A number of blogs recently published James Burnham's list (from his 1964 book "The Suicide of the West") of questions that determine whether one is a "liberal" or not (in 1960's terms, of course). It's a very interesting list, not least because today's understanding of a political "liberal" is rather different from that of half a century ago. Burnham wrote:
A full-blown liberal will mark every one, or very nearly every one, of these thirty-nine sentences, Agree. A convinced conservative will mark many or most of them, a reactionary all or nearly all of them, Disagree.
By giving this test to a variety of groups, I have confirmed experimentally what is obvious enough from ordinary discourse, that the result is seldom an even balance between Agree and Disagree. The correlations are especially stable for individuals who are prepared to identify themselves unequivocally as either ’liberal’ or ’reactionary’: such self-defined liberals almost never drop below 85 percent of Agree answers, or self-defined reactionaries below 85 percent of Disagree; a perfect 100 percent is common. Certain types of self-styled conservatives yield almost as high a Disagree percentage as the admitted reactionaries. The answers of those who regard themselves as ’moderate conservatives’ or ’traditional conservatives’ and of the rather small number of persons who pretend to no general opinions about public matters show considerably more variation. But in general the responses from this list of thirty-nine sentences indicate that a liberal line can be drawn somewhere ... and that most persons fall fairly definitely (though not in equal numbers) on one side of it or the other.
These sentences were not devised arbitrarily. Many of them are taken directly or adapted from the writings of well-known liberals, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, or liberal questionnaires that have been put out in recent years by the American Civil Liberties Union. The last eight are quoted verbatim from the United Nations’ ’Universal Declarations of Human Rights,’ adopted in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly.
Courtesy of a New Criterion article from 2003, here's Burnham's list of questions.
1. All forms of racial segregation and discrimination are wrong.
2. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion.
3. Everyone has a right to free, public education.
4. Political, economic or social discrimination based on religious belief is wrong.
5. In political or military conflict it is wrong to use methods of torture and physical terror.
6. A popular movement or revolt against a tyranny or dictatorship is right, and deserves approval.
7. The government has a duty to provide for the ill, aged, unemployed and poor if they cannot take care of themselves.
8. Progressive income and inheritance taxes are the fairest form of taxation.
9. If reasonable compensation is made, the government of a nation has the legal and moral right to expropriate private property within its borders, whether owned by citizens or foreigners.
10. We have a duty to mankind; that is, to men in general.
11. The United Nations, even if limited in accomplishment, is a step in the right direction.
12. Any interference with free speech and free assembly, except for cases of immediate public danger or juvenile corruption, is wrong.
13. Wealthy nations, like the United States, have a duty to aid the less privileged portions of mankind.
14. Colonialism and imperialism are wrong.
15. Hotels, motels, stores and restaurants in southern United States ought to be obliged by law to allow Negroes to use all of their facilities on the same basis as whites.
16. The chief sources of delinquency and crime are ignorance, discrimination, poverty and exploitation.
17. Communists have a right to express their opinions.
18. We should always be ready to negotiate with the Soviet Union and other communist nations.
19. Corporal punishment, except possibly for small children, is wrong.
20. All nations and peoples, including the nations and peoples of Asia and Africa, have a right to political independence when a majority of the population wants it.
21. We always ought to respect the religious beliefs of others.
22. The primary goal of international policy in the nuclear age ought to be peace.
23. Except in cases of a clear threat to national security or, possibly, to juvenile morals, censorship is wrong.
24. Congressional investigating committees are dangerous institutions, and need to be watched and curbed if they are not to become a serious threat to freedom.
25. The money amount of school and university scholarships ought to be decided primarily by need.
26. Qualified teachers, at least at the university level, are entitled to academic freedom: that is, the right to express their own beliefs and opinions, in or out of the classroom, without interference from administrators, trustees, parents or public bodies.
27. In determining who is to be admitted to schools and universities, quota systems based on color, religion, family or similar factors are wrong.
28. The national government should guarantee that all adult citizens, except for criminals and the insane, should have the right to vote.
29. Joseph McCarthy was probably the most dangerous man in American public life during the fifteen years following the Second World War.
30. There are no significant differences in intellectual, moral or civilizing capacity among human races and ethnic types.
31. Steps toward world disarmament would be a good thing.
32. Everyone is entitled to political and social rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
33. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and expression.
34. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
35. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.
36. Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security.
37. Everyone has the right to equal pay for equal work.
38. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions.
39. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
So, dear readers, how do you score?