June 16th Is Liberalism Day

In the old days a “liberal” was someone who believed in freedom, including free markets and minimal government. Milton Friedman defended “liberal” in its original sense in his article “Liberalism, Old Style.”
At some point the left hijacked the word, at least in the United States. (I understand that in much of the rest of the world “liberal” still retains more of its original meaning.)
Maybe there’s some defensible justification for hijacking a word, but most of the time it seems like a dishonest and cowardly way to win an argument by muddying up the debate.
Dan Klein and Kevin Frei are trying to reclaim the word “liberal” from the pirates of the left. As part of their effort, they have proclaimed June 16th to be “Liberalism Day.”
I believe their cause is just, but I am not sure it is efficient. Time and effort are scarce, so we must pick our battles.
On the other hand, the meaning of “libertarian” has narrowed over recent decades. It used to be that most libertarians believed in minimal government; increasingly more libertarians endorse anarchism. It used to be that most libertarians believed in national defense; increasingly more libertarians endorse total isolationism.
I do believe in some minimal night-watchman state, and I do believe that sometimes there is evil in the world that must be fought. So maybe I should start calling myself a “liberal” in the original sense, what Friedman called a “classical liberal”?


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