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What is a liberal?

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By John Barnhart

Recently, I was talking with a local liberal, a fellow named Bill.

I guess Bill is a liberal as he’s an active member of the “Democratic” Party. Anyway, he asked me what a liberal is.

My first thought is that a liberal is somebody who was dropped on his head when he was a small child. In reality, it’s as difficult to come up with a definition of a liberal as it is to define a conservative as I don’t think liberals represent a monolithic movement any more than conservatives do. As I’ve mentioned before, conservatives are comprised of three groups, social conservatives, economic conservatives and defense hawks. These aren’t strict categories, either. A conservative may combine all three to varying degrees. There can also be varying degrees of conservatism. For example, I’m very conservative on social issues, fairly conservative on defense and center-right on economic issues.

There also seems to be variations, at least as far as degree, among liberals. I doubt that they all think with one mind any more than conservatives do. There are a few things that they have in common that distinguish them from conservatives.

One belief is that liberals appear to have a great deal of faith in the ability of government to solve problems — every problem can be solved by a government program. Big government does not frighten them.

Liberals also exhibit an 18th century view of human nature. They seem to think that all bad human behavior can be fixed by proper education and proper environment, both of which can be accomplished by the government. Their apparent view of human nature is probably the reason why they are reluctant to hold people responsible for their own abominable behavior. Some people do bad things because they are either ignorant or had a bad environment in the past. They deserve more sympathy than punishment.

Liberals appear to have a great deal of faith in the United Nations. Just as they seem to think government is the solution to all domestic problems, so they seem to think that the U. N. can solve all world problems. Any nibbling around the edges of American national sovereignty seems not to bother them.

A fourth thing that liberals have in common is that they genuinely misunderstand conservatives.

When I mentioned defense hawks. Bill said that he always thought of defense hawks as lobbyists. Most of us who fall, to some extent into that category, don’t have an economic ax to grind in defense spending. We believe that the superbly trained and disciplined armed forces we have are the only real guarantee of American freedom.

We don’t believe America is the world’s policeman, either. We do have national interests that go beyond our shores and beyond our borders and sometimes that means military action in a far-away place. We have troops in Afghanistan, for instance, because that country’s government under the Taliban had given safe haven to an organization that launched a major attack on American soil.

In other situations, this involves arms sales to a friendly country. It’s important for us, assuming we have chosen our allies wisely, to show ourselves to be a reliable ally. Even the biggest, toughest guy on the block still needs friends.

What I’ve given is one conservative’s thoughts on how I would define a liberal and mentioned the common threads that I believe connect all liberals. I didn’t deal with the extreme fringe — anti-Christians such as Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, radical environmentalists or a few folks who look, to me, like pseudo-communist wolves.

It would be interesting to read about how a self-proclaimed liberal defines liberals.