Dear Progressives

This open letter is one of two winners from the 2015 ESFL essay contest. See the other contest winner: “Dear Conservatives.”

To My Friends on the Left

There is something incredibly inspiring about caring for others. I share your contempt for the inequities we find within and between countries. It hurts me each time I think about the unnecessary loss of life in the world due to poverty and economic stagnation. I am a classical liberal not because I don’t care for others but because I do. I share your concern for the plight of the poor, I appreciate your desire for change, and I respect your disdain for narrow nationalism and feudalism. It is out of this appreciation that I ask you to come back to your political roots.

At the heart of classical liberalism is the idea that who you are or where you are from doesn’t matter. At the heart of the philosophy is an innate respect for privacy and individual freedom. The liberalism of the 19th century opposed feudalism and aristocracy, rightly believing that the future lay not in ploughing land and plunder but in industry and enterprise. The working classes of Europe, whose lives were barely different from those of the Romans who lived many centuries before them, could finally enjoy the quality of life that the Industrial Revolution brought to them.

The Industrial Revolution conjures up images of dirt and smoke, but seldom does it occur to us what is behind that smoke and dust. Behind the deafening sound of machines and the polluted air of the cities was a production technique that allowed the lowest classes of Western societies to enjoy lives only the royalty could afford in previous centuries. Economic progress led to political liberalism. The idea of democracy we all cherish was born out of these noisy, ugly industrial houses.

There was debate about t…