glyph 503: political philosophy, classical liberalism, liberty, freedom ... Anglosphere, England, Liberal Party, Sir William Harcourt .... what "liberal" once meant, and will mean again


Sir William Harcourt on Liberalism, 1872

liberty does not consist in making others do what you think right

Sir William Harcourt, a prominent Liberal politician in the Victorian era, said this about liberalism in 1872:

If there be any party which is more pledged than another to resist a policy of restrictive legislation, having for its object social coercion, that party is the Liberal party. (Cheers.) But liberty does not consist in making others do what you think right, (Hear, hear.) The difference between a free Government and a Government which is not free is principally this—that a Government which is not free interferes with everything it can, and a free Government interferes with nothing except what it must. A despotic Government tries to make everybody do what it wishes; a Liberal Government tries, as far as the safety of society will permit, to allow everybody to do as he wishes. It has been the tradition of the Liberal party consistently to maintain the doctrine of individual liberty. It is because they have done so that England is the place where people can do more what they please than in any other country in the world...It is this practice of allowing one set of people to dictate to another set of people what they shall do, what they shall think, what they shall drink, when they shall go to bed, what they shall buy, and where they shall buy it, what wages they shall get and how they shall spend them, against which the Liberal party have always protested.[1]

[1] The Times (31 December 1872), p. 5.

Taken from — 25 Aug 2010

Thanks to Gary Hoover:
August 25, 2010

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