Lost Language, Lost Liberalism

A review of the changes 1880-1940 to the central semantics of liberal civilization.


Classical liberal meaning
New meanings; confusions
Law is rules given by a law-giver, but the law-giver can be theological (God) or figurative (“nature,” “society,” “custom,” “convention,” etc.). Laws are not confined to rules enforced or authorized by government (a notion itself figurative, in a way), but also may be informal, customary, and moral. Every rule is subject to judgment based on higher rules, and each level of rules may be denominated “law.”(1) Some writers wish to confine “law” to governmental legal rules; legal positivism. (2) Some writers emphasize government law as the means or expression of societal purpose, organization, or solidarity.

4L is authored by Daniel B. Klein, Professor of Economics, JIN Chair at the Mercatus Center, George Mason University, Associate Fellow of the Ratio Institute; email: dklein@gmu.edu

Quotations compiled by Ryan Daza & Daniel B. Klein