What Is Liberal

Can someone explain to me how it is that in Europe "liberal" means centre-right, but in the US "liberal" means far left?

Does it really? I hear many people call the Democrats 'liberal', but they are a centre-right party...

Yes, it really does.

Only to conservatives, which in the US aren't actually conservative. They are anarcho-capitalists.
To share more concern for the needs of the individual than for the group.

It has to do with the size of the Atlantic Ocean. Try asking someone from Turkey how far right "liberal" means to them :-)

Interesting question. In Britain the "Liberal" Party used to be the centre-left party until it was supplanted by the "Labour" party in the early 20th Century. The Conservative (Tory) party has always been the right-wing party.

Unnecessary stereotyping deleted.

However the current UK "New Labour" began as centre-left, moving to centre-right and at the moment they make less sense than the right wing Tory Party. Our lovely primeminister Blair is currently in partnership with the US republican party, whose policies seem to follow the same lines as the far right racist National Front and BNP. Hands up who loves politics eh?!?!

In Australia, "Liberal" means Conservative (as in Tory). Prime Minister John Howard is a Liberal, leading a Coalition government.

Could it possibly be related to the term Classical Liberalism? [http://www.belmont.edu/lockesmith/essay.html]

Not really. It would be fairer to say liberal in Australia means left, yet we have a Liberal party who aren't very liberal. -- Matthew Tuck

In Canada it is the same, both federally, and provicially in some cases (e.g. the new B.C. government).

Liberals are only liberal until their ideas become status quo, when they become conservatives. The Republicans used to be liberal too.

I assume you are talking about the US here, since I don't know of any other countries with a RepublicanParty. In the US, I would have said that not only were the Republicans once liberal (the only third party to win an election, after which the Whig party ceased to exist, returning the US to a two party system), but in today's political climate the Republicans are liberal again while the conservative DemocraticParty tries to advance their status quo. --JoshuaBoyd?

This is not quite a fair analysis. You have to be different to challenge an incumbent, otherwise people will simply vote for the evil they know and love. Should you successfully overthrow the incumbent, to keep your "different" campaign promises, you necessarily have to try to change the previously existing system. It is possible to use the word "liberal" to mean "pro-change", but that's not particularly useful for discussion of political ideologies. In the US with regards to the terms as a reflection of political ideology, the "conservatives" are typically pro-religion, pro-military, anti-taxes, anti-government, while the "liberals" are typically pro-environment, pro-social safety net, pro-abortion choice rights. Some radio commentators lately have tried to get cute by equivocating on these two definitions of "liberal", with what I would consider to be only marginal success. --AndyPierce

(ps. the website is meant in jest however liberals in the US today are like the socialist party. A true Liberal would be more like the democrats before Lincoln took ofice. A good book on this is "Unequal Protection" by Thom Hartman. I am not a conservative as defined by what they are today either. I think both parties are two sides of the same coin called tyranny. -- Sean Glazier

Alternately, if you enjoy tendentious stereotyping of "liberals", you might enjoy reading the hostile description of them that masquerades as a test at that URL. Indeed, you might.

Getting back to the original question: One possibility is that the same ideas that look "centre-right" in Europe look "far-left" in the USA. Another is that "liberal" doesn't mean "far-left" in the USA as a whole, only to some people there (like Sean Glazier, perhaps).

In regards to the title of LiberalPinkoCommieSmalltalker, I submit that "liberal" and "commie" are incompatible with each other. "Liberal" in the USA is coming to mean neoliberal, someone who is for the liberty of corporations at the expense of the individual. Commies are the other way around, especially anarchist (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AnarchistBeginnings) commies. -- JackWaugh

Liberal and conservative in the US both seem to be for the liberty of corporations at the expense of the individual, but the conservatives are proud of this and the liberals do this quietly. Communists (in terms of communist governments we have seen) are for the liberty of corporations at the expense of the individual, but then they get the government to eat the corporations. Here in the US, we're going in the same direction but backwards; we give all the power to the corporations, then let the corporations eat the government. --RobMandeville

Oh please. This country is very business hostile.

Oh please. Corporations have far to many rights and powers here.

Don't confuse Corporations with Business.

Roughly speaking...

Liberals focus on the people. Conservatives focus on business which includes corporations and individuals in the economic sphere. Government is how each side implements their goals and they both love government power, regardless of any protestations.

Liberals believe individuals should have a larger yet restricted set of personal freedoms and business should have a smaller more regulated set of freedoms. You can be gay, can use marijuana but nothing else, can sue business, etc. You will pay more taxes. Business has to shape up and treat people right.

Modern conservatives believe individuals should have almost complete freedom in the economic sphere, but very little in the personal sphere. You cannot be gay, cannot use drugs, cannot sue HMOs and business in general, cannot believe in evolution, etc. Business can do pretty much anything they want.

Both sides will use the full power of government in these persuits. Conservatives will say they don't like the governement, but will use it any chance they can to protect business and reduce individule freedoms. Liberals like government and will use it on anything.

Libertarians love governement to protect the things they care about, but have no time for the things you care about.

As an independent i generally feel sick a lot.

Libertarians love governement to protect the things they care about, but have no time for the things you care about.

Not really true. Libertarians love government to protect me and my stuff from you and your stuff, but have no time for protecting me from me or you from you.

Not everything is about stuff.

True, but according to Libertarians the intersection of gov't and people is property (where people are their own property) and the right to take action with my property so long as those actions harm no one else's property.

Well, that's what "care about" means. Since this is what libertarians care about they don't care about what other people with differing opinions care about.

Not to imply that Liberatarians don't care. They simply see gov't as the wrong outlet for their caring in most cases

Don't care as in are not interested, not emotionally speaking. In practice, however, it doesn't really matter to the other people why one does not care.
Liberal, in Europe, means economic liberal. This is about freeing the market and allowing unfettered capitalistic competition to fix all our problems. See AdamSmith and FrederikHayek? for classic examples of this. In America 'liberal' seems to mean social. This is about freeing members of society from various restraints (typically against unfair discrimination of one kind or another). Both terms are about freedom and proponents would tell you they're about freedom of the individual. The difference is what aspect of the individual they liberate.
In the UK, there is liberal and Liberal.

Liberal with a small 'l' means in favour of freedom (and so essentially anti-state and anti-corporate). All the parties like to think of themselves as liberal; 'illiberal' is an accusation often hurled at politicians (especially home secretaries, who are in charge of law and order, immigration, etc) when they are perceived as stepping on peoples' rights (eg introducing compulsor ID cards or putting more people in prison). Sadly, once a party gets into power, it usually acts much less liberally than it talked in opposition.

Liberal with a big 'L' means the LiberalDemocrat? party, currently, the ThirdParty in the UK (and formerly the Liberal party, once one of the big two, and the Liberal-Labour splinter group love-child the Social Democratic Party). The LibDems? are traditionally centre-left, but are actually to the left of NewLabour, and thus the most left-wing of the big three.

Small-l liberalism doesn't have great economic connotations; free trade is good, because freedom is good, but the focus is on people not corporations, and economic activity is not central to life. In practice, social liberalism seems to align with economic redistributionism, probably because both are essentially about the strong helping the weak.
See also: http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Pliberal.htm and http://www.politicos.co.uk/acatalog/Politicos_Online_Liberal_Politics_194.html for references to the history and meaning of the term liberal in UK politics.
Liberal used to mean something along the lines of the values expressed in the Bill of Rights. But then the group formerly known as "progressives" hijacked the word sometime shortly after WW2. There's a good account of this at the very beginning of (the "preface to the 1956 edition") F.A. Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom".

There is a funny bit about this in one of the RichmalCrompton? WilliamBrown? stories, which I will probably misquote atrociously:

    Ginger:  Wots this elec-shun thing then? I don't understand polly ticks at all.
    William: Its simple.  All the parties want to make things better, but they want to do it in different ways.
    Ginger:  How's that?
    William: Well, the Tories want to make things better by leaving them just the same.
             And the Liberals want to make things better by taking all the money off the rich people and giving it to the poor people.
             And the Socialists want to make things better by shooting all the rich people.
    Ginger:  I wanna be a communist.  Sounds like fun.
    William: Yeah, me too.

(William and his gang are all pre-pubescent lads in Edwardian middleclass london commuter belt, I think. Back then there was a significant British liberal party and socialism was the radical New Thing. As opposed to New Labour today!)


Liberal issues have to be watched carefully. NewsToWatch? tracks these issues.

Discussion on the meanings of the term Liberal has been neatly summarized on WikiPedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberalism

A liberal is anyone that a country's conservative party disagrees with.

Not just conservative, but right wing Christian conservative.
by John De Lira (soulbooth@yahoo.com)

Simply put, a liberal is someone who finds the status quo opressive and would like to see changes take place. The key word here is opressive, because conservatives also would like to see changes to the status quo. Conservatives however, don't find the status quo opressing, so they favor changes that will stregnthen the issues and interests being promoted by the status quo, or to restore things back to the way they were before changes took place.

The above sounds more like progressive than liberal.
Imagine being a constitutional monarchist socialist in the US. Who the hell do I vote for?

What hasn't been mentioned here, is that it is also supposed to refer to "Values, Morals and Ethics", but these days all peoples in all governments around the world pretend that they don't know what those are... Liberals use to mean that they had "looser" Moral standards, and Republicans had "stronger" Values. Now days its all a big joke on the people, and the only thing that matters is the most money to whatever group of business people are behind those in power, regardless of the loss/cost of "Values, Morals and Ethics".

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