.
Social progress implies there are social problems to be solved and overcome. What are the problems? In the beginning, it was a concern – and not an actual problem – of working conditions at the start of the Industrial Revolution. Reformers wailed over the fact that factories employed children and women, neglecting the fact that children and women would otherwise have perished in poverty and disease at the outset of the Revolution, and in fact did perish in the centuries preceding the Revolution. By the millions.
The Abolitionist Movement identified slavery as a major social problem. The result was the Civil War. But the "problems" were numerous, and continue to be numerous and otherwise fictive or imaginary. In search of the City on the Hill, or Utopia, or a "just and fair" society, problems are naturally endless. The sole alternatives as the means to correct or ameliorate them have been: voluntarism or force. Progressivism chose force, because too many people thought the problems were not problems at all. Force bypasses volition or voluntary action.
Successes were many, beginning with the Interstate Commerce Act (1887), and the Sherman Antitrust Act 1890). Progressives never spoke with one mind and differed sharply over the most effective means to deal with the ills generated by the trusts; some favored an activist approach to trust-busting, others preferred a regulatory approach.
A vocal minority supported socialism with government ownership of the means of production. Other progressive reforms followed in the form of a conservation movement, railroad legislation, and food and drug laws.
More recent social "problems" led to the endless "war on poverty," and the "war on drugs." Having nearly exhausted the major "social problems," Progressives or socialists are reaching deeper into the bottomless pit of "problems" and coming up with concerns with "wars" on obesity, salt, sugar, smoking, gender inequality in the workplace, in insurance, in the military, on incandescent light bulbs, sexism, ageism, and so on. Name a norm established by men without government supervision or guidance, and Progressives are against it. They immediately wish to abolish the liberty, or subject it to controls, regulation, and licensing. All for the sake of one's "fellow men," in the name of that prettified version of mob rule, "democracy."
All this goes on, and has been going on, more obviously, since the late 19th century. But Progressivism, a.k.a. socialism, has been advanced by intellectuals and writers ever since, say, Rousseau and his contemporaries in the 18th century. It has been disparate in means and ends ever since, but during the 19th century coalesced into a behemoth of an ideology posing as a love for the poor and other alleged victims of freedom. It no longer asks men to "love their neighbors"; it commands that they fetter themselves to each other in the name of "social progress."
Progressivism inculcates in its minions an obsessive-compulsive psychology. Just as Muslim men are obsessed with sex because Islam, on the one hand, hates women, and on the other, targets them for unrestrained and permissible abuse in the way of ownership, rape, enslavement, beating, and "honor-killing," Progressivism requires that all men answer to and be accountable to the state. The state establishes criteria of what is good and what is bad when addressing men's actions and values. It is a prescription for ownership and enslavement, as well. The key to the success of Progressivism is to ensure that a habit of dependency on statism is bred in men.
As the narrator of "If I Wanted America to Fail" notes:
…I'd demonize prosperity itself, so that they will not miss what they will never have.
But first, demonize individualism, independence, and living one's own life, so that men will not miss what they once had, because submission to government controls is so much easier.
This has been, briefly, an account of the devolution of "liberalism." Progressive, liberal or socialist rhetoric is tailored for public consumption, usually innocuous and goose-feather pillow soft, so as not to alarm the public. The title of this column is frankly a parody of that successful TV Western, "Alias Smith & Jones," about a couple of outlaws promised amnesty if they "reformed." I could just as well have parodied the films, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" or "Bonnie and Clyde," for all three "entertainments" portray outlaws as basically nice people who mean well and just happen to commit crimes and who otherwise might have been your next-door neighbors, ready for a barbeque and a round of poker.
In a 1971 book called Rules for Radicals, Alinsky scolded the Sixties Left for scaring off potential converts in Middle America. True revolutionaries do not flaunt their radicalism, Alinsky taught. They cut their hair, put on suits, and infiltrate the system from within. Alinsky viewed revolution as a slow, patient process. The trick was to penetrate existing institutions such as churches, unions and political parties.
So, the radicals cut their hair, donned suits, hunkered down to win those Ph.D's, and infiltrated academia, for one thing. And here's the tip-off about the altruist nature of Progressivism and socialism, and their link to government force:
In his native Chicago, Alinsky courted power wherever he found it. His alliance with prominent Catholic clerics, such as Bishop Bernard Sheil, gave him respectability. His friendship with crime bosses such as Frank Nitti – Al Capone's second-in-command – gave Alinsky clout on the street.
Just as Karl Marx and Saul Alinsky have wielded clout in political thought and in "practical politics." They, too, "meant well" and were otherwise forgettable souls whom one might pass on a street.
It's time for liberals to "man up," drop the demure veil, or take off the smiley mask, or come out of the totalitarian closet. It's time for them to stop the charade and confess their collectivist allegiances, and for their opponents to call them what they are.
Then we'll see some sparks fly, instead of the dissembling back-and-forth rhetoric between the Republicans and Democrats.