In an age marked by erupting hatred and high levels of polarization, many Americans are in search of an off-ramp and a return to rationality and civility in our politics. We believe that there’s a beacon of hope still flickering from the past: liberalism.
We write to you today as representatives of Project Liberal, a new organization that intends to reclaim not just the word “liberal,” but the values it embodies. We aim to return these ideas to the mainstream, making them as vital to our discourse as they were during the 18th century.
For many in the United States, the word “liberal” triggers an onslaught of mixed emotions and polarized connotations. Yet, if we trace the term back to its roots, we discover a set of ideas that has continuously championed individual rights, civil liberties, democracy, free movement, and free enterprise for centuries.
These roots still exist today, looking at the definition, “relating to or denoting a political and social philosophy that promotes individual rights, civil liberties, democracy, and free enterprise.”
The liberal tradition, born from the fervor of the Enlightenment, is a testament to our shared pursuit of freedom, autonomy, and respect for the individual. It dismisses coercion, instead embracing consent, cooperation, and shared understanding as the pillars of social order.
As described by renowned economist Diedre McCloskey, “The agenda of modern liberalism, ranged against tyranny and poverty, is achieving human flourishing in the way it has always been achieved. Let my people go. Let ordinary people have a go. Stop pushing people around.”
The impact of the liberal tradition reverberates through the fabric of modern society. The strides we have made in human rights and scientific innovation owe much to the liberal ethos. It is this same ethos that fosters open discourse, encourages a rigorous exchange of ideas, and shields our freedom of expression.
However, it seems that our society is currently experiencing a crisis of amnesia.
The term “liberal” and its fundamental democratic principles – transparency, fairness, accountability, and the safeguarding of rights – are being sidelined in favor of populist slogans and quick fixes. We argue that it’s not the term “liberal” that needs discarding, but rather its misrepresentation that needs rectifying.
In the Appendix to Liberalism, economist Ludvig von Mises wrote eloquently against abandoning the ideology’s name due to unfavorable sentiment. “Precisely because the word ‘liberal’ has a bad connotation…, liberalism must stick to it. One may not make the way to liberal thinking easier for anyone, for what is of importance is not that men declare themselves liberals, but that they become liberals and think and act as liberals.”
The word “liberal,” if reclaimed and rightly understood, can serve as a bridge among diverse groups, fostering unity in our increasingly fragmented society and building a potential movement that can stand the test of time. The fundamental principles of liberalism are antidotes to an era rife with reactionary ideas, hatred, and propaganda.
As we look forward, reclaiming “liberal” is not just a semantic exercise. It reaffirms our commitment to the values it stands for: freedom, justice, equality, and progress. There is potency and potential of embracing the term “liberal”, with it we can conceive new solutions for modern challenges. Project Liberal’s mission is not merely a reclamation of a word but a rejuvenation of a legacy that has championed humanity by defending every individual.
We, therefore, invite you to join us in our journey to restore the word “liberal” and the principles it embodies to their rightful place in our political discourse. By doing so, we believe we can spark a movement towards a brighter, freer future, invigorating our shared commitment to creating a society where every individual thrives.
We invite you to reclaim the word “liberal” and join us in this critical endeavor. It’s time to dispel the darkness of division and light up the path of unity, led by the beacon of true liberalism