[Reprinted from the Henry George News,
The word "liberal" is not in good repute nowadays among
those who profess to stand for the principles of a free society; the
term "libertarian" is preferred by them, on the grounds
that "liberalism" has come to denote encroachment of the
state upon the freedom of the individual.
"Liberal" is a good fine word, connoting breadth of
mind, generosity of outlook, respect for freedom and for the
individual. And there still exists in England a Liberal party which
remains loyal after a fashion to the great tradition of liberalism.
(Not as much can be said for the Liberal party of New York State).
In a history of England's Liberal party, R. J. Cruikshank offers
this description: "Liberalism is a political philosophy of
moderation and reason, a creed that detests violence, compulsion and
authoritarianism, but it finds its driving force in the impulse
toward social justice (sic) ... First and foremost, the Liberal
party is the party of Freedom. ... "What is Liberty?" "What
are its frontiers?" ... How to reconcile a well-organized
society with the full expression of the individual, particularly the
uncommon individual. How to achieve security without enduring
regimentation. How to set free the vital energies of the whole
people." The liberal "finds Conservatism negative, living
in the past, and lacking the positive qualities needed to arrest the
drift toward the total State. ...As for socialism, the Liberal is
less attracted by it now that he has seen it in power, than when it
was a dream or noble minds. He feels that his old suspicion that
Democratic Socialism is really a contradiction in terms has been
Put me down as a Liberal!
How, you ask, can they avoid running squarely into the Georgist
As a matter of fact, they have.
In its hey-day the Liberal party saw Cobden and Bright bring free
trade to England. John Stuart Mill was one of its spokesmen. And in
the days of Gladstone, when Henry George visited England, it is said
that his land reform ideas were in almost daily discussion in
A little later and land value taxation was a national issue. In
the memorable year 1909 there was Liberal government with as
brilliant a constellation of stars as was ever assembled -- Lord
Asquith, Campbell-Bannerman, Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, James
Bryce, John Morley, Edward Grey and a host of others. Across the
country they campaigned for a national land valuation and sang the
Alas! A series of calamities doomed the effort. The implacable
opposition of vested interests, the exigencies of politics and
coalitions, a disastrous world war, the rising tide of socialism --
all left the Liberal party and its issues on the sidelines by the
On the sidelines -- not hors de combat. The effort will
certainly come again. Where? When?
Varus, Varus, give me back my legions!