1. What is Liberalism?
According to Fawcett, “Among European anti-globalists ‘liberal’ means a blind apologist of market greed. To angry American conservatives, liberals are an amoral, bleeding-heart elite… Across the wider world, liberalism blurs in many minds with a Western way of life, whether envied or scorned, to be imitated or left aside.”
These beliefs are misguided. In fact, according to Fawcett, liberalism incorporates a wide variety of political beliefs, most importantly the following: (i) the belief in constitutional government and the rule of law; (ii) a hostility to concentrated power and authority; (iii) faith in progress; (iv) respect for people’s individual rights; and (v) tolerance. Liberals come in many varieties, prioritizing these beliefs differently and holding them to different degrees. But a common thread among liberals is the belief that there are moral limits on how those with more power may treat those with less.
It is not inconsistent to be a liberal in the true sense of the word – to adhere to the five principles set forth in the preceding paragraph – and to be a member of today’s Republican Party. Unfortunately, not only do Republicans (and Democrats now too) steer away from the term “liberal,” but increasingly both parties are drifting away from liberal values as well. In 2016, we paid a price for this drift. Yet there is common ground to be found in refocusing on these liberal values.