Unraveling Classical Political Theory: The Roots of the Left, Part I: Classical Liberalism and Progressivism Reply

The Last Vagabond

In episode 6, Keith and Tim discuss classical liberalism and reform liberalism (often considered progressivism today), which is a philosophy that came out of the enlightenment that held the idea that citizens have inalienable rights against established systems of power, like the monarchy or the state. In fact, the American Revolution was one of the first classic liberal movements and most of the founding documents, on which the United States of America is based, such as the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution, are a direct embodiment of the core principles presented in the ideology of classical liberalism.

Unfortunately today, many people, especially on the right of the political spectrum, hear the word liberalism and immediately get negative connotations in their mind when it comes to the meaning of the word, even though the slogan of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is rooted in classical liberalism. The misunderstanding derives from how classical liberalism split off in many directions, such as those in favor of a more negative approach when it comes to freedom (libertarians) and those with a more positive approach when it comes to freedom (reform liberalism/progressives). Over time, reform liberalism came to define the left, such as with past policies like the New Deal and new movements like those who follow Bernie Sanders.

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