Having recently been exposed in these pages to a dissertation on how to use a dictionary, let us now study the literal meaning of the word "liberal."
In brief, during mid-20th century anti-socialism, the beatnik generation was "where it's at." Their general mania was avant-garde art and jazzed-up music. They gradually faded away in the early 60s. Then came the hippies. They were generally lazy, mooching, LSD-devouring, pot-smoking trespassers and thieves. Their motto was "If it feels good, do it."
They soon morphed into camps of radical anti-government agitators, ever ready to take over a public building or the office of any college dean they didn't like, with demands that laws against illicit drug use and abortion and other "personal space" activities, even capital crimes, be relaxed or eliminated. They were successful mainly due to media exposure of their destructive demonstrations and riots. Because of their belief that people should not be legally constrained in the pursuit of their personal wants, desires or habits, they settled on the description, calling themselves "liberals" - as in liberation from legal restriction.
They hijacked the term from its dictionary meaning, which, incidentally, defined conservative concepts of the 19th century, where classical liberalism viewed government as the opponent of liberty. This new liberalism sees government as being their economic and social benefactor.
But even the use of the term today is behind the curve. For about the past decade they have called themselves "progressives," employing the same tactics with the same objectives - just re-branded.