This isn’t liberalism

In contemporary American politics, the term “liberal” has widely been used to describe individuals who favor progress and reform in the direction of greater social equality. In America, this term has been widely associated with those on the political left and is often linked to the politics of the Democratic Party.

If we compare the policy positions and values of today’s self-described liberals to those of the classical liberal political philosophers, there is a clear disconnect between what was considered liberalism in the past and how it is practiced today.

Liberalism, properly understood, originated from the eighteenth century Scottish Enlightenment and is associated with thinkers such as the English philosopher John Locke, the Austrian economist and Nobel laureate Friedrich von Hayek and the Harvard University philosopher Robert Nozick.

It is a political theory that emphasizes the government’s role being limited to protecting individual rights under the rule of law. Liberals apply the theory of individual rights consistently, so that protection of rights extends beyond the actions of individuals to also include the actions of government.

In practice, liberalism is the political philosophy that generally guides Western Civilization. It places an emphasis on the concepts of individual rights, tolerance, the market process, limited government and peace.  

Considering the support modern liberals express for the robust welfare-warfare state (The Affordable Care Act, free college tuition and the continuance of Bush-era foreign policy—as exemplified by President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s commitment to primacy, which is a foreign policy doctrine that argues that only a preponderance of American military power supports peace), as well as their disregard for civil liberties (support for campus speech codes, inaction in regard to drug policy and criminal justice reform), it is safe to say these people are not true liberals.

The Not-So-Liberal Democrat:

To demonstrate how far removed modern liberalism is from its philosophical roots, we can turn to Hillary Clinton—the Democratic nominee for president and the standard-bearer of what has become known as liberalism in America.

In an article outlining Clinton’s record on free speech, Matt Welch, editor at large of Reason Magazine, pointed out that Clinton often appears quick to take actions that would be in violation of individual rights—particularly in instances where speech is involved.  

She has supported measures ranging from required anti-encryption back doors for personal smart phones (a tool that allows the government to access private information more easily) to the censoring of the internet, television and video games.  

Clinton’s disregard for liberal free speech policy is further exemplified through a promise made during her campaign—one that is almost universally celebrated by her supporters.  

Clinton has maintained a commitment to overturn the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. This decision was a 5-4 majority ruling by the Supreme Court that overturned a federally enforced cable TV ban of a documentary film critical of none other than Hillary Clinton.   

Apparently modern liberals don’t value free speech when it is inconvenient for their political candidates. 

Clinton’s illiberalism was on its best display at an event at the Brookings Institution in December 2015. Responding to a question she fielded regarding how she would deal with the threat of ISIS as president, Clinton provided an outline of her commitment to individual rights and peace.

“We are going to have a lot more support from our friends in the technology world to deny online space,” she said.  “Just as we have to destroy their would-be caliphate, we have to deny them online space.”

This is what modern liberalism looks like: a system of big businesses teaming up with the government to limit speech in the name of national security.