Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Defining Liberalism

Stephen Tall, in a terrific post at Lib Dem voice, has made a challenge: to sum up the idea of the Liberal Democrats in a single phrase or sentence.

He points out that Conservatives can sum themselves up as supporters of "wealth creation", and Socialists as supporters of "equality".

It is of course very difficult and may be pointless to try to sum up the richness and power of liberal ideology in a single phrase, after all the Wikipedia article on the subject of Liberalism is one of the largest.

Nevertheless, in response to challenge from the former Deputy Lord Mayor of Oxford, I will give it a go:

"Liberals believe in the perfect right of the individual to control their own destiny"


Anonymous said...

"perfect right of the individual to control their own destiny"

Nice one, but it could perhaps be even shorter (as compared to "equality" and "wealth creation"), and perhaps more intelligible for all. How about "individual freedom"? "Individual autonomy" would be also good, but perhaps less intelligible for all.

Cicero said...

I thought about "Empowerment", but it has become rather cliched, more's the pity.

Newmania said...

I would say the key to the Liberal Party is its valuing of 18th century Enlightenment thought above all others . International, sceptical of tradition, the spiritual and the emotional Liberals optimistically apply ‘reason’.They think that man is rational and therefore is entire alone. They are concerned with atomised “individuals “in that sense.

Suppose the three Parties are faced with path across a field .Let us say it meanders attractively but perhaps inefficiently to its destination.

The Conservative will like it and seek to defend and maintain it placing great store upon the fact that it has provably worked .He will be affectionate about every imperfection even to the point of allowing traditional rights of access to moderate use .
The Liberal will immediately see that it would be a far better Path were it straightened and sent directly to its destination .He will work out that by this rationale access can also be improved even if the danger of erosion is factored into the reasonable solution.He will hope for reasonableness in usage

The Labourite will detest the restricted access of the many and build numerous paths so all can have the same access .

The Liberal straight path will disappear into a swamp which unbeknownst to anyone was the original reason for the meander. The Labour paths will mostly disappear into swamp but in any case such is the ugliness of the stroll with the churning of the fields that no—one bothers with it.

The Conservative will once again be encouraged to see evidence , were any needed , that change is bad.

How about that ?

Tom Papworth said...


It's not a single phrase, is it!


If Labour can say "equality", why can the liberal not just say "freedom"?

Charlotte Gore said...

Because Freedom is actually a very vague and imprecise word.

Most people would assume Lib Dems are only really interested in "Freedom From"

oranjepan said...

The right hand says the means confer the ability to decide the end.

The left hand says the means are justified by the end.

I say that the means determine the end; we are each the architect of our own downfall.

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