Of course the answer to that question comes down to the meaning of the word liberal.
There is huge problem with this definition: It is a sort of circular redefinition of the historical meaning of the word liberal. So my question remains, albeit clarified: Are liberal progressives really liberal, according to the historical meaning of liberal?
I am aware of two traditional definitions of liberal. Let’s analyze each one.
Liberal Means Generous
Outside the realm of politics, when I hear the word liberal I typically associate it with generosity, as in giving of one’s time or money. For example, after his miraculous spiritual awakening, Ebenezer Scrooge liberally used his means to help the poor and downtrodden.
Are political liberals generous?
Those members of society who are on welfare, food stamps, or some other form of government assistance would answer that question with a resounding, “yes!”
I totally disagree. A simple story will serve to illustrate my objection.
Once upon a time there was a powerful and ambitious man. He and his brethren were mighty in arms, and at the point of the sword they conquered the surrounding region. Everything for miles around fell under their control. They compelled the subjugated populace to pay them tribute, equivalent to half of their crops or other domestic output. Dozens of their closest friends and family, those who had initially enabled their rise to power, received all their sustenance from them, and consequently, they no longer had to labor with their own hands, and thus enthusiastically continued to support their benefactors. Over time, the conquered grew accustomed to their plight, and were appeased by occasional lavish festivals and feasts hosted by their conquerors.
Were the conquerors generous? Of course not. They redistributed what they had obtained by force, wealth that was not their own to start with, wealth that they had not obtained via a fair and equitable transaction.
It is only possible to be generous with something that is rightfully yours. Voting for tax increases to fund and expand entitlement programs that benefit those who elected you, or who you hope will elect you in the future, is not generosity. It is something else altogether.
What about private charitable giving?
An analysis of IRS data done by the Chronicle of Philanthropy found that the eight states ranked highest for charitable giving voted for John McCain in 2008. In fact, Obama only carried six of the top 20 most charitable states. Meanwhile, 14 of the 20 least charitable states went to Obama [ref].
Chief “liberal” Obama himself is historically stingy. Yes, once he began seeking national political office, and earning a multi-million dollar income through book sales, he did begin donating generously to charity. But if you look at his record prior to 2005, Obama made the unenlightened Scrooge look like a great philanthropist.
In 2004, Obama’s income was $207,647. He gave a meager $2,500 (1.2%) to charity. In 2003, he gave just 1.4% of $238K. And in 2002, he gave the miserly sum of $1,050 to charity, out of a very comfortable income of $259,934. That’s a mere 0.4 percent [ref].
Three years. A combined total of over $700K income, and just under $7K of charitable contributions. Less than one percent. That’s not liberality. But Obama is perfectly happy to take everyone else’s money and play Santa Claus with it. That’s not liberality either.
Liberal Means For Liberty
The word “liberal” is derived from the Latin “liberalis”, which means “of or pertaining to freedom” [ref, ref]. Therefore, a true liberal is someone who is an advocate of freedom and individual liberty.
That certainly doesn’t describe liberal progressives. What do liberal progressives agitate for? Bigger government. More laws and regulations. Economic and social slavery through taxation and entitlements. In a word: Socialism.
This big government society that liberal progressives promote is a far cry from the limited government and broad economic freedom that America was founded upon, and that enabled the United States to become the greatest force and beacon of freedom the world has ever known.
On the contrary, what liberal progressives desire is not that far removed from Communism, the extreme Socialist system that was responsible for the slavery, misery and death of millions of human beings in the supposedly-enlightened twentieth century, and that continues to exert force to subjugate and enslave in North Korea, Cuba, China and elsewhere.
Advocates for freedom and liberty? Not liberal progressives. Based on this definition, we should be calling Libertarians liberals.
Setting the Record Straight
So what general label can I apply to the political opposition? They aren’t liberal. Progressives? I don’t like that term, because what they seek is not progress.
Socialists. That’s what they are, in spite of their careful avoidance of the title.
I’ll conclude with an interesting prophecy from the Biblical prophet Isaiah. The context is the Millennium, a period of time directly following the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. I’ll leave the interpretation up to the reader.
1 Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment….
5 The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful.
6 For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against the Lord, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail. (Isaiah 32:1, 5-6)