THE IRON ROD OFnAMERICAN LIBERALISM’ by Erik von Kuehnelt-LeddihnnIn America, as in Britain, institutions, movements, politicalnphenomena, historic events and geographic features havenbeen given names and labels that bewilder and startle thenrest of the world: the German “Westwall” of World War IInbecame the “Siegfried Line” (in World War I that lay innnorthern France), the Near East became the Middle Eastn(where, now, is the Near East?), and Santa Glaus, anSpanish-Dutch moniker wrongly gendered, has nothing tondo with Ghristmas (he is the Gappadocian Bishop St.nNicholas whose feast is on December 6). Or take the termsn”humanism,” “humanist,” and “humanistic” with theirnvery precise historic connotations: generally they werenapplied to those 15 th- and early 16th-century Gatholicnthinkers who, without forgetting God, made man a centralnobject of their scrutiny, following the traditions of newlyndiscovered antiquity. Outside America and Britain the termn”conservative” applies to thinkers like Maistre, Stahl,nDisraeli, Kuypers, or Donoso Gortes, but if I were to callnAdam Smith, Tocqueville, or Mises conservative, I would benadvised to see a doctor.nThe process of mislabeling has also affected the termn”liberalism.” What is called “liberalism” in the UnitednStates (and increasingly in Britain) would never be recognizednas such in the rest of the world—neither in Japan, nornin Latin America, nor in Western or Eastern Europe, norneven in Australia, where the Liberal Party is distinctly rightnof center.nWhat, then, is liberalism in reality, and what meaning didnit assume in North America? How and why did thisnunfortunate change take place, allowing “what passes innAmerica, for reasons of political expedience, by the name ofnliberalism” (Whittaker Ghambers in Cold Friday) to assumenthat noble name?nThere are, of course, several genuine liberalisms, theirnuniting bond being the quest for personal liberty. They cannbe divided into four categories: 1) Pre-liberalism, 2) EarlynLiberalism, 3) Old, or Paleoliberalism, and 4) New, ornNeoliberalism. In time they overlap: Adam Smith, who diednin 1790, is a Pre-liberal because the Spaniards used the termnonly after 1812 for the supporters of the Gonstitution ofnGadiz, whom they called los Serviles. Southey used the termnin 1816 (“our British liberales”) in its Spanish form, and SirnWalter Scott wrote about liberaux. Actually, the EarlynLiberals were largely aristocrats, from Tocqueville andnMontalembert to Lord Acton, and they included JacobnBurckhardt and his nephew Johann Bachofen, both Swissnpatricians. (When the elitist, liberal Mont Pelerin Societynwas founded, the originators wanted to call it thenTocqueville-Acton Society, whereupon Professor Knight ofnGhicago University announced that he would quit if thensociety were named after “two Roman Gatholic aristocrats.”nErik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn is the Europeanncorrespondent for National Review.nAn alternative had to be found in a hurry and thus the namenof the mountain seen from the windows of the meetingnroom was adopted.)nThe Early Liberals were succeeded by the Old Liberals,nwho harked back strongly to Adam Smith and showed greatninterest in economics, but tended toward an anti-Ghristiannbias and philosophic relativism. They disliked dogmas andnoften failed to understand that only a thinker in absolutesnhas the chance (but not more than a chance) to be trulyntolerant. (The relativist, on the other hand, is not tolerant.nHe does not “suffer” the views or convictions of others, hencan only be indifferent. “I think I am right in my way andnyou’re right in yours, so let’s make it 50-50.”) Naturally, thenOld Liberals frequently clashed with the Gatholic Ghurch.nThe founders and main luminaries of the “AustriannSchool” (of economics) were, in principle. Old Liberalsnand, with the exception of Fritz Machlup, noblemen. Onnthe other hand, the Neoliberals (who seceded from thenMont Pelerin Society in 1961) tolerated state interventionnin certain situations, were opposed to “mammothism,”nemphasized the consumer’s right to choice and were, as anrule, open to Ghristian inspiration.nAll liberalisms were dedicated to freedom and all werennnNOVEMBER 1988/ IBn