D.C. McAllister explains in a Federalist column why it’s important to counter a television correspondent’s clueless assessment of a classical liberal as “a person who supports New Deal economics and social modernity but does not identify as socialist.”

[T]here’s a greater lesson here than good old-fashioned schooling. Those of us who truly value freedom—the very essence of classical liberalism and the opposite of New Deal economics—need to take back language the Left has stolen and corrupted.

Words express ideas, and communicating ideas to change minds is essential to maintaining a free republic. When society is in decline, we bring about social change through debate and clash of ideas, not clash of arms. That’s the hope of every classical liberal.

Because of this, using words to formulate ideas is vital. If we allow those who are anti-freedom to define themselves with a word that at its very core is the opposite, then we have allowed language to corrupt minds. People begin to think social policies that are essentially anti-freedom are actually promoting freedom because they’re created and propagated by “liberals.” Anyone who opposes them must, therefore, be anti-freedom.

“Liberalism” today is erroneously equated with liberty, progress in human development, freedom from oppression, and tolerance. Nothing could be further from the truth, and at the core liberals know it, which is why they refuse to refer to capitalism—the economic cornerstone of classical liberalism—as a liberal system, even though it is the essence of true liberalism.