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Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights, capitalism, and freedom of religion. Words such as liberal, liberty, libertarian, and libertine all trace their history to the Latin liber, which means "free".


  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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
  • 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.
  • There are people who are known to be very liberal, yet they never give without scolding or pride or even insolence.
    • John Calvin Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, Page 39
  • I have tender feelings for Nixon, because everybody has warm feelings about their childhood. Actually, I didn't like the Watergate trials 'cause they interrupted The Munsters... Nixon was the last liberal president. He supported women's rights, the environment, ending the draft, youth involvement, and now he's the boogeyman? Kerry couldn't even run on that today.
  • 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.
  • "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."
  • 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?
  • 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
  • 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, p 123.
  • A liberal is a person whose interests aren't at stake at the moment.
    • Willis Player, as quoted by The Washington Post, Potomac magazine (November 15, 1972), p. 12
  • Over 25% of U.S. Muslims under 30 say suicide bombings to defend their religion are acceptable [in a] poll from the Pew Research Center... I guess the morons at the Pew Research Center are coming to understand that their liberalism is incompatible with their survival. Even liberals come to know at some point that they're in danger!
  • 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
  • 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.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 437.
  • He that's liberal
    To all alike, may do a good by chance,
    But never out of judgment.
  • Then gently scan your brother man,
    Still gentler sister woman;
    Tho' they may gang a kennin' wrang,
    To step aside is human.
  • It is better to believe that a man does possess good qualities than to assert that he does not.
    • Chinese Moral Maxims. Compiled by John Francis Davis, F. R. S. China, 1823.
  • The liberal soul shall be made fat.
    • Proverbs. XI. 25.
  • Shall I say to Cæsar
    What you require of him? for he partly begs
    To be desir'd to give. It much would please him,
    That of his fortunes you should make a staff
    To lean upon.

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