Features May 1999
Procedure or dogma: the core of liberalism
The ninth in a series titled “The betrayal of liberalism”
Liberalism: has any other word been used in more senses? Is there another word whose definition is so constrained by time and context? I face the issue baffled, and my bafflement is personal as well as conceptual. I have almost always thought of myself as a liberal, yet in the marketplace of ideas I am almost always called a conservative. This seems an ill-fitting description for someone who remembers a time when members of the John Birch Society attended his public lectures and recorded them for transmission to the FBI as evidence that he was a Communist. I am, of course, familiar with present-day conservatives who became such by beginning with Communism and traveling through Trotskyism, socialism, social democracy and the whole breadth of the Democratic party. But along the way they kept changing their minds. As far as I can see, I began as a liberal and with no more adjustments than reality required have remained one.
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