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The word liberal has changed in meaning over time from its original connotation, in the same way that terms like progressive and gay have been appropriated by left-wing political organizations for purposes of propaganda. The term "liberal" in its original usage simply meant "generous" as seen from 1600's documents like the King James Version (see e.g. Proverbs 11:25; Isaiah 32:5; 2 Corinthians 9:13).

Liberalism even today means one thing in political science, and another thing in U.S. politics. As used in political science, it refers to democratic populism, and the belief that governments should represent the will of the people--a concept expounded upon in the Declaration of Independence. As seen from other writing by Jefferson and Madison (the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments), this derives from a belief that the Creator gives mankind inalienable rights, and that therefore, since all humans have inherent worth, government is best which represents the will of the people.

Liberalism in its original usage also includes the idea of capitalist economics, an economic position at odds with Socialism and Communism. Although this does not mean a complete lack of trade barriers--the U.S. has always had tariffs, for example--it carries the idea of private sector innovation as opposed to an all-consuming government monopoly of the type advocated for by Marxism and Socialism.

Historical Quotes

"My father's Liberalism was derived not from Manchester, but from Nazareth. He was one of the last survivors of those Victorians who were Christian Liberals as opposed to secular Liberals. The Liberalism of the convinced Christian must always be qualified by the conclusions which he draws from the great premise that man is made in the image of God, and therefore has rights which no dictator and no democratic majority can over-ride. Secular Liberalism, on the other hand, with its deification of the ' General Will,' inevitably leads to the servile state. If man is nothing more than first cousin to the chimpanzee there is no reason why a dictator or a dictatorial majority should not put him behind bars. It is only man's super-natural estate which alone guarantees his personal dignity and his inalienable rights."
-Arnold Lunn, 1940, BlackFriars[1]


  1. Lunn, A. (1940). "Portrait of a Liberal." Blackfriars, 21(239): 93-105.