Hoary epithets

Cassandra Wilkinson demonstrates the inadequacy of one-dimensional Left vs Right political discourse in “Dark days for libertarians” (The Australian, 9/5).

These words once formed a clear polarity: god, king and empire on the one hand and liberty, fraternity and equality on the other. Today, self-styled conservatives mix traditional social values with decidedly radical economic and political ones, commandeering liberty (at least that of money to move around) and leaving equality and fraternity to the Left, who are bewildered to find themselves branded authoritarian.

Wilkinson is concerned with terms such as “progressive” and “liberal”, which have become uninformative: who now would oppose progress or liberty? But progress toward what? In particular, “liberal” is ambiguous: does it express opposition to heavy government, or is it a synonym for the progressive penchant for social change and government intervention?

Wilkinson reminds us that the political landscape is defined by specifically-stated goals and values, rather than by hoary epithets which have lost their meaning.

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