A Manifesto for Classical Liberals…

What do you think of when you hear the word “liberal”? Hippies? Commies? Vegans? SJWs? Clintons? Well, you could not be more wrong. The word “liberal”, you see, has been misappropriated by people who believe in big government and identity politics. Somewhere between the New Deal and the New Left the word “liberal” was stolen from its rightful owners: classical liberals.

Classical liberalism upholds the values of limited government and individualism. Adam Smith. John Stuart Mill. George Orwell. Dave Rubin. All of these great men have been classical liberals: believers in the power of men and women to forge their own paths through life, free from the state and social justice warriors.

“The only freedom which deserves the name,” wrote Mill, “is that of pursuing our own good, in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it.” Amen to that, John. You put the class in classical liberalism.

The problem is that almost nobody knows what classical liberalism is. However many reports the Cato Institute releases, and however many people Dave Rubin interviews, people still associate the word “liberal” with Barack Obama. What is needed is a manifesto for classical liberals. Here, then, in brief, are the core principles of classical liberalism:

(1) Free Speech. Free speech is good, of course, but it is especially good for classical liberals. As a classical liberal, you will want to talk about free speech as much as possible. The beauty of doing so is that talking about the wonders of free speech as a means of enabling unfettered inquiry and debate, and the evils of censorship in stifling such activities, is far easier than actually using free speech to, say, uncover hidden truths or create original art. Any idiot can defend free speech and so it is a comfortable message to fall back on. Upholding the value of free speech is also a good way to flirt with controversial questions without actually committing to a judgement on their answers. Where do I stand on inherited differences, say, or comparative religion? Hrm, well, I dunno, but I support the free speech of people who have opinions! Sing it loud, liberals, and sing it proud: free speech is good.

(2) Individualism. Classical liberals defend the freedom and uniqueness of the individual. We are all individuals. Say it with me, people: we are all individuals. Classical liberals oppose tribalism. For classical liberals, individuals and not groups are what count. Sure, the history of man is the history of tribes, and human societies have always featured group loyalties and group differences, but the important thing to bear in mind is that free speech is good.

(3) The Enlightenment. The greatest triumph of human civilisation was the Enlightenment, a golden age in Western history where intellectual giants like Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, John Locke and David Hume promoted the virtues of classical liberalism while the French lopped off the heads of their aristocrats for some reason. The Enlightenment taught men to cast off the superstitious myths of religion and social hierarchy and embrace objective facts like natural rights and human progress.

(4) Equality. Leftists believe in equal outcomes, a goal that leads to the gulags of Venezuala. Classical liberals believe in equal opportunities. Everyone, whatever race, gender or sexual preference, should be considered on their merits and not their backgrounds. Kids born to unemployed single moms in Nowhere, Pennsylvania should be allowed to apply for the same jobs as kids from Richville, Maryland, and if they don’t succeed, well, they have only themselves to blame.

(5) Capitalism. Classical liberals are capitalists, and oppose government intervention in the market. Classical liberals support the self-expression of the individual, which thrives optimally in a world of corporate power and marketing. Classical liberals are not libertarians, and do not support eliminating regulations and social services. To what extent should they be allowed, and on what bases? Well, free speech is good.

(6) Cultural appropriation. Leftists oppose “cultural appropriation,” or the combining of different elements of different cultures to create something new. In doing so, they are akin to white supremacists who support monolithic cultural entities. Classical liberals support cultural appropriation. No one “owns” a culture, and we make progress when we exchange ideas and influences. Thus, classical liberals celebrate the high cultural values of “sexy squaw” Halloween costumes and fusion cooking.

(7) Horseshoe theory. As seen above, classical liberals have observed that the far left and the far right are not only bad but eerily similar. One supports a world of racial diversity, feminism, gay rights and nationalisation while the other supports ethnonationalism, patriarchy, traditional morality and the corporative state. As you can tell, there is hardly any difference between them.

(8) Democracy. Year after year, across the world, voters have endorsed statist candidates of the right and left. They have yet to hear the message of classical liberalism. If men and women who support economic redistribution and authoritarianism would only read On Liberty or Rights of Man they would become classical liberals and we could achieve the dream of a sensible, moderate President who would cut taxes, legalise marijuana, trigger SJWs and discuss the great issues of the day on The Joe Rogan Experience.

I hope this manifesto has convinced you to embrace the classical liberal inside yourself. From birth, we are assailed with collectivist propaganda: in our schools, in our churches, on our televisions, on the Internet, in our universities and in our jobs. The time has come to wake up from your statist slumbers. Listen to our podcasts, read our books, like, comment and subscribe, donate to our Patreons and be an individual.

About bsixsmith

I am a writer of stories and poems - published by Every Day Fiction, The London Journal of Fiction, 365 Tomorrows and Det Poetiske Bureau - and a columnist for Quillette, Areo and Bombs & Dollars.
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5 Responses to A Manifesto for Classical Liberals…

  1. Simon says:

    I get the impression “classical liberalism” is largely used as a self-identification by the type of right-libertarian who doesn’t want to be associated with Infowars fans and camo-wearing militiamen. Ie that’s largely a social class marker.

    On a related and more serious note, I’ve seen the more centrist right-libertarians start self-IDing as liberal as opposed to libertarian instead, without the “classical” qualifier. Though in this case it’s a case of genuine ideological disagreement: They do not consider themselves to have the same political goals as Rothbard-style ancaps or paleocon-adjacent libertarians like the Pauls or Alex Jones at all, and are fully aware that most serious leftists will keep lumping them in with those anyway. These people probably account for some of the former Tory voters who switched to the Lib Dems after Brexit, but not ALL of them.

    Of course, to a Continental European like me this entire dispute seems somewhat unfamiliar because at least here in Denmark “liberalism” still retains its 18th century meaning which is what Anglos refer to as libertarianism. For example: Denmark’s equivalent of Gary Johnson’s Libertarian Party is called “the Liberal Alliance”. They are currently in a governing coalition right now by the way, and not so surprisingly most of their original political proposals get shot down by the other right-of-centre parties. This is one of the things that personally convinced me that right-libertarian political ideology, which I used to be *much* more sympathetic towards than I am right now, is largely a dead end.


    • bsixsmith says:

      Yes, another interesting development was the Adam Smith Institute’s attempt to reclaim the word “neoliberal” to describe small state, smart state liberalism. Not sure if that will catch on with the public though!


  2. You convinced me. I’m renouncing my collectivist tendencies, and buying Atlas Shrugged.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. >Americans being Americans, universalizing their petty provincial grievances into timeless truths.

    1. Being allowed to not take a position is important, yes.
    2. Individualism is mainly about autonomy.
    3. The enlightenment was about meta-level thinking and the importance of process.
    4. Leftists don’t care that she’s an unemployed single mom from Pennsylvania, only whether she’s white or not, and female or not.
    5. Corporate power and marketing has never been this overtly woke.
    6. Blame the obsession with Halloween costumes on those obsessed with it.
    7. Only an idiot takes people at their word on what their agenda is.
    8. If only people realized we’re running 21st century societies according to an 18th century understanding of electoral systems. But admitting that would mean admitting “democracy” as we know it is a sham, and there’s far too much identity invested for that to occur.

    PS: Satire is supposed to funny.


    • bsixsmith says:

      Explaining a joke (which other people found funny enough for me not care if you didn’t) kills it but just to make sense of this riot of misunderstandings:
      (0) I’m not American.
      (1) Yes, I know. Making fun of monomania does not imply that the subject someone is monomaniacal about is unimportant.
      (2) That’s your argument, which is fine, but I’m satirising people who use different rhetoric.
      (3) That is an aspect, not the whole.
      (4) Sure. Criticising superficial liberalism doesn’t make me a leftist.
      (5) If anything this adds to my point.
      (6) I’m parodying people who instinctively defend the cultural worth of things that are criticised. That doesn’t mean I like the criticism.
      (7) You think leftists don’t want racial diversity and feminism?
      (8) What is this meant to be a response to?


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