'Liberals' from Planned Societies to a Lust for Laws - Ayn Rand

In the 1930’s, the “liberals had a program of broad social reforms and a crusading spirit, they advocated a planned society, they talked in terms of abstract principles, they propounded theories of a predominantly socialistic nature—and most of them were touchy about the accusation that they were enlarging the government’s power; most of them were assuring their opponents that government power was only a temporary means to an end—a “noble end,” the liberation of the individual from his bondage to material needs.

The goal of the “liberals”—as it emerges from the record of the past decades—was to smuggle this country into welfare statism by means of single, concrete, specific measures, enlarging the power of the government a step at a time, never permitting these steps to be summed up into principles, never permitting their direction to be identified or the basic issue to be named. Thus statism was to come, not by vote or by violence, but by slow rot—by a long process of evasion and epistemological corruption, leading to a fait accompli. (The goal of the “conservatives” was only to retard that process.)
Today, nobody talks of a planned society in the “liberal” camp; long-range programs, theories, principles, abstractions, and “noble ends” are not fashionable any longer. Modern “liberals” deride any political concern with such large-scale matters as an entire society or an economy as a whole; they concern themselves with single, concrete-bound, range-of-the-moment projects and demands, without regard to cost, context, or consequences.
Pragmatic”—not “idealistic”—is their favorite adjective when they are called upon to justify their “stance,” as they call it, not “stand.” They are militantly opposed to political philosophy; they denounce political concepts as “tags,” “labels,” “myths,” “illusions”—and resist any attempt to “label”—i.e., to identify—their own views.
They are belligerently anti-theoretical and—with a faded mantle of intellectuality still clinging to their shoulders—they are anti-intellectual. The only remnant of their former “idealism” is a tired, cynical, ritualistic quoting of shopworn “humanitarian” slogans, when the occasion demands it.
Cynicism, uncertainty, and fear are the insignia of the culture which they are still dominating by default. And the only thing that has not rusted in their ideological equipment, but has grown savagely brighter and clearer through the years, is their lust for power—for an autocratic, statist, totalitarian government power.
It is not a crusading brightness, it is not the lust of a fanatic with a mission—it is more like the glassy-eyed brightness of a somnambulist whose stuporous despair has long since swallowed the memory of his purpose, but who still clings to his mystic weapon in the stubborn belief that “there ought to be a law,” that everything will be all right if only somebody will pass a law, that every problem can be solved by the magic power of brute force.

The majority of those who are loosely identified by the term “liberals” are afraid to let themselves discover that what they advocate is statism. They do not want to accept the full meaning of their goal; they want to keep all the advantages and effects of capitalism, while destroying the cause, and they want to establish statism without its necessary effects. They do not want to know or to admit that they are the champions of dictatorship and slavery.

from “Credibility and Polarization,” The Ayn Rand Letters