Tuesday, January 24, 2017

On The Words “Liberal,” “Conservative,” and “Libertarian”

In The Art of Nonfiction, Ayn Rand says that “it is important to know when to continue using a word despite its being corrupted, and when to drop such a word.” She says that she did not use the words “Liberal,” “Conservative,” and “Libertarian,” because their meanings are not clear. Here’s the excerpt:

“Take the word “liberal.” In the nineteenth century, this was a proper term which stood for one who defended rights and limited government—except that it never represented a fully consistent political philosophy. So historically, what started as nineteenth-century liberalism gradually became modern liberalism. (Conservatives used to claim they were the true liberals, but they have given up doing so.) Similarly, some people today use “libertarian” to designate the pro-free enterprise position, but there are some modern liberals who call themselves libertarian as well. This stealing of terms with undefined connotations is so prevalent today that I simply do not use any of these words.” ~ Ayn Rand

(Source: The Art of Nonfiction, Edited by Robert Mayhew; Chapter: "Style")

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