In the very first issue of the The Free Radical David Kelly explained,
“Liberal has the same etymological root as liberty, and the original, or classical liberals, from John Locke to Thomas Jefferson, stood for liberty across the board. They fought for freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of values, against the icy grip of orthodoxy in politics and religion; and they defended economic freedom – the right to own property, to enter any line of work, to trade freely with willing buyers and sellers.” (David Kelley, 'May We Have The Word Liberal Back?' TFR, Issue No 1.)Liberalism’s original concept of the proper relationship between citizen and government was formulated by John Stuart Mill thus:
The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community against his will, is to prevent harm to others.Unfortunately, Mill himself retreated from this position in the name of equality and of something he called “cultivation” (“The uncultivated cannot be competent judges of cultivation”) which, along with the imprecision of the term “harm to others” helped pave the way for the hijacking of the word by its modern bastardisers – utterly illiberal imposters who are opposed to freedom of thought, speech and values (they are advocates instead of censorship, Political Correctness, compulsory sensitivity training, etc) and to freedom in the marketplace (which they insist must be shackled in support of their psychological and physical prop, the welfare state). The modern position my be conveniently summarised by Algernon Sidney, a contemporary of John Locke's. "Freedom is glorious," he said, "but requires moral supervision."
By such imprecisions is fredom destroyed.
While today's liberals ooze illiberality, the real inheritors of the classical liberal mantle are today's libertarians who, following Ayn Rand, replace the imprecision of Mill's notion of "harm" with the far more precise formulation of the non-initiation of force principle.
In New Zealand however, the bogus liberals still rule. They overrun the parliament and commentariat. They infest our universities. They are the most compelling single advertisement for their own mortal dread – the privatisation of education. From their taxpayer-funded ivory towers they have fought, and continue to fight, every measure of economic liberalisation tooth and nail.
For decades they were either indifferent to or explicitly supportive of the appalling violations of rights in communist countries. They are at heart totalitarians. They have twisted freedom of action to mean freedom to destroy freedom of action. They once stood on a rugby field in Hamilton and prevented the Springboks from playing, but were nowhere to be seen when, at the conclusion of the Springbok tour, the All Blacks set off for Ceaucescu’s Roumania. Opposing the Springboks then they opposed race-based laws; now those same former protestors rush race-based laws through parliament, and see no irony in dong so.
These modern-day state-worshippers have replaced Voltaire’s famous dictum with a newer more 'liberal' version: “I disagree with what you say, and will use any organ of the state (Human Rights Commission, Race Relations Office) to stop you saying it.”
The proper response of genuine freedom-lovers to these unspeakably contemptible usurpers of a noble word is to invoke the true liberal injunction, as above: "Laissez-nous faire" -- or in its best English translation: "Piss off!"
This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by New Zealand libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. The series so far can be seen down on the right-hand sidebar.