Today is Liberalism Day. It’s the day when we snatch the word ‘liberalism’ back from the American left, who on most economic matters at least are anything but liberal.
Genuine ‘liberalism’ developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, under the guidance of philosophers like John Locke and Adam Smith, and flourished in the nineteenth century, guided by yet other philosophers like John Stuart Mill, not to mention a clutch of enlightened politicians.
The early liberals – the Old Liberals or Classical Liberals as they are called – thought that economic activity in free competitive markets was an important part of freedom in general. The key feature of liberalism is the presumption of liberty: there may well be good reasons for curbing people’s freedom in various cases, but the onus is on those advocating the curb to justify it.
If only our politicians today would begin with such a presumption – instead of presuming that they have the solution to everything.