Government of the people, by the people, and for the people
Last edited Mon Dec 29, 2014, 01:42 PM - Edit history (3)
I think Abraham Lincoln's famous description, "government of the people, by the people, and for the people", sums up what defines liberalism. Every form of conservative or antiliberal philosophy amounts to an opposition to some part of it. For instance, anarchists oppose "government of the people". Monarchists and fascists oppose government "by the people". So do theocrats. So does anyone who wants to maintain a ruling class.
But the most interesting bit is government "for the people". This doesn't just mean that government shouldn't be corruptly twisted to serve a minority; it means that government should be actively on our side. It should be "for" us like a sports fan is "for" his team. A government that is truly for us should be actively engaged in promoting our success. Not only should it have no other loyalty than to its people, but it also must not be indifferent to them. It should not be neutral or passive when it comes to its people's interest.
And that's what separates liberals from most of today's conservatives and libertarians. At best, they want neutral passivity -- they do not want a government that is for the people. Even though it belongs to the people.