Saturday, January 31, 2009

On True Liberalism and True Conservatism

"I use throughout the term 'liberal' in the original, nineteenth-century sense in which it is still current in Britain. In current American usage it often means very nearly the opposite of this. It has been part of the camouflage of leftish movements in this country [Britain], helped by muddleheadedness of many who really believe in liberty, that 'liberal' has come to mean the advocacy of almost every kind of governmental control. I am still puzzled why those in the United States who truly believe in liberty should not only have allowed the left to appropriate this almost indispensable term but should even have assisted by beginning to use it themselves as a term of opprobrium. This seems to be particularly regrettable because of the consequent tendency of many true liberals to describe themselves as conservative... But true liberalism is still distinct from conservatism, and there is danger in the two being confused. Conservatism, though a necessary of society, is not a social program; in its paternalistic, nationalistic, and power adoring tendencies it is often closer to socialism than true liberalism; and with its traditionalistic, anti-intellectual, and often mystical propensities it will never, except in short periods of disillusionment, appeal to the young and all those others who believe that some changes are desirable if this world is to become a better place. A Conservative movement, by its very nature, is bound to be the defender of established privilege and to lean on the power of government for the protection of privilege. The essence of the liberal position, however, is the denial of all privilege, if privilege is understood in its proper and original meaning of the state granting and protecting rights to some which are not available on equal terms for others."

- Friedrich August Hayek, The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents, The Definitive Edition, ed. Bruce Caldwell (London: University of Chicago Press, 2007).

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