“Why I Am a Liberal”

Recently I ordered the works of Theognis, the greek poet (order from Amazon). I sent over the following lines to Jon Caldara, as I thought he’d appreciate them after getting hammered by the hypocritical ProgressNow:

No one has ever lived or yet will live
To please all men he meets before he dies.
Even the son of Kronos, Zeus, who rules
Men and immortals, can’t please every one.

I also ordered Robert Browning’s My Last Duchess and Other Poems (order from Amazon). The final poem in the book caught my eye: “Why I Am a Liberal:”

“Why?” Because all I haply can and do,
All that I am now, all I hope to be, —
Whence comes it save from fortune setting free
Body and soul the purpose to pursue,
God traced for both? If fetters, not a few,
Of prejudice, convention, fall from me,
These shall I bid men — each in his degree
Also God-guided — bear, and gayly too?
But little do or can the best of us:
That little is achieved thro’ Liberty.
Who then dares hold, emancipated thus,
His fellow shall continue bound? not I,
Who live, love, labour freely, nor discuss
A brother’s right to freedom. That is “Why.”

The poem was written in 1885. Here’s my simplified prose interpretation of the poem: “I am a liberal because my happiness and my ability to create my own future depend upon my liberty of conscience and action. I am a liberal because I have discarded prejudice and illegitimate conventions, which I encourage others also to discard. What I have achieved, I have achieved because and to the extent that I am free. I will therefore also fight for the liberty of my fellow man.”

Those who call themselves “liberals” today bear little resemblance to the liberal of Browning’s poem. Today, “liberals” want first and foremost to impose more political controls on economic action. As we have seen this past week, at their worst, “liberal progressives” devolve to the left-wing thought-police. Though there are exceptions, all too often modern “liberals” are, in fact, anti-liberal in every essential.