As you may be aware, there is a tussle going on over the word “liberal.” It’s been happening for years – Hayek even wrote about it in his essay “Why I Am Not A Conservative:”
In the United States, where it has become almost impossible to use “liberal” in the sense in which I have used it, the term “libertarian” has been used instead. It may be the answer; but for my part I find it singularly unattractive. For my taste it carries too much the flavor of a manufactured term and of a substitute. What I should want is a word which describes the party of life, the party that favors free growth and spontaneous evolution. But I have racked my brain unsuccessfully to find a descriptive term which commends itself.
In Australia, the “Liberal-National Coalition” – which won Saturday’s election – is now led by a big government conservative. That conservative, Tony Abbott, expected that his popularity would allow his party to win a majority in both houses. However, in a political system that, like America’s, elects the two houses of the legislature separately, using different voting methods, he was unsuccessful. Some of his lack of success was attributable to the Liberal Democratic Party – Australia’s libertarian party – winning an unusually high percentage of the senate vote in the most populous state (NSW), and thus electing its first senator.
And therein lies the source of the tussle. The Liberals (“big government conservative” version) have accused the Liberal Democrats of stealing their name. The Liberal Democrats, quite properly, have pointed out that the Liberals are not, in fact, “liberal”. The Labor Party is sitting off to the side smirking (and, because it’s just copped a thumping electoral defeat, it doesn’t have much to smirk about). The Greens – who were also hammered electorally in part of a wider defeat for parties on the left – have weirdly taken the Liberal Party’s part, also complaining about the name (there’s some rolled gold sour grapes in that interview). Meanwhile, Hayek is probably spinning so hard in his grave he’s now reached the earth’s core.
About the only consolation is that some of the other incoming senators have been pilloried even more nastily. Poor Ricky Muir of the ‘Motoring Enthusiasts’ Party made the mistake of leaving his YouTube page unattended during the campaign. One of the videos featured him partaking in a roo poo fight. He has been pilloried by the chattering classes and the video has been on high rotation. His party’s response: ‘and just so you have both sides of the story, here’s a photo of Ricky when he’s not throwing kangaroo-poo at his brother…’
That aside, for the first time Australians have been exposed to liberal ideas shorn of compromise with one of the major parties. Mr. Leyonhjelm couldn’t be clearer: “I will never support an increase in taxes, and I will never support a reduction in liberty.”