Life without labels

Misleading terms

The words liberal and conservative, Garry Wills once observed, are the most misleading terms in the world. They have been especially confusing in the U.S., where liberalism (meaning in this case support for a constitutionally limited state accompanied by private ownership of property and a capitalist marketplace) has been the only political tradition we’ve ever known, which means that everyone is some kind of liberal, and conservatives are the people who have attached themselves to an early stage of liberalism.


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