Back in the old days people who believed in liberty were called "liberals". Those who didn't approve of liberty were not called liberals.
Liberty exists when you are free to live your life in any way you like so long as you don't interfere with the equal rights of others. Liberals don't initiate the use of force or fraud. Using force to get what you want means that you're not a liberal. Getting a third party - including government - to use force to achieve your ends means that you're not a liberal.
So far, so straight forward.
The trouble is that the enemies of liberty started to call themselves liberals. Why? Because people saw that liberty was good, so why not pinch its name? And now, in the English-speaking world anyway, liberalism means the opposite of liberty. It means government force.
"Negative liberty" IS liberty. "Positive liberty" seems to mean, in practice, appropriating someone else's resources - or perhaps confiscating someone else's wealth - or, to be blunt, stealing someone else's money. "Getting grants" for Paul means paying coercive taxes by Peter. It may even be a good idea, but it's got f... all to do with liberty.Correct, except that it's not a "good idea".
Real liberals - faced with the theft of their good name - rebranded themselves as "libertarians". And people saw that libertarian ideas were good, just as the same ideas had been when they were called "liberal".
And now it's happened again. The enemies of liberty are increasingly describing themselves as libertarians. Or, rather, "left libertarians" - a completely meaningless concept under which force is freedom and coercion is liberty. Come back George Orwell.
I have a solution.
We (real) liberals should now market ourselves as "Real Fascist Bastards".Fascism is today's big No No - in polite society anyway. So we'd have the term to ourselves. We could then proclaim, "Yes, we're Real Fascist Bastards and proud of it." Our name would be theft-free.
Or would it?
I can see it now. A few years down the track some naive youngster would come across a piece by an obscure and much persecuted group of "Real Fascist Bastards" that explained how personal freedom was necessarily linked with economic freedom. These RFBs appeared to support a form of limited government that didn't promise "positive freedoms". It even seemed that some countries had once operated on more-or-less RFB principles and had prospered mightily.
And then it would start all over again. Some Guardian columnist would claim to be a genuine Real Fascist Bastard and not one of those "so-called" RFBs. Before you could say "Hayek" or "Mises", the chat shows would be full of right-on, or rather left-on, Real Fascist Bastards.
Perhaps then we could call ourselves Liberals again.