Walter G. Moss’s book review of Edmund Fawcett’s book Liberalism might be of interest to some of you. The word “liberal” continues to mean different things to different people. This is partly due the ever evolving meaning of the word. Fawcett uses a broad definition of liberalism that would include those who we would call “liberal” today (such as FDR, John Rawls, and Paul Krugman), but in addition he includes those who might be considered “liberal” in its classic meaning (such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher). Therefore, Moss thinks that the question we must ask is “whether today, we wish to use the narrower evolved definition that Safire suggests or the broader, more inclusive one Fawcett maintains.” Although Moss “prefers the former—referring to Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan as liberals, as Fawcett does, just seems wrong—I’ll grant the logical consistency of his treatment.”
I think that the term loses its usefulness if it becomes so broad as to include all of the above individuals. But we all need to know the history of this term if we are to avoid the current confusion about the meaning of the term.