I moved to the US from Sweden. I became interested in what US liberalism stood for. As soon as I understood I shook my head in disbelief. In my opinion they had totally lost their way. They talked and acted like old school Big Government statists at best and socialists at worst. US Libertarians with a capitol L was not even close to classic liberals, the likes of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill.
Then I found the Responsible Liberalism of former California Governor Pat Brown. In his inaugural speech presented January 5, 1959 he put into words exactly how I felt what a progressive classic liberalism was about. It was not class, racial or gender divisive politics of the poststructuralist left but pragmatism and realism, politics of vision and hope:
The essence of liberalism is a genuine concern and deep respect for all the people. Not monuments or institutions or associations, but people. Not one race, or one creed, or one nationality, but all the people. When people come first and special privilege is scorned, government is truly liberal.
In a liberal atmosphere, the individual stands secure against invasion of his dignity or intrusion on his conscience. He has the right to require justice and fair play, the right to demand protection from economic abuse and selfish threats to his security. At the same time, government must not, in naïve good intention, stifle his initiative or smother his growth. Men must indeed have freedom to breathe the air of self-respect.
A liberal program must also be a responsible program, a reasonable, rational, realistic program. We must know how much it will cost and where the money is coming from. Benefits must be measured against burdens. A program which pampers the people or threatens our solvency is as irresponsible as the one which ignores a vital need. But we will always remember that there is a difference between responsibility and timidity, and we are resolved to be governed more by our hopes than by our fears.