A great question that Ben Shapiro addresses here: Ben Shapiro : What Happened to Liberalism? – Townhall.com.
In particular, I like his discussion of how John Steinbeck, once considered a serious voice for liberalism, has been marginalized because he refused to go along with the dismantling of all moral barriers and disparaging of patriotism so popular amongst 60s liberals and their intellectual progeny:
Whereas today’s liberal spokespeople have been infected by a virulent anti-Americanism that sees all businessmen as profiteers and all public workers as saints, Steinbeck was a patriot. He worried about the lack of kindness he saw in his fellow men, particularly the willingness to cut corners to make a buck — but at the same time, he saw the virtue of freedom.
In 1960, Steinbeck wrote a piece in Newsday magazine in which he explained his view of morality. “[It’s] very clear that peoples are strong when they are moral in the sense that the good of the group or the nation takes precedence over the selfish good of the individual. And we know from many examples of the past that when this is reversed and the individual raids the public good for his own purposes, the laws of decay have set in.” In short, a nation comprised of a group of individuals governed by a common morality is stronger than an agglomeration of atomistic individuals acting solely for their own benefit.
Steinbeck’s brand of liberalism made political debate a real possibility. After all, conservatives agree that men are neither angels nor devils, and that not everyone will behave with the same honor as an Ayn Rand-ian hero. Steinbeck’s solution to the problem of “immorality” was not necessarily more government, but better men in government, and not necessarily more regulation, but more self-regulation. (emph. added) Communal standards were important, but there was no guarantee that government would be the best judge of communal standards. As Steinbeck wrote shortly before his death, “It is our national conviction that politics is a dirty, tricky and dishonest pursuit and that all politicians are crooks. The reason for this attitude is fairly obvious — we have had cynical and dishonest officials on all levels of our government.”
Yet now we are continually bombarded with the idea that government is the answer to everything! People who maintain this have obviously not paid much attention to…oh…4500 years of recorded history. The main thing that more government brings is more oppressive government!
To quote Ben Franklin: “Those who would trade liberty for security will have neither”