In the coming presidential campaign, the University of Maine political scientist will be parsing and analyzing the endless stream of speeches, looking for key words and phrases that have to do with the role of individual responsibility in society. In particular, he is focused on the one age-old word that has morphed into an almost four-letter word of innuendo: liberalism.
“Liberalism meant a very different thing (years ago),” says Brewer, who has presented papers on the topic and is working with Syracuse University political scientist Jeffrey Stonecash on a book about the roots of contemporary partisan conflict. “Classical liberals, in many ways, would almost be considered conservatives in contemporary American politics. A classic liberal had a strong respect for the free market and a wariness of government getting involved in that market. The classical liberal placed a heavy emphasis on individual rights and civil liberty protections, but was very wary of the state and wanted a very limited state, at least outside of national defense.” (exerpt from That Four-Letter Word A UMaine political scientist studies the devolution of liberalism by Jessica Bloch published in the Summer 2012 issue of UMaine Today)