The words we use to communicate ideas are important. Yes its true their meaning changes over time and there are plenty of words that have changed to mean something quite different from what they were. Sometimes that change takes place over hundreds of years or shorter, in decades. In terms of the overarching philosophy of libertarianism or as I believe it to be synonymous with individualism. It seems we have lost a few words to statist logic. The most well known one being liberal. Until about a hundred years ago liberal was almost only used in connection to Enlightenment Philosophy or those who publicly espoused their belief in it. In our time unfortunately of course it is now the same as “progressive” in the minds of most people. Progressive is as far as I can tell over my lifetime is as hollow a term as “conservative” in the political sense. Both seem to mean whatever the person speaking or otherwise issuing forth the word to the world wants it to mean. Progress towards what exactly? What is to be conserved? Which as far as I’m concerned results in both meaning nothing. As useful in a discussion of ideas as playdoh is to building a house. As a result of losing it to statist logic we have lost liberal to the statists, rats!
As many have pointed out libertarian is beginning an ugly transformation in popular thought as being “conservative” or worse yet “alt-right” to our detriment. Obviously not everyone believes that but it is the story being promoted by cable news, the old newspaper websites, and those that remain in print. So why do I think its so important to keep Liberty as a part of the language we use to help people grasp these ideas that help people realize they can be free individuals?
Freedom from slavery. From what I understand that Is the most literal definition of the word from its common emergence in French. Freedom being used more often in English I would guess. The oldest known usage of the word was in ancient Babylon, written in cuneiform.
The word itself makes governments very uncomfortable. After Napoleon was sent off to St. Helena the monarchies that remained in Europe as part of the “Restoration” began installing their family members back on the thrones that Bonaparte had removed them from. Not that Napoleon could be considered a true liberator by anyone other than his partisans and propagandists. Of course with the new Luis XVII on the throne the old slogans from the Revolution of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” were nowhere to be found.
In the Kingdom of Piedmont of North East Italy in the mid 1800’s a newspaper was not even allowed to print the word Liberty in it’s pages without retribution from the King’s authorities. That is a powerful word as far as I’m concerned.
In Spain early in the 20th the monarchy was none too happy with Francisco Ferrer who had started a school that was not connected with the traditional catholic teachings of the past. A part of this anarchists teachings was of course on philosophy. During which the subjects of freewill and Liberty must have been broached. Other schools of a similar bent towards secular teachings soon spread throughout Spain. Shortly afterwards to maintain their possession of Morocco the Spanish government instituted a draft of the population. This caused a revolt in a Barcelona. The army was called in to suppress the rebellion. Senior Ferrer was nowhere near Barcelona but the government made some excuse to arrest him in relationship to his school. The government insisted his teachings played a role in the revolt. On October 13th 1909 Francisco Ferrer Was executed by firing squad.
The point being ideas are important and the words we use to describe fundamental concepts of the human condition are equally important.
I’ll finish up with this: a large part of Orwell’s 1984 was “The Party” had as a part of their ultimate goal to be able to fully control and manipulate the language. There is a part when Winston is talking to a friend about his work on the new edition of the Newspeak dictionary. The purpose of the dictionary instead of expanding the English language to be more expressive its purpose was to shrink it in order to eliminate ideas undesirable to the party. Syme says to Winston: “How can you say ‘Freedom Is Slavery’ When the concept of freedom has been abolished?”
Yes languages do change quite a bit over time and I don’t mean to cling onto a word with a religious zeal but even over the past few years the statists have won a major part of the propaganda back and forth. But how are we to describe Liberty to people when to them Liberty could one day mean slavery.
Liberty, that word I won’t let them have if I can help it!