Defining the Two Liberalisms
The other day a young person asked me the meaning of the word “liberal”. I don’t blame him for being confused. It is a term that means just about the opposite – at least in common political usage – of what it did not so many generations ago. And, of course, one must add to this the varying shades of meaning that arise in time, place, and context.
The old tradition of liberalism, which is now commonly called classical liberalism, and which today might best be associated with traditional libertarianism and some strains of the more anti-statist conservatism, grew out of an opposition to the absolutism of the 16th and 17th centuries, especially among the Dutch and English. The proto-libertarian Levellers, dominant in the Parliamentarian forces of the English Civil War, can perhaps be considered the first liberal party. John Locke (the hero of Thomas Jefferson) and the Whigs later followed somewhat in their tradition.
One expert in the history of European liberty wrote that classical liberalism is “the ideology advocating private property, an unhampered market economy, the rule of law, constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and of the press, and international peace based on free trade.” 
The core value to the classical liberal was, as with Locke, the concept of property, ultimately rooted in the belief of self-ownership.
This is all in stark contrast to what has been called social liberalism, but which today (especially in the US) is usually known simply as liberalism or progressivism. Its origins, at least in part, stem from such figures as John Stuart Mill who, in the second half of the nineteenth century, began to promote liberalism as something that could be furthered by the state rather than by individuals or society. So began the drift away from original liberalism.
By 1953 a Senator, Joseph F. Clark, defined a modern liberal as “one who believes in utilizing the full force of government for the advancement of social, political, and economic justice at the municipal, state, national, and international levels…a liberal believes government is a proper tool to use in the development of a society which attempts to carry Christian principles of conduct into practical effect.” 
Clark’s definition still fits even after 60 years, though many liberals today are antagonistic toward Christianity. The utopia they strive for is more humanist than Christian.
In her 1985 preface to Mises’ Liberalism: In the Classical Tradition, Bettina B. Greaves writes that “the term ‘liberalism,’ from the Latin ‘liber’ meaning ‘free,’ referred originally to the philosophy of freedom. It still retained this meaning in Europe when this book was written (1927) so that readers who opened its covers expected an analysis of the freedom philosophy of classical liberalism. Unfortunately, however, in recent decades, ‘liberalism’ has come to mean something very different. The word has been taken over, especially in the United States, by philosophical socialists and used by them to refer to their government intervention and ‘welfare state’ programs.” 
Sometimes in the UK today we hear the phrase “champagne socialists” used to call out some of the more affluent liberals, reinforcing the reality of the liberal-socialist association. But what in more definite terms do classical liberals and modern liberals believe and support?
Modern liberalism tends to support (or lean toward) political correctness, anti-discrimination laws, collectivism, positive “rights” and entitlements, the welfare state, government regulation of the economy, licensing laws, gun control, central planning, political regionalisation and globalisation, taxing the rich more heavily, the idea that government is the solution to a social problem rather than persuasion or the free market, a trust in government more than the private sector, big government and a top-down approach, interventionism, an arbitrary view of government’s source of authority, abortion. Its adherents also tend to see politics as a matter of expedience rather than of universal principles. There is an implicit underlying view that society and government are much the same thing.
Classical liberalism, on the other hand, favours free speech, the right to discriminate, individualism, negative/natural rights, limited government bound by constitution, a free market and the fundamental right to own and control property, deregulation, the right to keep and bear arms, decentralisation of power, national sovereignty, independence, low taxes for all, the free market and society as the best solver of problems, a trust in liberty and its consequences rather than the controls of big government, limited government and a bottom-up approach, non-interventionism both at home and abroad, a strict view of governmental powers only being just where they are specifically and legitimately delegated by the sovereign people, a pro-life view on abortion. Its proponents tend to see politics as founded in the rule of law, no one being above the law, and espouse the idea of a natural law that is superior to and precedes government. There is an implicit view that society and government are separate and distinct.
Of course, it’s important to realise that most people will not fit neatly into one of these two positions – there is a large gap between the two where many will find their views – but hopefully this does give a sense of the distinction which, after all, is the intention of the author of this article.
To learn more about the history of classical liberalism, and its contrast with new social liberalism, I thoroughly recommend Ralph Raico’s article, “What is Classical Liberalism?” https://mises.org/library/what-classical-liberalism
 Professor Ralph Raico, American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia (ISI Books, 2006)
 Atlantic, July 1953, p. 27.
 Bettina B. Greaves, Foundation for Economic Education, 1985 preface to Liberalism: In the Classical Tradition by Ludwig von Mises (1927).