- Ultraliberalism today translates into a whimpering isolationism in foreign policy, a mulish obstructionism in domestic policy, and a pusillanimous pussyfooting on the critical issue of law and order.
- Spiro Agnew, speech before Illinois Republican meeting, Springfield, Illinois (September 10, 1970); reported in Collected Speeches of Spiro Agnew (1971), p. 193
- [W]e claim to start from and to maintain in all our political action this fundamental principle—that the interests of the community as a whole ought to be paramount over the interests of any class, any interest, or any section which that community contains. That is the root and spring of Liberalism.
- H. H. Asquith, speech in Newcastle-upon-Tyne (30 January 1895), quoted in The Times (31 January 1895), p. 6
- He that defers his charity 'till he is dead, is (if a man weighs it rightly) rather liberal of another man's, than of his own.
- Francis Bacon, Francisci Baconi Baronis de Verulamio … Opera Omnia Quatuor (1730), p. 298. Compare: The English Theophrastus: or, The manners of the age (1702), p. 268: "He that defers Charity till Death, is rather Liberal of another Man's, than of his own".
- The parties which assumed the names of liberals were, or became in due course, simple guardians of capitalism.
- Eduard Bernstein, Evolutionary Socialism (1899)
- A liberal is a man or a woman or a child who looks forward to a better day, a more tranquil night, and a bright, infinite future.
- Leonard Bernstein, statement of 1953, quoted in A Wonderful Life : 50 Eulogies to Lift the Spirit (2006) by Cyrus M. Copeland, p. 190
- He that's liberal
To all alike, may do a good by chance,
But never out of judgment.
- Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, The Spanish Curate, Act I, scene 1
- Liberality consists less in giving a great deal than in gifts well timed.
- Jean de La Bruyère, in Les Caractères (1688), Aphorism 47 as translated in The Characters of Jean de La Bruyère (1929) by Henri van Laun
- Variant translations:
- Liberality consists rather in giving seasonably than much.
- Generosity lies less in giving much than in giving at the right moment.
- What do we mean by this Liberalism of which we talk? … I should say it means the acknowledgement in practical life of the truth that men are best governed who govern themselves; that the general sense of mankind, if left alone, will make for righteousness; that artificial privileges and restraints upon freedom, so far as they are not required in the interests of the community, are hurtful; and that the laws, while, of course, they cannot equalise conditions, can, at least, avoid aggravating inequalities, and ought to have for their object the securing to every man the best chance he can have of a good and useful life.
- Henry Campbell-Bannerman, The Liberal Magazine (January 1898), p. 530, quoted in John Wilson, C.B.: A Life of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (Constable, 1973), p. 232
- Liberalism, for all its virtues, has begun to develop a sense of entitlement, and needs time to rediscover its soul.
- Liberalism in its political instantiation, for all of its appeal, is so powerful a theory that it probably works better in opposition than in government. Modern liberalism has become what liberal philosophers not long ago would have derided as a “comprehensive view” — a theory that believes itself able to give an account of how every institution of the society should operate, and even, alas, how people should think. Add to that a dash of triumphalism, and you wind up with a government impatient with the tendency of human beings to resist having too much forced on them at once.
- Humanity cannot be made equal by declarations on paper. Unless the material conditions for equality exist, it is worse than mockery to pronounce men equal.
- Voltairine de Cleyre, "In Defense of Emma Goldman and the Right of Expropriation" (1893).
- Reality has a well-known liberal bias.
- That Liberalism may be a tendency towards something very different from itself, is a possibility in its nature. For it is something which tends to release energy rather than accumulate it, to relax, rather than to fortify. It is a movement not so much defined by its end , as by its starting point; away from, rather than towards, something definite. Our point of departure is more real to us than our destination; and the destination is likely to present a very different picture when arrived at, from the vaguer image formed in imagination. By destroying traditional social habits of the people, by dissolving their natural collective consciousness into individual constituents, by licensing the opinions of the most foolish, by substituting instruction for education, by encouraging cleverness rather than wisdom, the upstart rather than the qualified, by fostering a notion of getting on to which the alternative is a hopeless apathy, Liberalism can prepare the way for that which is its own negation: the artificial, mechanised or brutalised control which is a desperate remedy for its chaos.
- T. S. Eliot, The Idea of a Christian Society (London: Faber and Faber, 1939), pp. 15–16
- In the sense in which Liberalism is contrasted with Conservatism, both can be equally repellent: if the former can mean chaos, the latter can mean petrification. We are always faced both with the question 'what must be destroyed?' and with the question 'what must be preserved?' and neither Liberalism nor Conservatism, which are not philosophies and may be merely habits, is enough to guide us.
- T. S. Eliot, The Idea of a Christian Society (London: Faber and Faber, 1939), p. 17
- I have never seen a class so deeply demoralised, so incurably debased by selfishness, so corroded within, so incapable of progress, as the English bourgeoisie; and I mean by this, especially the bourgeoisie proper, particularly the Liberal, Corn Law repealing bourgeoisie. For it nothing exists in this world, except for the sake of money, itself not excluded. It knows no bliss save that of rapid gain, no pain save that of losing gold. In the presence of this avarice and lust of gain, it is not possible for a single human sentiment or opinion to remain untainted.
- Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845)
- Any liberal system must proceed from the assumption that freedom is one and indivisible and that elementary human freedom in all spheres of life must go hand in hand with political, religious, economic and spiritual freedom. The strategy of collectivist thinking has always been to split up this most essential and most universal of human values as a means of making inroads into the free system itself.
- Ludwig Erhard, The Economics of Success (1963), pp. 291–292
- I am a Liberal, because liberalism seems to me to mean faith in the people, and confidence that they will manage their own affairs far better than those affairs are likely to be managed for them by others.
- Millicent Fawcett, quoted in Why I Am a Liberal: Being Definitions and Personal Confessions of Faith by the Best Minds of the Liberal Party, ed. Andrew Reid (1885), p. 43
- Liberalism, moreover, which currently plays a dominant role in the life of European peoples and states, is by no means to be understood as the system of popular freedom in general, but as a system in the special interest of quite specific elements of society which are assembled in the commercial and industrial middle class. The liberal state in this conventional sense is the state which represents the interest of this social group. But that does not in any sense mean that it must also represent the interest of all other classes of the population or even only the interest of the true majority of the people.
- Julius Fröbel, Theorie der Politik, als Ergebniss einer erneuerten Prüfung demokratischer Lehrmeinungen (2 vols., 1861–1864), Vol. I, p. 258, quoted in Theodore S. Hamerow, Social Foundations of German Unification, 1858–1871, Volume I: Ideas and Institutions (1969), p. 136
- It came to me a little while ago what we really are, we liberals. We demand reforms, we want to improve the situation of the underprivileged — why? To make them better off materially? Nuts. It's only to make ourselves feel less guilty. We rend our garments, we're eager to show how willing we are to accept any outrageous demand so long as it's black, or youthful, or put up by someone who thinks he's got a grievance. We want to appease everybody — you know what a liberal is? A liberal is a guy who walks out of the room when the fight starts.
- I think that the principle of the Conservative Party is jealousy of liberty and of the people, only qualified by fear; but I think the principle of the Liberal Party is trust in the people, only qualified by prudence.
- William Ewart Gladstone, speech at the opening of the Palmerston Club, Oxford (December 1878) as quoted in "Gladstone's Conundrums; The Statesman Answers Sundry Interesting Questions" in The New York Times (9 February 1879)
- Much of Biko's energy is devoted to criticizing the liberal in both the condescending white and the idiotic black forms. The black liberal is idiotic because black people lack power in a white-controlled system. The white liberal, on the other hand, operates from the vantage point of having something—perhaps a great deal—to lose in the event of progressive social change. The white liberal's offer to help has an air of condescension because it masks a profound existential investment in the continuation of the racist system. Thus, the white liberal always insists on offering the theoretical or interpretive strategies against antiblack racism, but such strategies often act to preserve the need for white liberals as the most cherished members or overseers of values in their society. In Biko's words: "I am against the superior-inferior white-black stratification that makes the white man a perpetual teacher and the black a perpetual pupil (and a poor one at that.)"
- The difference between a free Government and a Government which is not free is principally this—that a Government which is not free interferes with everything it can, and a free Government interferes with nothing except what it must. A despotic Government tries to make everybody do what it wishes; a Liberal Government tries, as far as the safety of society will permit, to allow everybody to do as he wishes. It has been the tradition of the Liberal party consistently to maintain the doctrine of individual liberty. It is because they have done so that England is the place where people can do more what they please than in any other country in the world.
- William Harcourt, speech in Oxford town hall (30 December 1872), quoted in The Times (31 December 1872), p. 5
- Liberalism is a doctrine about what the law ought to be, democracy a doctrine about the manner of determining the law. Liberalism regards it as desirable that only what the majority accepts should in fact be law, but it does not believe that this is therefore necessarily good law. Its aim, indeed, is to persuade the majority to observe certain principles. It accepts majority rule as a method of deciding, but not as an authority for what the decision ought to be. To the doctrinaire democrat the fact that the majority wants something is sufficient ground for regarding it as good; for him the will of the majority determines not only what is law but what is good law.
- Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (Chicago: 1960), pp. 103-104
Liberalism, which Luxemburg called by its more appropriate name—“opportunism”—is an integral component of capitalism. When the citizens grow restive, it will soften and decry capitalism’s excesses. But capitalism, Luxemburg argued, is an enemy that can never be appeased. Liberal reforms are used to stymie resistance and then later, when things grow quiet, are revoked on the inevitable road to capitalist slavery. The last century of labor struggles in the United States provides a case study for proof of Luxemburg’s observation.
The political, cultural and judicial system in a capitalist state is centered around the protection of property rights. And, as Adam Smith pointed out, when civil government “is instituted for the security of property, [it] is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.” The capitalist system is gamed from the start. And this makes Luxemburg extremely relevant as corporate capital, now freed from all constraints, reconfigures our global economy, including the United States’, into a ruthless form of neofeudalism.
- A liberal will defend to the death your right to agree with her. Disagree with her, and she will call the police.
- Peter Hitchens, The Broken Compass (2009), p. ix
- A Liberal is one who seeks to secure for everyone the same rights, political, social or religious, which he claims for himself.
- George Holyoake, quoted in Ian Bradley, The Optimists: Themes and Personalities in Victorian Liberalism (1980), p. 76
- But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand.
- Tarian: A liberal is just the opposite of a conservative.
Herrod: (Entering, with drinks.) And a conservative is a liberal who just got mugged.
Tarian: Oh, Rex. Thanks. For the drinks and for the definition. But couldn't you also say a liberal is a conservative who just got arrested?
- Peter Kreeft (1983-07-13). The Unaborted Socrates: A Dramatic Debate on the Issues Surrounding Abortion. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity. p. 93.
- A liberal is one who says that it's all right for an 18-year-old girl to perform in a pornographic movie as long as she gets paid the minimum wage.
- Irving Kristol, Two Cheers for Capitalism (1978)
- [L]iberalism has been, in the last four centuries, the outstanding doctrine of Western Civilisation.
- Harold Laski, The Rise of European Liberalism: An Essay in Interpretation  (1962), p. 5
- The world crisis which began in 1929, the longest ever known, caused people entirely unconnected with and even hostile to the working-class movement to speak of 'crisis' and even of the 'collapse of capitalism'. [...] Liberalism observed with horror that the actual course of world development ignored all its good advice. Today the doctrine of liberalism is practically dead, but, at least, its few remaining defenders can console themselves by noting the disastrous effects of economic nationalism.
- But then the inevitable reaction set in, sparked by the liberal curse of being able, however belatedly, to see both sides of any question.
- New Deal liberalism broke with progressivism in many if not most respects. Progressives wanted technocratic economic planning. By the 1940s, New Dealers dropped planning for Keynesianism. Most progressives were nativists who supported immigration restriction on ethnic or cultural grounds. New Deal liberals celebrated the melting pot and liberalized American immigration laws in the 1960s. Woodrow Wilson resegegrated Washington. Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Franklin D. Roosevelt created Social Security and Johnson created Medicare. Wilson opposed national health insurance.
- As to the having and possessing of things, teach them to part with what they have, easily and freely to their friends, and let them find by experience that the most liberal has always the most plenty, with esteem and commendation to boot, and they will quickly learn to practise it.
- Covetousness, and the desire of having in our possession, and under our dominion, more than we have need of, being the root of all evil, should be early and carefully weeded out, and the contrary quality of a readiness to impart to others, implanted. This should be encourag'd by great commendation and credit, and constantly taking care that he loses nothing by his liberality.
- John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) Sec. 110
- Let him sensibly perceive, that the kindness he shews to others, is no ill husbandry for himself; but that it brings a return in kindness both from those that receive it, and those who look on. Make this a contest among children, who shall out-do one another in this way: and by this means, by a constant practise, children having made it easy to themselves to part with what they have, good nature may be settled in them into a habit, and they may take pleasure, and pique themselves in being kind, liberal and civil, to others.
- John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) Sec. 110
- Liberalism rejects ideological struggle and stands for unprincipled peace, thus giving rise to a decadent, Philistine attitude.
- Mao Zedong, "Combat Liberalism" (1937)
- Liberalism, as a set of ideals, is still viable, and even compelling to Western men. That is one reason why it has become a common denominator of American political rhetoric; but there is another reason. The ideals of liberalism have been divorced from any realities of modern social structure that might serve as the means of their realization. Everybody can easily agree on general ends; it is more difficult to agree on means and the relevance of various means to the ends articulated. The detachment of liberalism from the facts of a going society make it an excellent mask for those who do not, cannot, or will not do what would have to be done to realize its ideals.
- C. Wright Mills, "Liberal Values in the Modern World"
- Let's run it on down. White males are most responsible for the destruction of human life and environment on the planet today. Yet who is controlling the supposed revolution to change all that? White males (yes, yes, even with their pasty fingers back in black and brown pies again). It just could make one a bit uneasy. It seems obvious that a legitimate revolution must be led by, made by those who have been most oppressed: black, brown, and white women–with men relating to that as best they can. A genuine Left doesn't consider anyone's suffering irrelevant, or titillating; nor does it function as a microcosm of capitalist economy, with men competing for power and status at the top, and women doing all the work at the bottom (and functioning as objectified prizes or "coin" as well). Goodbye to all that.
- Robin Morgan, "Goodbye to All That" (1970) in Going Too Far: The Personal Chronicle of a Feminist (1977), p 123
- Define it as we may, faith in Progress has been the mainspring of Liberalism in all its schools and branches.
- John Morley, 'Democracy and Reaction', Miscellanies: Fourth Series (1908), p. 293
- Respect for the dignity and worth of the individual is its root. It stands for pursuit of social good against class interest or dynastic interest. It stands for the subjection to human judgment of all claims of external authority, whether in an organised Church, or in more loosely gathered societies of believers, or in books held sacred. In law-making it does not neglect the higher characteristics of human nature, it attends to them first. In executive administration, though judge, gaoler, and perhaps the hangman will be indispensable, still mercy is counted a wise supplement to terror.
- John Morley, Recollections: Volume I (1917), p. 21
- Liberalism cannot be defined in the abstract in any helpful way. Liberalism in politics can best be defined in terms of specific issues. Political liberalism should also be defined in terms of objectives. A major objective is the protection of the economic weak and doing it within the framework of a private-property economy. The liberal, emphasizing the civil and property rights of the individual, insists that the individual must remain so supreme as to make the state his servant.
- Wayne Morse, U.S. senator, New Republic (22 July 1946)
- Now by Liberalism I mean false liberty of thought, or the exercise of thought upon matters, in which, from the constitution of the human mind, thought cannot be brought to any successful issue, and therefore is out of place. Among such matters are first principles of whatever kind; and of these the most sacred and momentous are especially to be reckoned the truths of Revelation. Liberalism then is the mistake of subjecting to human judgment those revealed doctrines which are in their nature beyond and independent of it, and of claiming to determine on intrinsic grounds the truth and value of propositions which rest for their reception simply on the external authority of the Divine Word.
- Too many well-meaning liberals are clinging with ten fingernails to the idea that their institutions are robust enough to withstand fascism. They believe, because the belief is soothing, that the marketplace of ideas cares about the value, durability, and quality of its wares rather than how shiny the packaging is, how catchy the jingle, how many times it shows up in your peripheral brand awareness until it’s the one you reach for on the shelf.
- Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions: first, they are to be attached to positions and offices open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity; and second, they are to be to the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged members of society.
- Dealing with the Liberals, it was like trying to grab quicksilver.
- The essence of liberalism is negotiation, a cautious half measure, in the hopes that the definitive dispute, the decisive bloody battle, can be transformed into a parliamentary debate and permit the decision to be suspended forever in an everlasting discussion. Dictatorship is the opposite of discussion.
- Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (1985), translated by George Schwab, Chicago: University of Chicago Press
- It is an inevitable mark of what the late Sir Edwyn Hoskyns used to call the ‘tyranny of liberalism’ that the liberal is not only convinced that he is right; he is also convinced that other people secretly agree with him—how could they do otherwise?—and are only restrained from saying so by unworthy motives arising from worldly prudence, material interest, and so forth.
- C. H. Smyth, 'The Importance of Church Attendance' in The Recall to Religion (1937), p. 120
- Among the political attitudes that prevail in Germany today, only socialism has the potentiality of inner value and integrity. Liberalism is for the simple-minded, for those who like to chat a great deal about things they can never achieve. That is how we Germans are; we cannot possibly be like the English, we can only be caricatures of them—and that we have been often enough. Every man for himself: that is an English idea. Every man for every other man: that is the Prussian way. Liberalism, however, means "the state for itself, and every man for himself." That is a formula impossible to follow unless one is willing to take the liberal course, which is to say one thing while being dead set against its opposite, but in the end to let the opposite take over anyway.
- We must face the fact that, though the free intelligence and the spirit of community are at once the goal and an essential means, they may be not only ineffectual but actually harmful, unless they are combined with a full measure of that hot indignation against tyranny, that devoted service in the struggle for the new order, which is characteristic of the best minds of the political Left. On the other hand, the political Left, if it is to capture the imagination and allegiance of the people of this country and sweep them forward to victory, must, I believe, learn a more liberal spirit. I mean, of course, liberal not in the political but in the cultural sense, namely, loyalty to the free critical intelligence and respect for the human individual.
- Olaf Stapledon, Philosophy and Living (1939)
- Liberalism only works when citizens see and treat each other as individuals with equal value and rights regardless of their gender, religion, sexual orientation or skin color. The famous dream of Martin Luther King seems almost painfully antiquated these days.
- The key-note of all Liberalism [is] the paramount and unlimited authority of popular control.
- George Trevelyan, lecture (1871), quoted in Brian Harrison, Drink and the Victorians: The Temperance Question in England, 1815–1872 (1971), p. 249
- The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
- I never use the words Democrats and Republicans. It's liberals and Americans.
- James G. Watt, in a statement of November 1981, quoted in New York Times (10 October 1983); also quoted in Energy and Environment : The Unfinished Business (1986) by Congressional Quarterly, Inc., p. 91
- It only takes 20 years for a liberal to become a conservative without changing a single idea.
- What bothers me about today's "liberals" is this: through the ages, those called liberal fought to take the power away from the kings and the emperors and to give it to the parliaments; now it is the "liberals" who are anxious to give more and more power to the executive, at the expense of the legislative branch.
- Burton Kendall Wheeler, Yankee from the West (1962), chapter 19, p. 428