I am a liberal. Are you?

I am a liberal. Are you?

Are liberals tolerant, open-minded people involved in community and civic affairs or arrogant, godless busybodies who are ignorant of history?

It depends who you ask.

Words don't work that way, so what are liberals supposed to be?

Liberal derives from the word liberty. Few would argue otherwise.

Then what is liberty? Is liberty accepting differences among people (in ideas, customs, race, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, etc.), helping the poor and disadvantaged, and enfranchising all people with equal rights? Could it also be protecting individuals' rightful property, permitting people to trade among themselves freely, and discovering new ways people of different abilities and opinions can live together peaceably?

Some people say liberty is only the first series of ideas. And some say it's only the second.

But could it be both?

Here's a short video on the history of liberalism as an idea that emerged in response to tyranny.

Chicago has a great tradition of liberty. From hosting pivotal labor movement protests against intolerable working conditions to developing an influential school of economics (the Chicago school), our town has made valuable contributions to human civilization. Chicagoans have always had the urge to advance human liberty through persuasion, protest, and education. The people of our city have never been afraid of seeing the world differently from everyone else.

So are you a liberal?

I am.

(I toyed with the idea of calling this blog Chicago Liberal, but, sadly, that would have misrepresented my views, which are today called libertarian. I have little hope libertarians will be able to reclaim the word liberal, and realize words change in meaning over time. However, words mean things, and today's understanding of the word liberal is incomplete, and policies with that name are often quite anti-liberal.)


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  • You know, I've been increasingly coming to the same conclusion that you have come to. The terms liberal and conservative are misappropriated. How many "liberals" that you know can not carry on an open minded political debate? How many of them will just walk away, raise their voices, or talk over others? Granted, just as many "conservatives" behave the same way but in their case their label fits.

  • Gary, labels are shortcuts we use to define ourselves and others, but they don't give the full picture. Like you wrote, there are both self-described liberals and self-described conservatives who can carry on intelligent, productive debate, and others who cannot. What I would like to see is more of the former, along with a real discussion on what being liberal or conservative really means on the level of basic principles. If there is more listening, people on both sides might find they have more in common than they thought.

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