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What is a Liberal? My Original Post

#1 User is offline   Senexx 

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 09:02 AM

In the Australian context, the two major political parties are the Liberal Party and Australian Labor.

The Liberal party is a fusion of classical liberals, libertarians and conservatives.

Classical Liberalism is a doctrine stressing the importance of human rationality, individual property rights, natural rights, constitutional limitations of government, the protection of civil liberties, an economic policy with heavy emphasis on free markets, and individual freedom from restraint.

Libertarianism believes that every person is the absolute owner of his or her own life and should be free to do whatever he wishes with his person or property, as long as he respects the liberty of others. There are two types of libertarians. One type holds as a fundamental maxim that all human interaction should be voluntary and consensual. They maintain that the initiation of force against another person or his property - with "force" meaning the use of physical force, the threat of it, or the commission of fraud against someone - who has not initiated physical force, threat, or fraud, is a violation of that principle. Libertarians generally do not oppose force used in response to initiatory aggressions such as violence, fraud or trespassing. Libertarians favor an ethic of self-responsibility and strongly oppose the welfare state, because they believe forcing someone to provide aid to others is ethically wrong, ultimately counter-productive, or both. Libertarians also strongly oppose conscription because they believe no one should be forced to fight a war they oppose.

Conservatism is a political philosophy that favours traditional values. The term derives from the Latin, conservare, to conserve; "to keep, guard, observe" . Since different cultures have different established values, conservatives in different cultures have different goals. Some conservatives seek to preserve the status quo, while others seek to return to the values of an earlier time, the status quo ante.

In Australia, Conservatives are mostly of the status quo ante variety believing that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. The rule of law above a monoculture of absolutes.

Conservatives want to conserve particular forms of human identity and relationships. These include:

- the relationship between members of an ethnic group based on a shared ancestry, culture, religion, history and language

- our masculine identity as men or feminine identity as women

- our role as fathers and mothers or husbands and wives within a family and our place within a family tradition

- marital love and paternal & maternal love

- our sense of connectedness to nature and our attachment to a particular locality

- a positive sense of our moral nature and of the existence of an objective moral order

Conservatives believe that historically, individuals did not create these things for themselves. Instead these forms of relationships grew in a distinctive way within a particular tradition. Some of these oppose the very idea of classical liberalism.

Collectively this fusion of philosophies like to govern in the manner of economic rationalism or neoliberalism as it is called in other parts of the world.

Neoliberalism refers to a political-economic philosophy that de-emphasizes or rejects government intervention in the domestic economy. It focuses on free-market methods, fewer restrictions on business operations, and property rights.

There are other similar definitions:
  • * Government policy combining domestic free markets with coercive opening of foreign markets by political means
  • * A philosophy that takes the conditions of the market to be the moral perfection of mankind and unconnected to efficacy of producing goods.
  • * The rule of the market entirely by microeconomic units and rejection of macroeconomic concepts and hierarchies such as the good of the state and society.

With the wane of trade union influence on Australian politics we can focus more on today's underlying philosophy of the Australian Labor Party than the communist and socialist affiliations of the traditional union.

Today's Labor consists largely of social liberals and social democrats.

Social liberals value liberty, rights and freedoms, and private property as fundamental to individual happiness, and regard democracy as an instrument to maintain a society where each individual enjoys the greatest amount of liberty possible. While the State does have an important role in ensuring positive liberty, social liberals tend to trust that individuals are usually capable in deciding their own affairs, and generally do not need deliberate steering towards happiness.

Social democracy, on the other hand, has its roots in socialism, and (especially in democratic socialist forms) typically favours a more community-based view. While social democrats also value individual liberty, they do not believe that real liberty can be achieved for the majority without transforming the nature of the State itself. Social democrats retain a strong scepticism for capitalism, which needs to be regulated (or at least "managed" ) for the greater good. This focus on the greater good may, potentially, make social democrats more ready to step in and steer society in a direction that is deemed to be more equitable.

I believe sensible libertarians or their offshoot known as minarchists would also find a home in Australian Labor along with the social liberals. Minarchists have a consequentialist or utilitarian viewpoint. Instead of having moral prohibitions against initiation of force, Minarchists support a limited government that engages in the minimum amount of initiatory force (such as levying taxes to provide some public goods such as defense, law, and roads, as well as some minimal regulation), because they believe it to be necessary to ensure maximum individual freedom.

Today's Labor also governs in the manner of economic rationalism but are not entirely against socialist or arguably social democratic principles of nationalising infrastructure and they are not opposed to intervention in the economy in a Keynesian manner.

So we have liberally applied intervention in Labor and liberally applied individual autonomy in the Liberals.

So I ask, what is a Liberal?


Definitions taken from the Oxford English Dictionary, Wikipedia and DiscoverTheNetworks.
More Definition can be found here
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#2 User is offline   dumbcluck 

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 04:22 PM

I view the abovementioned as being the true description of the traditional "anti-labor" force/s. However the operative word here is "traditional" and tradition in the political descriptive sense is no longer feasable. I am of the opinion however that this is not just an Australian phenomenon in politics but worldwide. Why you may ask? Well the social and political lives in every country have become harder to either live and/or manage. people expect to live beyond their expectations. They require much more than their ancestors. For example....the "older' Australian...you know that typical 40's, 50's even 60's used to be "teen" who are now seniors beyond 60ish, they were content with marriage just to have a cottage, a backyard, a radio and three meals a day and just as many kids if not more. Today many couples expect to have much more and there is much more to expect.They want their children to have much more as well. Statistics bear this out. In the eras mentioned above parents were ecstatic when their children became apprentices in a trade. Today this is not good enough. There are higher expectations. Consequently Australia has a sever shortage of tradesmen as tertiary education is the flavour of the era.Thus you have higher expectations in careers and finance
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#3 User is offline   Senexx 

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 05:17 PM

I agree Betenoire, that today's parents have higher expectations.

I disagree that Australia has a severe shortage of tradesmen because tertiary educations is the flavour of the era.

There is generally a shortage of qualified tradesmen in some areas because the older tradesmen are scared to take on an apprentice because they're fearful with all the time and effort they invest in the apprentice or trainee that the apprentice will be poached by another business now the apprentice has the skills.

This in itself is silly as the unemployed are likely to show loyalty to those that show faith in them and help build their skills.

I do agree that through the 80s and more that traditional Labor has moved further to the economic right and roughly occupies a position where the Coalition of the 70s and 80s sat.

Ultimately the point of the OP is that the Liberal party has precious few liberals left in it and for all intents and purposes it is a Conservative party.
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#4 User is offline   Vogon Poet 

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 12:34 AM

Just adding my two cents here. I disagree that the Liberal party is a mostly conservative party in fact I think traditional conservatism is pretty dead. Conservatives believe in an organically evolving society. They believe in traditions like the family unit. I also don't think that they should believe in the market as the driving force of society because it is such a destructive force in regards to traditions and cultures. Did workchoices value the family or the market more? Clearly the market. To me Edmund burke was a conservative. Margret Thatcher was not.

Conservatives also believe trade unions have a role in society as long as they are not too powerful. They respect them as institutions. This and the above post does not sound like the modern Liberal party to me. The modern party combines neoliberal economics which is not conservative due to it's belief in the free market as the driving force of society with conservative attitudes in regards to immigration etc
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#5 User is offline   scotto 

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 06:29 AM

View PostVogon Poet, on 16 January 2011 - 12:34 AM, said:

Just adding my two cents here. I disagree that the Liberal party is a mostly conservative party in fact I think traditional conservatism is pretty dead. Conservatives believe in an organically evolving society. They believe in traditions like the family unit. I also don't think that they should believe in the market as the driving force of society because it is such a destructive force in regards to traditions and cultures. Did workchoices value the family or the market more? Clearly the market. To me Edmund burke was a conservative. Margret Thatcher was not.

Conservatives also believe trade unions have a role in society as long as they are not too powerful. They respect them as institutions. This and the above post does not sound like the modern Liberal party to me. The modern party combines neoliberal economics which is not conservative due to it's belief in the free market as the driving force of society with conservative attitudes in regards to immigration etc


IT seems to me that the level of faith in market forces has reached that of obsession in the major political parties. The mantra of 'a level playing field' has been used to justify removal of limits on commercial forces, which seems odd to me as there is not any such thing as a level playing field, and in fact commercial entities will always look for a situation that gives them advantage rather than any 'fair' or 'open' trading situation.
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#6 User is offline   Marat 

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 08:58 AM

Liberalism is the political face of capitalism. It believes in freedom,liberty(but not equality or fraternity) and (in theory) the career open to talent. When under pressure liberals invariably move to the Right.
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#7 User is offline   johnsmith 

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 01:05 PM

A Liberal in Australia is an endangered species. Most of the members of the Liberal Party are only Liberals in name, Conservatives at heart.
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#8 User is offline   Vogon Poet 

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 01:49 PM

View Postscotto, on 16 January 2011 - 06:29 AM, said:

IT seems to me that the level of faith in market forces has reached that of obsession in the major political parties. The mantra of 'a level playing field' has been used to justify removal of limits on commercial forces, which seems odd to me as there is not any such thing as a level playing field, and in fact commercial entities will always look for a situation that gives them advantage rather than any 'fair' or 'open' trading situation.

Yeah. I'm just trying to make the point that traditional conservatism is really dead. The market cannot be the main driving force of a conservative society/political party. It is not conservative it is neo-liberal. The Thatcherite parties are not conservative. They are about radical free-market fundamentalism - which is *not* conservative it is radical. They attempt to bring about *radical* change - which is by definition not organic. Conservatives believe in an organically evolving society. They don't believe in radical change.

Thus the modern Liberal party is not conservative.

I think when people of the right today call themselves conservative they are largely misinformed. They think they are conservative but in reality they are not. This label is largely a misnomer.

The above is obvious in Workchoices and the modern rights attitude towards trade unions - they do not respect them as institutions, they want to eliminate them. A conservative would respect them as institutions so long as they were not too powerful. Workchoices valued the free market above all else - including families.
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#9 User is offline   johnsmith 

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 01:52 PM

Then what position is the modern Liberal party? In your view that is.
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#10 User is offline   Vogon Poet 

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 03:02 PM

View Postjohnsmith, on 16 January 2011 - 01:52 PM, said:

Then what position is the modern Liberal party? In your view that is.

I don't know. Maybe it is neolieberal economically. It has some conservatism particularly in regards to social issues.
Maybe it is really classical liberal?
Maybe it is neoconservative?

This is just my opinion maybe i've got it wrong wouldn't be the first time!

I haven't read it but for anyone interested Waleed Aly wrote a Quarterly Essay on this topic titled "What's Right".
Here is an interesting interview (in 2 parts) with him about this for anyone interested.
http://www.themonthl...aun-carney-2393
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#11 User is offline   johnsmith 

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 05:29 PM

I'd buy that they're neoconservative.
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#12 User is offline   Vogon Poet 

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 06:38 PM

Hopefully this link will work not sure why the one I posted before isn't working.
http://www.themonthl...aun-carney-2393

It's a two-part video about conservatism.
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#13 User is offline   Vogon Poet 

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Posted 21 January 2011 - 11:51 AM

Also, according to the original post who in the modern ALP represents what?

And looking at it historically which governments represent what?
How about:

Hawke/Keating - Social liberal

Chifley - Social democratic (maybe democratic socialist? Are these interchangeable terms?)

Whitlam - Somewhere in between? Or a combination of both?
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#14 User is offline   Senexx 

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 06:25 AM

That is beyond the scope of the post. It is a look at the collective of the two major parties today.

FWIW, no social democrat and democratic socialist are not synonymous.
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#15 User is offline   Vogon Poet 

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 07:14 PM

Yeah thanks mate just interested.
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#16 User is offline   Young gun political junkie 

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 04:47 PM

I have a question - why do the Liberals still continue to call themselves Liberals? Most of the party are certainly NOT Liberals, at least not socially. They're a conservative party. Some people might want to make change - like Malcolm Turnbull - but others don't. That isn't what I'd call Liberal - that's conservative. The English Tories are more modern socially than our "Liberals".
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#17 User is offline   Senexx 

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 05:01 PM

YGPJ, I don't know about the Tories but that's exactly the point of the OP

Turnbull, Hockey and a possibility (unlikely imo) that Robb are the Liberal MPs in the party and that's it. The rest are Conservative. We all know why Georgiou left.

That said many of the Liberals are members of the Liberal Party because they're blinded by the parties core and constitutional beliefs that they do not adhere to.

It is my considered opinion that the true Liberals have either joined the Labor Party (the party that has done the most classical liberal things and within reason) or the LDP (another classical liberal party that is more libertarian). The rest are just blind and partisan and are following their political football team.
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#18 User is offline   Young gun political junkie 

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Posted 26 January 2011 - 07:38 AM

View PostSenexx, on 25 January 2011 - 05:01 PM, said:

YGPJ, I don't know about the Tories but that's exactly the point of the OP

Turnbull, Hockey and a possibility (unlikely imo) that Robb are the Liberal MPs in the party and that's it. The rest are Conservative. We all know why Georgiou left.

That said many of the Liberals are members of the Liberal Party because they're blinded by the parties core and constitutional beliefs that they do not adhere to.

It is my considered opinion that the true Liberals have either joined the Labor Party (the party that has done the most classical liberal things and within reason) or the LDP (another classical liberal party that is more libertarian). The rest are just blind and partisan and are following their political football team.


Don't think Robb is. Got a feeling that Pyne and Brandis are though.

Yeah, good point. I propose renaming the Liberal party - the Tory party.
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