In our post-modern political lexicon, what it means to be a classical liberal in the Enlightenment sense of the term has been lost, or, worse yet, deliberately perverted. So it is almost a hopeless task to try to explain why views that were considered classically "liberal" at the time of our nation's Founding -- before Progressive Era and New Deal ideas uprooted previous constitutional understandings concerning the relationship of the individual to the state -- are now called "conservative". This is too bad.
But here is what new Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa said at the American Enterprise Institute in 2005:
“Thus, the liberal I aspire to be considers freedom a core value. Thanks to this freedom, humanity has been able to journey from the primitive cave to the stars and the information revolution, to progress from forms of collectivist and despotic association to representative democracy. The foundations of liberty are private property and the rule of law; this system guarantees the fewest possible forms of injustice, produces the greatest material and cultural progress, most effectively stems violence and provides the greatest respect for human rights. According to this concept of liberalism, freedom is a single, unified concept. Political and economic liberties are as inseparable as the two sides of a medal.”
If only all of today’s self-described “liberals” subscribed to this eloquent statement of what classical liberalism means, I, with Vargas Llosa, would aspire to be one too. And we would be in the good company of Adam Smith, John Locke, Montesquieu, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.
Congratulations to Mario Vargas Llosa for his Nobel Prize, and thanks to the Heritage Foundation’s Insider for highlighting the quote.