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Liberals? Conservatives? What about socialists and 'progressives'?

Reader comment on item: Why Do You American Conservatives Keep Losing?

Submitted by Daniel Bamford (United Kingdom), Oct 18, 2018 at 12:57

An interesting article, [though I disagree with] applying skewed contemporary American political categories to Europe from the 17th century (!) onwards.

This results in [a] confusion of political terms in the conclusion:

"Conservatives are unlikely to replicate the Hungarian success in countries lacking a living memory of Soviet-like experience. The lessons of liberalism's failures must painfully be learned anew by each generation."

So, does that make the Soviet Union a failed 'liberal' regime...?!

The whole political culture of the USA is basically liberal and the 17th century liberals referred to with such scorn in this article include people like John Locke, who wrote the constitution of Pennsylvania and therefore influenced the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.

The whole political culture of Europe is basically socialist and has been since at least the First World War (but earlier in Germany).

The definition of 'liberal' here is really a definition of 'progressive'.

Yes, it is possible for liberals to be 'progressive', but liberals can also be conservative. In fact, many liberals have realised that liberal politics relies on conservative social values.

Many notable liberals have been deeply religious: e.g. British PM William Gladstone and his historian friend Lord (John) Acton and if we're going back to the 17th century then what about Oliver Cromwell and John Milton?! Or in Hungary we should mention Count Istvan Szechenyi. Even liberal atheists have realise the importance of religious tradition e.g. Friedrich Hayek and Isaiah Berlin.

However, whereas liberals may be either 'progressive' or conservative, this choice is not available to socialists, who _must_ be 'progressive', because socialism is based on the humanist delusion of human progress.

The one book that really helped me straighten out the true meaning of different political terms was Roger Scruton's 'A Dictionary of Political Thought' (1982). Just for the record, Scruton has long identified himself as a _conservative_ philosopher.


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