I was at a lunch discussion about freedom today, and one point I was trying to make is that practical freedom-rhetoric normally takes the form of populist nationalism rather than either libertarian negative liberty nor progressive positive liberty. This sort of thing is difficult to prove, but I think one way of illustrating it is to look at examples of political party names. Probably the most prominent is Silvio Berlusconi’s People’s for Freedom Party which came into being last year as a result of the merger between his Forza Italia vehicle and Gianfranco Fini’s National Alliance. There’s also Jorg Haider’s Freedom Party in Austria, and Geert Wilders’ Party of Freedom in the Netherlands, both of which are, like the old National Alliance, classic European far-right parties. I believe the Inkatha Freedom Party in South Africa is correctly described as a populist Zulu nationalist party.
The other examples that come to mind are the Freedom Party of Denmark, which is an anti-abortion splinter group formed of defectors from the Christian Democrats.
It’s obviously possible that this is just a coincidence, but I tend to think it’s a reflection of some real facts about the way people process political language. And it’s important for Americans to think about it, because clearly the conservative movement in the United States has both libertarian and populist-nationalist currents, so the international comparison is interesting for the sake of situating the role freedom-talk plays in conservatism.
I note that my view on this matter owes a debt to alternate history writer Harry Turtledove. He has a long series of books in which the Confederacy wins the Civil War in the 1860s. This creates a timeline in which the CSA is aligned with France and Britain and the rump USA aligned with Germany in World War one. The Central Powers win this war, which leads to the Depression-era Confederacy being taken over by a Nazi-like movement led by Jake Featherson called the “Freedom Party.”