What’s important to realize, however, is that the designation “classical” was only added to this original liberalism upon the subsequent emergence of modern liberalism. This was to distinguish it from the latter, which had become a different ideology altogether.
Today’s liberalism prescribes government action – in the form of a law, mandate, regulation or program – in every sphere of life, from child-rearing (anti-spanking laws) to hiring (EEOC) to school admissions (quotas) to sports (Casey Martin in golf, Title IX) to diet (banning trans-fats). Its adherents on the Supreme Court gave us the Kelo decision, an attack on property rights. It preaches that government has a place in religion (forcing Catholic hospitals to provide contraception), but religion has no place in government, quite the opposite of Jefferson’s conception of the separation of church and state. Now its minions have gone so far as to attack freedom of speech with hate crime/hate speech laws and even seek to redefine marriage and allow homosexuals to adopt children.
Because of this transformation, today’s rough equivalent of classical liberalism is Goldwater conservatism. (Note: I believe it is a myth that these ideologies are the equivalent of today’s libertarianism, as is commonly held.) And it should surprise no one that individuals of the latter stripe have long embraced the former’s principles. Once the founders’ liberalism became the status quo, it was no longer revolutionary. Then its proponents quite naturally became known as the protectors of the status quo, or, conservatives.
Of course, some liberals would say they’re evolving. But as I have demonstrated, both liberals and conservatives evolve; the question is, how are they evolving and is some atavistic adjustment in order? Let’s examine this with a parable.
Imagine America as a ship. The people aboard are a motley crew, liking different positions and forever arguing over whether it’s best to place the helm in the right, middle or left portion of the vessel. Now, in this tug-of-war, the helm shifts left and right as the strength of one side or another waxes and wanes. Of course, a passenger can occupy any area he wishes. But the further you stray to either side, the lonelier you become, so most stay within earshot of the band and buffet table. Overlooked by virtually all, however, is that the ship is off course and steadily drifting left because engineers working below, out of plain sight, are manipulating the rudder.