Liberalism

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Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty
Liberty
Liberty is a moral and political principle, or Right, that identifies the condition in which human beings are able to govern themselves, to behave according to their own free will, and take responsibility for their actions...

 and equal rights
Equal rights
Equal rights can refer to:*Equality before the law, when all people have the same rights*Human rights, when such rights are held in common by all people*Civil rights, when such rights are held in common by all citizens of a nation...

. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism
Constitutionalism
Constitutionalism has a variety of meanings. Most generally, it is "a complex of ideas, attitudes, and patterns of behavior elaborating the principle that the authority of government derives from and is limited by a body of fundamental law"....

, liberal democracy
Liberal democracy
Liberal democracy, also known as constitutional democracy, is a common form of representative democracy. According to the principles of liberal democracy, elections should be free and fair, and the political process should be competitive...

, free and fair elections, human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

, capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

, and freedom of religion
Freedom of religion
Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance; the concept is generally recognized also to include the freedom to change religion or not to follow any...

. These ideas are widely accepted, even by political groups that do not openly profess a liberal ideological orientation
Political spectrum
A political spectrum is a way of modeling different political positions by placing them upon one or more geometric axes symbolizing independent political dimensions....

. Liberalism encompasses several intellectual trends and traditions, but the dominant variants are classical liberalism
Classical liberalism
Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets....

, which became popular in the eighteenth century, and social liberalism
Social liberalism
Social liberalism is the belief that liberalism should include social justice. It differs from classical liberalism in that it believes the legitimate role of the state includes addressing economic and social issues such as unemployment, health care, and education while simultaneously expanding...

, which became popular in the twentieth century. Classical liberalism
Classical liberalism
Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets....

 is centred on the concept of negative freedom (freedom from harm), where social liberalism
Social liberalism
Social liberalism is the belief that liberalism should include social justice. It differs from classical liberalism in that it believes the legitimate role of the state includes addressing economic and social issues such as unemployment, health care, and education while simultaneously expanding...

 is centred on the broader concept of positive freedom (freedom to develop). It is now argued that in the twenty-first century there is an emerging new liberalism
New liberalism
New Liberalism is a book by Matthew Kalkman that examines the evolution of Liberalism from its early beginnings to its potential future incarnations. The author argues that New Liberalism is the next step in this evolution: the notion that, in order for a society to be maintained and to evolve, it...

 that is centred on the concept of timeless freedom (ensuring the freedom of future generations through proactive action taken today). This is an idea that has been endorsed by the President of Liberal International
Liberal International
Liberal International is a political international federation for liberal parties. Its headquarters is located at 1 Whitehall Place, London, SW1A 2HD within the National Liberal Club. It was founded in Oxford in 1947, and has become the pre-eminent network for liberal parties and for the...

 Hans van Baalen
Hans van Baalen
Johannes Cornelis "Hans" van Baalen is a Dutch politician of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy . He has been a Member of the European Parliament for the Netherlands since July 14, 2009. He was a Member of the House of Representatives from September 28, 1999 until May 23, 2002 and from...

.

Liberalism first became a powerful force in the Age of Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

, rejecting several foundational assumptions that dominated most earlier theories of government, such as nobility
Nobility
Nobility is a social class which possesses more acknowledged privileges or eminence than members of most other classes in a society, membership therein typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be...

, established religion
State religion
A state religion is a religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state...

, absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy is a monarchical form of government in which the monarch exercises ultimate governing authority as head of state and head of government, his or her power not being limited by a constitution or by the law. An absolute monarch thus wields unrestricted political power over the...

, and the Divine Right of Kings
Divine Right of Kings
The divine right of kings or divine-right theory of kingship is a political and religious doctrine of royal and political legitimacy. It asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving his right to rule directly from the will of God...

. The early liberal thinker John Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

, who is often credited for the creation of liberalism as a distinct philosophical tradition, employed the concept of natural rights
Natural rights
Natural and legal rights are two types of rights theoretically distinct according to philosophers and political scientists. Natural rights are rights not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government, and therefore universal and inalienable...

 and the social contract
Social contract
The social contract is an intellectual device intended to explain the appropriate relationship between individuals and their governments. Social contract arguments assert that individuals unite into political societies by a process of mutual consent, agreeing to abide by common rules and accept...

 to argue that the rule of law
Rule of law
The rule of law, sometimes called supremacy of law, is a legal maxim that says that governmental decisions should be made by applying known principles or laws with minimal discretion in their application...

 should replace absolutism
Absolutism (European history)
Absolutism or The Age of Absolutism is a historiographical term used to describe a form of monarchical power that is unrestrained by all other institutions, such as churches, legislatures, or social elites...

 in government, that rulers were subject to the consent of the governed
Consent of the governed
"Consent of the governed" is a phrase synonymous with a political theory wherein a government's legitimacy and moral right to use state power is only justified and legal when derived from the people or society over which that political power is exercised...

, and that private individuals had a fundamental right to life, liberty, and property
Private property
Private property is the right of persons and firms to obtain, own, control, employ, dispose of, and bequeath land, capital, and other forms of property. Private property is distinguishable from public property, which refers to assets owned by a state, community or government rather than by...

.

The revolutionaries in the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

 and the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 used liberal philosophy to justify the armed overthrow of tyrannical rule. The nineteenth century saw liberal governments established in nations across Europe
Liberalism in Europe
In general, liberalism in Europe is a political movement that supports a broad tradition of individual liberties and constitutionally-limited and democratically accountable government...

, Latin America
Liberalism and conservatism in Latin America
Liberalism and conservatism in Latin America have unique historical roots. Latin American independence began to occur in 1808 after the French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars that eventually engulfed all of Europe. French revolutionaries in the 1790s began an intellectual awakening...

, and North America
Liberalism in the United States
Liberalism in the United States is a broad political philosophy centered on the unalienable rights of the individual. The fundamental liberal ideals of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion for all belief systems, and the separation of church and state, right to due process...

. Liberal ideas spread even further in the twentieth century, when liberal democracies triumphed in two world wars and survived major ideological challenges from fascism
Fascism
Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity, in which individuals are bound together in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood...

 and communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

. Today, liberalism
Liberal Party
Liberal Party is the name for dozens of political parties around the world. Liberal parties can be center-left, centrist, or center-right depending on their location...

 in its many forms remains as a political force to varying degrees of power and influence on all major continents
Liberalism worldwide
This article gives information on liberalism in diverse countries around the world. It is an overview of parties that adhere more or less to the ideas of political liberalism and is therefore a list of liberal parties around the world....

.

Etymology and definition


Words such as liberal, liberty
Liberty
Liberty is a moral and political principle, or Right, that identifies the condition in which human beings are able to govern themselves, to behave according to their own free will, and take responsibility for their actions...

, libertarian
Libertarianism
Libertarianism, in the strictest sense, is the political philosophy that holds individual liberty as the basic moral principle of society. In the broadest sense, it is any political philosophy which approximates this view...

, and libertine
Libertine
A libertine is one devoid of most moral restraints, which are seen as unnecessary or undesirable, especially one who ignores or even spurns accepted morals and forms of behavior sanctified by the larger society. Libertines, also known as rakes, placed value on physical pleasures, meaning those...

all trace their history to the Latin liber, which means "free". One of the first recorded instances of the word liberal occurs in 1375, when it was used to describe the liberal arts
Liberal arts
The term liberal arts refers to those subjects which in classical antiquity were considered essential for a free citizen to study. Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic were the core liberal arts. In medieval times these subjects were extended to include mathematics, geometry, music and astronomy...

. The word's early connection with the classical education of a medieval university soon gave way to a proliferation of different denotations and connotations. Liberal could refer to "free in bestowing" as early as 1387, "made without stint" in 1433, "freely permitted" in 1530, and "free from restraint"—often as a pejorative remark—in the 16th and the 17th centuries.

In 16th century England
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

, liberal could have positive or negative attributes in referring to someone's generosity or indiscretion. In Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy written by William Shakespeare about two pairs of lovers, Benedick and Beatrice, and Claudio and Hero....

, Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 wrote of "a liberal villaine" who "hath...confest his vile encounters". With the rise of the Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

, the word acquired decisively more positive undertones, being defined as "free from narrow prejudice" in 1781 and "free from bigotry" in 1823. In 1815, the first use of the word liberalism appeared in English. By the middle of the 19th century, liberal started to be used as a politicized term for parties and movements
Liberal Party
Liberal Party is the name for dozens of political parties around the world. Liberal parties can be center-left, centrist, or center-right depending on their location...

 all over the world.

History



The history of liberalism spans the better part of the last four centuries, beginning in the English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

 and continuing after the end of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

. Liberalism started as a major doctrine and intellectual endeavour in response to the religious wars
European wars of religion
The European wars of religion were a series of wars waged in Europe from ca. 1524 to 1648, following the onset of the Protestant Reformation in Western and Northern Europe...

 gripping Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, although the historical context for the ascendancy of liberalism goes back to the Middle Ages. The first notable incarnation of liberal unrest came with the American Revolution, and liberalism fully flowered as a comprehensive movement against the old order during the French Revolution, which set the pace for the future development of human history.

Classical liberals
Classical liberalism
Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets....

, who broadly emphasized the importance of free market
Free market
A free market is a competitive market where prices are determined by supply and demand. However, the term is also commonly used for markets in which economic intervention and regulation by the state is limited to tax collection, and enforcement of private ownership and contracts...

s and civil liberties
Civil liberties
Civil liberties are rights and freedoms that provide an individual specific rights such as the freedom from slavery and forced labour, freedom from torture and death, the right to liberty and security, right to a fair trial, the right to defend one's self, the right to own and bear arms, the right...

, dominated liberal history for a century after the French Revolution. The onset of the First World War and the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

, however, accelerated the trends begun in late 19th century Britain towards a "new liberalism
Social liberalism
Social liberalism is the belief that liberalism should include social justice. It differs from classical liberalism in that it believes the legitimate role of the state includes addressing economic and social issues such as unemployment, health care, and education while simultaneously expanding...

" (social liberalism) that emphasized a greater role for the state in ameliorating societal ills. By the beginning of the 21st century, liberal democracies
Liberal democracy
Liberal democracy, also known as constitutional democracy, is a common form of representative democracy. According to the principles of liberal democracy, elections should be free and fair, and the political process should be competitive...

 and their fundamental characteristics—support for constitutions, civil rights and individual liberties, pluralistic society, and the welfare state
Welfare state
A welfare state is a "concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those...

—were widespread in most regions around the world.

Inception to revolution


The emergence of the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 in the 15th century helped to weaken unquestioning submission to the institutions of the Middle Ages by reinvigorating interest in science and in the classical world
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

. In the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 developed from sentiments that viewed the Catholic Church as an oppressive ruling order too involved in the feudal
Feudalism
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

 and baronial structure of European society. The Church launched a Counter Reformation
Counter-Reformation
The Counter-Reformation was the period of Catholic revival beginning with the Council of Trent and ending at the close of the Thirty Years' War, 1648 as a response to the Protestant Reformation.The Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort, composed of four major elements:#Ecclesiastical or...

 to contain these bubbling sentiments, but the effort unraveled in the Thirty Years War
Thirty Years' War
The Thirty Years' War was fought primarily in what is now Germany, and at various points involved most countries in Europe. It was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history....

 of the 17th century. In England
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

, a civil war
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

 led to the execution of King Charles I
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

 in 1649. Parliament ultimately succeeded—with the Glorious Revolution
Glorious Revolution
The Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, is the overthrow of King James II of England by a union of English Parliamentarians with the Dutch stadtholder William III of Orange-Nassau...

 of 1688—in establishing a limited and constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

. The main facets of early liberal ideology emerged from these events, and historians Colton and Palmer
Robert Roswell Palmer
Robert Roswell Palmer , commonly known as R. R. Palmer, was a distinguished American historian at Princeton and Yale universities, who specialized in eighteenth-century France...

 characterize the period in the following light:
The early messenger for that movement was the English philosopher John Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

, frequently identified as the Father of Liberalism, whose Two Treatises
Two Treatises of Government
The Two Treatises of Government is a work of political philosophy published anonymously in 1689 by John Locke...

(1690) established the liberal idea that government acquires consent to rule from the governed, not from supernatural authorities. The intellectual journey of liberalism continued beyond Locke with the Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

, a period of profound intellectual vitality that questioned old traditions and influenced several monarchies throughout the 18th century. The ideas circulating in the Enlightenment had a powerful impact in North America and in France.

The American colonies
Thirteen Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...

 had been loyal British subjects for decades, but they declared independence
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

 from rule under the monarchy in 1776 as a result of their dissatisfaction with lack of representation in the governing parliament
Parliament of Great Britain
The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland...

 overseas, which manifested itself most directly and dramatically through taxation policies
No taxation without representation
"No taxation without representation" is a slogan originating during the 1750s and 1760s that summarized a primary grievance of the British colonists in the Thirteen Colonies, which was one of the major causes of the American Revolution...

 that colonists considered a violation of their constitutionally guaranteed rights as Englishmen
Rights of Englishmen
The rights of Englishmen are the perceived traditional rights of British subjects. The notion refers to various constitutional documents that were created throughout various stages of English history, such as Magna Carta, the Declaration of Right , and others...

. The American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

 was primarily a civil and political matter at first, but escalated to military engagements
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 in 1775 that were largely complete by 1781. The 1776 United States Declaration of Independence
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

 drew upon liberal ideas of unalienable rights to demonstrate the tyranny of the British monarchy, and justify a complete denial of its legitimacy and authority
Authority
The word Authority is derived mainly from the Latin word auctoritas, meaning invention, advice, opinion, influence, or command. In English, the word 'authority' can be used to mean power given by the state or by academic knowledge of an area .-Authority in Philosophy:In...

, leading to the creation of a self-determining
Self-determination
Self-determination is the principle in international law that nations have the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status with no external compulsion or external interference...

 and sovereign
Sovereign
A sovereign is the supreme lawmaking authority within its jurisdiction.Sovereign may also refer to:*Monarch, the sovereign of a monarchy*Sovereign Bank, banking institution in the United States*Sovereign...

 new nation. After the war, the new nation held a Constitutional Convention
Philadelphia Convention
The Constitutional Convention took place from May 14 to September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to address problems in governing the United States of America, which had been operating under the Articles of Confederation following independence from...

 in 1787 to resolve the problems stemming from the first attempt at a confederated
Confederation
A confederation in modern political terms is a permanent union of political units for common action in relation to other units. Usually created by treaty but often later adopting a common constitution, confederations tend to be established for dealing with critical issues such as defense, foreign...

 national government under the Articles of Confederation
Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation, formally the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, was an agreement among the 13 founding states that legally established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states and served as its first constitution...

. The resulting Constitution of the United States settled on a republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

 with a federal
Federation
A federation , also known as a federal state, is a type of sovereign state characterized by a union of partially self-governing states or regions united by a central government...

 structure. The United States Bill of Rights
United States Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights is the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. These limitations serve to protect the natural rights of liberty and property. They guarantee a number of personal freedoms, limit the government's power in judicial and other proceedings, and...

 quickly followed in 1789, which guaranteed certain natural rights
Natural rights
Natural and legal rights are two types of rights theoretically distinct according to philosophers and political scientists. Natural rights are rights not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government, and therefore universal and inalienable...

 fundamental to liberal ideals. The American Revolution predicated a series of drastic socio-political changes across nations and continents, collectively referred to as the "Atlantic Revolutions
Atlantic Revolutions
"Atlantic Revolutions" is a cover term for a wave of late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century revolutions associated with Atlantic history during the The Age of Enlightenment.* Corsican Revolution * American Revolution...

", of which the most famous is probably the French Revolution.

French Revolution



Three years into the French Revolution, German writer Johann von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...

 reportedly told the defeated Prussian soldiers after the Battle of Valmy
Battle of Valmy
The Battle of Valmy was the first major victory by the army of France during the French Revolution. The action took place on 20 September 1792 as Prussian troops commanded by the Duke of Brunswick attempted to march on Paris...

 that "from this place and from this time forth commences a new era in world history, and you can all say that you were present at its birth". Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history, and the onset of the Revolution in 1789 is considered by some to mark the end of the early modern period
Early modern period
In history, the early modern period of modern history follows the late Middle Ages. Although the chronological limits of the period are open to debate, the timeframe spans the period after the late portion of the Middle Ages through the beginning of the Age of Revolutions...

.

The French Revolution is often seen as marking the "dawn of the modern era
Modern history
Modern history, or the modern era, describes the historical timeline after the Middle Ages. Modern history can be further broken down into the early modern period and the late modern period after the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution...

," and its convulsions are widely associated with "the triumph of liberalism". For liberals, the Revolution was their defining moment, and later liberals approved of the French Revolution almost entirely—"not only its results but the act itself," as two historians noted. The French Revolution began in May 1789 with the convocation of the Estates-General
Estates-General of 1789
The Estates-General of 1789 was the first meeting since 1614 of the French Estates-General, a general assembly representing the French estates of the realm: the nobility, the Church, and the common people...

. The first year of the Revolution witnessed, among other major events, the Storming of the Bastille
Storming of the Bastille
The storming of the Bastille occurred in Paris on the morning of 14 July 1789. The medieval fortress and prison in Paris known as the Bastille represented royal authority in the centre of Paris. While the prison only contained seven inmates at the time of its storming, its fall was the flashpoint...

 in July and the passage of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is a fundamental document of the French Revolution, defining the individual and collective rights of all the estates of the realm as universal. Influenced by the doctrine of "natural right", the rights of man are held to be universal: valid...

 in August.

The next few years were dominated by tensions between various liberal assemblies
The Legislative Assembly and the fall of the French monarchy
The French Revolution was a period in the history of France covering the years 1789 to 1799, in which republicans overthrew the Bourbon monarchy and the Roman Catholic Church perforce underwent radical restructuring...

 and a conservative
Conservatism
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism...

 monarchy intent on thwarting major reforms. A republic was proclaimed in September 1792. External conflict
French Revolutionary Wars
The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of major conflicts, from 1792 until 1802, fought between the French Revolutionary government and several European states...

 and internal squabbling significantly radicalized the Revolution, culminating in the brutal Reign of Terror
Reign of Terror
The Reign of Terror , also known simply as The Terror , was a period of violence that occurred after the onset of the French Revolution, incited by conflict between rival political factions, the Girondins and the Jacobins, and marked by mass executions of "enemies of...

. After the fall of Robespierre
Maximilien Robespierre
Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre is one of the best-known and most influential figures of the French Revolution. He largely dominated the Committee of Public Safety and was instrumental in the period of the Revolution commonly known as the Reign of Terror, which ended with his...

 and the Jacobins
Jacobin (politics)
A Jacobin , in the context of the French Revolution, was a member of the Jacobin Club, a revolutionary far-left political movement. The Jacobin Club was the most famous political club of the French Revolution. So called from the Dominican convent where they originally met, in the Rue St. Jacques ,...

, the Directory
French Directory
The Directory was a body of five Directors that held executive power in France following the Convention and preceding the Consulate...

 assumed control of the French state in 1795 and held power until 1799, when it was replaced by the Consulate
French Consulate
The Consulate was the government of France between the fall of the Directory in the coup of 18 Brumaire in 1799 until the start of the Napoleonic Empire in 1804...

 under Napoleon Bonaparte.

Napoleon ruled as First Consul for about five years, centralizing power and streamlining the bureaucracy along the way. The Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

, pitting the heirs of a revolutionary state against the old monarchies of Europe, started in 1805 and lasted for a decade. Along with their boots and Charleville musket
Charleville musket
The Charleville muskets were .69 caliber French muskets used in the 18th century.- History :Marin le Bourgeoys created the first true flintlock weapons for King Louis XIII shortly after his accession to the throne in 1610. Throughout the 17th century, flintlock muskets were produced in a wide...

s, French soldiers brought to the rest of the European continent the liquidation of the feudal system
Feudalism
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

, the liberalization of property law
Property law
Property law is the area of law that governs the various forms of ownership in real property and in personal property, within the common law legal system. In the civil law system, there is a division between movable and immovable property...

s, the end of seigneurial dues
Manorialism
Manorialism, an essential element of feudal society, was the organizing principle of rural economy that originated in the villa system of the Late Roman Empire, was widely practiced in medieval western and parts of central Europe, and was slowly replaced by the advent of a money-based market...

, the abolition of guild
Guild
A guild is an association of craftsmen in a particular trade. The earliest types of guild were formed as confraternities of workers. They were organized in a manner something between a trade union, a cartel, and a secret society...

s, the legalization of divorce
Divorce
Divorce is the final termination of a marital union, canceling the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage and dissolving the bonds of matrimony between the parties...

, the disintegration of Jewish ghettos
Ghetto
A ghetto is a section of a city predominantly occupied by a group who live there, especially because of social, economic, or legal issues.The term was originally used in Venice to describe the area where Jews were compelled to live. The term now refers to an overcrowded urban area often associated...

, the collapse of the Inquisition
Spanish Inquisition
The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition , commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition , was a tribunal established in 1480 by Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. It was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms, and to replace the Medieval...

, the permanent destruction of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

, the elimination of church courts and religious authority, the establishment of the metric system
Metric system
The metric system is an international decimalised system of measurement. France was first to adopt a metric system, in 1799, and a metric system is now the official system of measurement, used in almost every country in the world...

, and equality under the law
Equality before the law
Equality before the law or equality under the law or legal egalitarianism is the principle under which each individual is subject to the same laws....

 for all men. Napoleon wrote that "the peoples of Germany, as of France, Italy and Spain, want equality and liberal ideas," with some historians suggesting that he may have been the first person ever to use the word liberal in a political sense. He also governed through a method that one historian described as "civilian dictatorship," which "drew its legitimacy from direct consultation with the people, in the form of a plebiscite". Napoleon did not always live up the liberal ideals he espoused, however. His most lasting achievement, the Civil Code
Napoleonic code
The Napoleonic Code — or Code Napoléon — is the French civil code, established under Napoléon I in 1804. The code forbade privileges based on birth, allowed freedom of religion, and specified that government jobs go to the most qualified...

, served as "an object of emulation all over the globe," but it also perpetuated further discrimination against women under the banner of the "natural order". The First Empire
First French Empire
The First French Empire , also known as the Greater French Empire or Napoleonic Empire, was the empire of Napoleon I of France...

 eventually collapsed in 1815, but this period of chaos and revolution introduced the world to a new movement and ideology that would soon crisscross the globe.

Children of revolution



Liberals in the 19th century wanted to develop a world free from government intervention, or at least free from too much government intervention. They championed the ideal of negative liberty
Negative liberty
Negative liberty is defined as freedom from interference by other people, and is set in contrast to positive liberty, which is defined as an individual's freedom from inhibitions of the social structure within the society such as classism, sexism or racism and is primarily concerned with the...

, which constitutes the absence of coercion and the absence of external constraints. They believed governments were cumbersome burdens and they wanted governments to stay out of the lives of individuals. Liberals simultaneously pushed for the expansion of civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

 and for the expansion of free market
Free market
A free market is a competitive market where prices are determined by supply and demand. However, the term is also commonly used for markets in which economic intervention and regulation by the state is limited to tax collection, and enforcement of private ownership and contracts...

s and free trade
Free trade
Under a free trade policy, prices emerge from supply and demand, and are the sole determinant of resource allocation. 'Free' trade differs from other forms of trade policy where the allocation of goods and services among trading countries are determined by price strategies that may differ from...

. The latter kind of economic thinking had been formalized by Adam Smith
Adam Smith
Adam Smith was a Scottish social philosopher and a pioneer of political economy. One of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, Smith is the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations...

 in his monumental Wealth of Nations (1776), which revolutionized the field of economics and established the "invisible hand" of the free market as a self-regulating mechanism that did not depend on external interference. Sheltered by liberalism, the laissez-faire
Laissez-faire
In economics, laissez-faire describes an environment in which transactions between private parties are free from state intervention, including restrictive regulations, taxes, tariffs and enforced monopolies....

economic world of the 19th century emerged with full tenacity, particularly in the United States and in the United Kingdom.

Politically, liberals saw the 19th century as a gateway to achieving the promises of 1789. In Spain, the Liberales
Liberalism and radicalism in Spain
This article gives an overview of liberalism and radicalism in Spain. It is limited to liberal and radical parties with substantial support, mainly proved by having been represented in parliament. The sign ⇒ denotes another party in that scheme...

, the first group to use the liberal label in a political context, fought for the implementation of the 1812 Constitution
Spanish Constitution of 1812
The Spanish Constitution of 1812 was promulgated 19 March 1812 by the Cádiz Cortes, the national legislative assembly of Spain, while in refuge from the Peninsular War...

 for decades—overthrowing the monarchy in 1820 as part of the Trienio Liberal and defeating
First Carlist War
The First Carlist War was a civil war in Spain from 1833-1839.-Historical background:At the beginning of the 18th century, Philip V, the first Bourbon king of Spain, promulgated the Salic Law, which declared illegal the inheritance of the Spanish crown by women...

 the conservative Carlists in the 1830s. In France, the July Revolution of 1830
July Revolution
The French Revolution of 1830, also known as the July Revolution or in French, saw the overthrow of King Charles X of France, the French Bourbon monarch, and the ascent of his cousin Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans, who himself, after 18 precarious years on the throne, would in turn be overthrown...

, orchestrated by liberal politicians and journalists, removed the Bourbon monarchy and inspired similar uprisings elsewhere in Europe.

Frustration with the pace of political progress, however, sparked even more gigantic revolutions in 1848
Revolutions of 1848
The European Revolutions of 1848, known in some countries as the Spring of Nations, Springtime of the Peoples or the Year of Revolution, were a series of political upheavals throughout Europe in 1848. It was the first Europe-wide collapse of traditional authority, but within a year reactionary...

. Revolutions spread throughout the Austrian Empire, the German states, and the Italian states. Governments fell rapidly. Liberal nationalists demanded written constitutions, representative assemblies, greater suffrage rights, and freedom of the press. A second republic
French Second Republic
The French Second Republic was the republican government of France between the 1848 Revolution and the coup by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte which initiated the Second Empire. It officially adopted the motto Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité...

 was proclaimed in France. Serfdom was abolished in Prussia, Galicia, Bohemia, and Hungary. Metternich shocked Europe when he resigned and fled to Britain in panic and disguise.

Eventually, however, the success of the revolutionaries petered out. Without French help, the Italians were easily defeated
First Italian War of Independence
The First Italian War of Independence was fought in 1848 between the Kingdom of Sardinia and the Austrian Empire. The war saw main battles at Custoza and Novara in which the Austrians under Radetzky managed to defeat the Piedmontese....

 by the Austrians. Austria also managed to contain the bubbling nationalist sentiments in Germany and Hungary, helped along by the failure of the Frankfurt Assembly to unify the German states into a single nation. Under abler leadership, however, the Italians and the Germans wound up realizing their dreams for independence. The Sardinian Prime Minister, Camillo di Cavour, was a shrewd liberal who understood that the only effective way for the Italians to gain independence was if the French were on their side. Napoleon III
Napoleon III of France
Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was the President of the French Second Republic and as Napoleon III, the ruler of the Second French Empire. He was the nephew and heir of Napoleon I, christened as Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte...

 agreed to Cavour's request for assistance and France defeated Austria in the Franco-Austrian War
Second Italian War of Independence
The Second War of Italian Independence, Franco-Austrian War, Austro-Sardinian War, or Austro-Piedmontese War , was fought by Napoleon III of France and the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia against the Austrian Empire in 1859...

 of 1859, setting the stage for Italian independence. German unification transpired under the leadership of Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck
Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg , simply known as Otto von Bismarck, was a Prussian-German statesman whose actions unified Germany, made it a major player in world affairs, and created a balance of power that kept Europe at peace after 1871.As Minister President of...

, who decimated the enemies of Prussia in war after war, finally triumphing against France
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

 in 1871 and proclaiming the German Empire in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, ending another saga in the drive for nationalization. The French proclaimed a third republic
French Third Republic
The French Third Republic was the republican government of France from 1870, when the Second French Empire collapsed due to the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, to 1940, when France was overrun by Nazi Germany during World War II, resulting in the German and Italian occupations of France...

 after their loss in the war, and the rest of French history transpired under republican eyes.

Just a few decades after the French Revolution, liberalism went global. The liberal and conservative struggles in Spain also replicated themselves in Latin American countries like Mexico and Ecuador. From 1857 to 1861, Mexico was gripped in the bloody War of Reform
Reform War
The Reform War in Mexico is one of the episodes of the long struggle between Liberal and Conservative forces that dominated the country’s history in the 19th century. The Liberals wanted a federalist government, limiting traditional Catholic Church and military influence in the country...

, a massive internal and ideological confrontation between the liberals and the conservatives. The liberal triumph there parallels with the situation in Ecuador. Similar to other nations throughout the region at the time, Ecuador was steeped in turmoil, with the people divided between rival liberal and conservative camps. From these conflicts, García Moreno
Gabriel García Moreno
Gabriel Gregorio Fernando José María García y Moreno y Morán de Buitrón was an Ecuadorian statesman who twice served as President of Ecuador and was assassinated during his second term, after being elected to a third term...

 established a conservative government was eventually overthrown in the Liberal Revolution of 1895
Liberal Revolution of 1895
The Liberal Revolution of 1895 took place in Ecuador, and was a period of radical social and political upheaval. The Revolution started on June 5 1895 and ultimately resulted in the overthrow of the conservative government, which had ruled Ecuador for several decades, by the Radical Liberals, led...

. The Radical Liberals
Ecuadorian Radical Liberal Party
The Ecuadorian Radical Liberal Party is a liberal party in Ecuador and the oldest existing political party in Ecuador....

 who toppled the conservatives were led by Eloy Alfaro
Eloy Alfaro
José Eloy Alfaro Delgado was the President of Ecuador from 1895 to 1901 and from 1906 to 1911. He became one the strongest opponents of pro-Catholic conservative President Gabriel Garcia Moreno...

, a firebrand who implemented a variety of sociopolitical reforms, including the separation of church and state, the legalization of divorce, and the establishment of public schools.

Although liberals were active throughout the world in the 19th century, it was in Britain that the future character of liberalism would take shape. The liberal sentiments unleashed after the revolutionary era of the previous century ultimately coalesced into the Liberal Party
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

, formed in 1859 from various Radical
Radicals (UK)
The Radicals were a parliamentary political grouping in the United Kingdom in the early to mid 19th century, who drew on earlier ideas of radicalism and helped to transform the Whigs into the Liberal Party.-Background:...

 and Whig elements. The Liberals produced one of the most influential British prime ministers—William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone FRS FSS was a British Liberal statesman. In a career lasting over sixty years, he served as Prime Minister four separate times , more than any other person. Gladstone was also Britain's oldest Prime Minister, 84 years old when he resigned for the last time...

, who was also known as the Grand Old Man. Under Gladstone, the Liberals reformed education, disestablished the Church of Ireland
Church of Ireland
The Church of Ireland is an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion. The church operates in all parts of Ireland and is the second largest religious body on the island after the Roman Catholic Church...

 (with the Irish Church Act 1869), and introduced the secret ballot for local and parliamentary elections. Following Gladstone, and after a period of Conservative
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 domination, the Liberals returned with full strength in the general election of 1906
United Kingdom general election, 1906
-Seats summary:-See also:*MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1906*The Parliamentary Franchise in the United Kingdom 1885-1918-External links:***-References:*F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987**...

, aided by working class voters worried about food prices. After that historic victory, the Liberal Party shifted from its classical liberalism and laid the groundwork for the future British welfare state
Welfare state
A welfare state is a "concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those...

, establishing various forms of health insurance, unemployment insurance, and pensions for elderly workers. This new kind of liberalism would sweep over much of the world in the 20th century.

Conflict and renewal




The 20th century started perilously for liberalism. The First World War proved a major challenge for liberal democracies, although they ultimately defeated the dictatorial states of the Central Powers
Central Powers
The Central Powers were one of the two warring factions in World War I , composed of the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria...

. The war precipitated the collapse of older forms of government, including empire
Empire
The term empire derives from the Latin imperium . Politically, an empire is a geographically extensive group of states and peoples united and ruled either by a monarch or an oligarchy....

s and dynastic states
Dynasty
A dynasty is a sequence of rulers considered members of the same family. Historians traditionally consider many sovereign states' history within a framework of successive dynasties, e.g., China, Ancient Egypt and the Persian Empire...

. The number of republics in Europe reached 13 by the end of the war, as compared with only three at the start of the war in 1914. This phenomenon became readily apparent in Russia
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

. Before the war, the Russian monarchy was reeling from losses to Japan
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

 and political struggles with the Kadets
Constitutional Democratic party
The Constitutional Democratic Party was a liberal political party in the Russian Empire. Party members were called Kadets, from the abbreviation K-D of the party name...

, a powerful liberal bloc in the Duma
Duma
A Duma is any of various representative assemblies in modern Russia and Russian history. The State Duma in the Russian Empire and Russian Federation corresponds to the lower house of the parliament. Simply it is a form of Russian governmental institution, that was formed during the reign of the...

. Facing huge shortages in basic necessities along with widespread riots in early 1917
February Revolution
The February Revolution of 1917 was the first of two revolutions in Russia in 1917. Centered around the then capital Petrograd in March . Its immediate result was the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, the end of the Romanov dynasty, and the end of the Russian Empire...

, Czar Nicholas II
Nicholas II of Russia
Nicholas II was the last Emperor of Russia, Grand Prince of Finland, and titular King of Poland. His official short title was Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias and he is known as Saint Nicholas the Passion-Bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church.Nicholas II ruled from 1894 until...

 abdicated in March, ending three centuries of Romanov rule and allowing liberals to declare a republic. Under the uncertain leadership of Alexander Kerensky
Alexander Kerensky
Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky was a major political leader before and during the Russian Revolutions of 1917.Kerensky served as the second Prime Minister of the Russian Provisional Government until Vladimir Lenin was elected by the All-Russian Congress of Soviets following the October Revolution...

, however, the Provisional Government
Russian Provisional Government
The Russian Provisional Government was the short-lived administrative body which sought to govern Russia immediately following the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II . On September 14, the State Duma of the Russian Empire was officially dissolved by the newly created Directorate, and the country was...

 mismanaged Russia's continuing involvement in the war, prompting angry reactions from the Petrograd workers
Petrograd Soviet
The Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies , usually called the Petrograd Soviet , was the soviet in Petrograd , Russia, established in March 1917 after the February Revolution as the representative body of the city's workers.The Petrograd Soviet became important during the Russian...

, who drifted further and further to the left. The Bolshevik
Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

s, a communist
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 group led by Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and communist politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years , as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a...

, seized the political opportunity from this confusion and launched a second revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

 in Russia during the same year. The communist victory presented a major challenge to capitalism as a core component of liberalism. As some manifestations of communism historically resulted in totalitarian regimes, mainstream liberalism has shied away from association with communism. However, the economic problems that rocked the Western world in the 1930s proved even more devastating, leading to fundamental reforms in some of the aims of the liberal state.

The Great Depression fundamentally changed the liberal world. There was an inkling of a new liberalism during the First World War, but modern liberalism
Social liberalism
Social liberalism is the belief that liberalism should include social justice. It differs from classical liberalism in that it believes the legitimate role of the state includes addressing economic and social issues such as unemployment, health care, and education while simultaneously expanding...

 fully hatched in the 1930s as a response to the Depression, which inspired John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes, Baron Keynes of Tilton, CB FBA , was a British economist whose ideas have profoundly affected the theory and practice of modern macroeconomics, as well as the economic policies of governments...

 to revolutionize the field of economics. Classical liberals
Classical liberalism
Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets....

, such as economist Ludwig von Mises
Ludwig von Mises
Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises was an Austrian economist, philosopher, and classical liberal who had a significant influence on the modern Libertarian movement and the "Austrian School" of economic thought.-Biography:-Early life:...

, posited that completely free market
Free market
A free market is a competitive market where prices are determined by supply and demand. However, the term is also commonly used for markets in which economic intervention and regulation by the state is limited to tax collection, and enforcement of private ownership and contracts...

s were the optimal economic units capable of effectively allocating resources—that over time, in other words, they would produce full employment
Full employment
In macroeconomics, full employment is a condition of the national economy, where all or nearly all persons willing and able to work at the prevailing wages and working conditions are able to do so....

 and economic security. Keynes spearheaded a broad assault on classical economics
Classical economics
Classical economics is widely regarded as the first modern school of economic thought. Its major developers include Adam Smith, Jean-Baptiste Say, David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus and John Stuart Mill....

 and its followers, arguing that totally free markets were not ideal, and that hard economic times required intervention and investment from the state. Where the market failed to properly allocate resources, for example, the government was required to stimulate the economy until private funds could start flowing again—a "prime the pump" kind of strategy designed to boost industrial production
Industrial production
Industrial production is a measure of output of the industrial sector of the economy. The industrial sector includes manufacturing, mining, and utilities. Although these sectors contribute only a small portion of GDP , they are highly sensitive to interest rates and consumer demand...

.

The social liberal program launched by President Roosevelt in the United States, the New Deal
New Deal
The New Deal was a series of economic programs implemented in the United States between 1933 and 1936. They were passed by the U.S. Congress during the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The programs were Roosevelt's responses to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call...

, proved very popular with the American public. In 1933, when Roosevelt came into office, the unemployment rate
Unemployment
Unemployment , as defined by the International Labour Organization, occurs when people are without jobs and they have actively sought work within the past four weeks...

 stood at roughly 25 percent. The size of the economy, measured by the gross national product
Measures of national income and output
A variety of measures of national income and output are used in economics to estimate total economic activity in a country or region, including gross domestic product , gross national product , and net national income . All are specially concerned with counting the total amount of goods and...

, had fallen to half the value it had in early 1929. The electoral victories of Roosevelt and the Democrats
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 precipitated a deluge of public works programs. Despite this, by 1936 the level of unemployment had only fallen to around 10 percent (when counting persons on work relief as employed) or 17 percent (when counting persons on work relief as unemployed). Deficit spending sparked by the Second World War eventually pulled the United States out of the Great Depression. From 1940 to 1941, government spending increased by 59 percent, the gross domestic product
Measures of national income and output
A variety of measures of national income and output are used in economics to estimate total economic activity in a country or region, including gross domestic product , gross national product , and net national income . All are specially concerned with counting the total amount of goods and...

 skyrocketed 17 percent, and unemployment fell below 10 percent for the first time since 1929. By 1945, after vast government spending, public debt
Government debt
Government debt is money owed by a central government. In the US, "government debt" may also refer to the debt of a municipal or local government...

 stood at a staggering 120 percent of GNP, but unemployment had been effectively eliminated. Most nations that emerged from the Great Depression did so with deficit spending
Deficit spending
Deficit spending is the amount by which a government, private company, or individual's spending exceeds income over a particular period of time, also called simply "deficit," or "budget deficit," the opposite of budget surplus....

 and strong intervention from the state.

The economic woes of the period prompted widespread unrest in the European political world, leading to the rise of fascism
Fascism
Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity, in which individuals are bound together in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood...

 as an ideology and a movement that heavily criticized liberalism. Broadly speaking, fascist ideology emphasized elite rule
Elitism
Elitism is the belief or attitude that some individuals, who form an elite — a select group of people with intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or other distinctive attributes — are those whose views on a matter are to be taken the most seriously or carry the most...

 and absolute leadership, a rejection of equality
Egalitarianism
Egalitarianism is a trend of thought that favors equality of some sort among moral agents, whether persons or animals. Emphasis is placed upon the fact that equality contains the idea of equity of quality...

, the imposition of patriarchal society
Patriarchy
Patriarchy is a social system in which the role of the male as the primary authority figure is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination...

, a stern commitment to war as an instrument of natural behavior, and the elimination of supposedly inferior or subhuman groups from the structure of the nation. The fascist and nationalist grievances of the 1930s eventually culminated in the Second World War, the deadliest conflict in human history. The Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 prevailed in the war by 1945, and their victory set the stage for the Cold War between communist states and liberal democracies. The Cold War featured extensive ideological competition and several proxy war
Proxy war
A proxy war or proxy warfare is a war that results when opposing powers use third parties as substitutes for fighting each other directly. While powers have sometimes used governments as proxies, violent non-state actors, mercenaries, or other third parties are more often employed...

s. While communist states and liberal democracies competed against one another, an economic crisis
1973 oil crisis
The 1973 oil crisis started in October 1973, when the members of Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries or the OAPEC proclaimed an oil embargo. This was "in response to the U.S. decision to re-supply the Israeli military" during the Yom Kippur war. It lasted until March 1974. With the...

 in the 1970s inspired a temporary move away from Keynesian economics
Keynesian economics
Keynesian economics is a school of macroeconomic thought based on the ideas of 20th-century English economist John Maynard Keynes.Keynesian economics argues that private sector decisions sometimes lead to inefficient macroeconomic outcomes and, therefore, advocates active policy responses by the...

 across many Western governments. This classical liberal renewal, known as neoliberalism
Neoliberalism
Neoliberalism is a market-driven approach to economic and social policy based on neoclassical theories of economics that emphasizes the efficiency of private enterprise, liberalized trade and relatively open markets, and therefore seeks to maximize the role of the private sector in determining the...

, lasted through the 1980s and the 1990s, bringing about economic privatization of previously state-owned industries. However, recent economic troubles have prompted a resurgence in Keynesian economic thought
2008–2009 Keynesian resurgence
In 2008 and 2009, there was a resurgence of interest in Keynesian economics among policy makers in the world's industrialized economies. This has included discussions and implementation of economic policies in accordance with the recommendations made by John Maynard Keynes in response to the Great...

. Meanwhile, nearing the end of the 20th century, communist states in Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

 collapsed precipitously
Revolutions of 1989
The Revolutions of 1989 were the revolutions which overthrew the communist regimes in various Central and Eastern European countries.The events began in Poland in 1989, and continued in Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and...

, leaving liberal democracies as the only major forms of government. At the beginning of the Second World War, the number of democracies around the world was about the same as it had been forty years before. After 1945, liberal democracies spread very quickly. Even as late as 1974, roughly 75 percent of all nations were considered dictatorial, but now more than half of all countries are democracies. However, liberal democracies still confront several challenges, including the proliferation of terrorism
Terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

 and the growth of religious fundamentalism. The rise of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 is also challenging Western liberalism with a combination of authoritarian government and capitalism.

Philosophy


Liberalism—both as a political current and an intellectual tradition—is mostly a modern phenomenon
Modernity
Modernity typically refers to a post-traditional, post-medieval historical period, one marked by the move from feudalism toward capitalism, industrialization, secularization, rationalization, the nation-state and its constituent institutions and forms of surveillance...

 that started in the 17th century, although some liberal philosophical ideas had precursors in classical antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

. The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius praised "the idea of a polity administered with regard to equal rights
Egalitarianism
Egalitarianism is a trend of thought that favors equality of some sort among moral agents, whether persons or animals. Emphasis is placed upon the fact that equality contains the idea of equity of quality...

 and equal freedom of speech
Freedom of speech
Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used...

, and the idea of a kingly government which respects most of all the freedom of the governed". Scholars have also recognized a number of principles familiar to contemporary liberals in the works of several Sophists
Sophism
Sophism in the modern definition is a specious argument used for deceiving someone. In ancient Greece, sophists were a category of teachers who specialized in using the tools of philosophy and rhetoric for the purpose of teaching aretê — excellence, or virtue — predominantly to young statesmen and...

 and in the Funeral Oration by Pericles
Pericles
Pericles was a prominent and influential statesman, orator, and general of Athens during the city's Golden Age—specifically, the time between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars...

. Liberal philosophy symbolizes an extensive intellectual tradition that has examined and popularized some of the most important and controversial principles of the modern world. Its immense scholarly and academic output has been characterized as containing "richness and diversity," but that diversity often has meant that liberalism comes in different formulations and presents a challenge to anyone looking for a clear definition.

Major themes


Though all liberal doctrines possess a common heritage, scholars frequently assume that those doctrines contain "separate and often contradictory streams of thought". The objectives of liberal theorists and philosophers have differed across various times, cultures, and continents. The diversity of liberalism can be gleaned from the numerous adjectives that liberal thinkers and movements have attached to the very term liberalism, including classical
Classical liberalism
Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets....

, egalitarian
Egalitarianism
Egalitarianism is a trend of thought that favors equality of some sort among moral agents, whether persons or animals. Emphasis is placed upon the fact that equality contains the idea of equity of quality...

, economic, social
Social liberalism
Social liberalism is the belief that liberalism should include social justice. It differs from classical liberalism in that it believes the legitimate role of the state includes addressing economic and social issues such as unemployment, health care, and education while simultaneously expanding...

, welfare-state, ethical, humanist
Humanism
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

, deontological, perfectionist, democratic, and institutional, to name a few. Despite these variations, liberal thought does exhibit a few definite and fundamental conceptions. At its very root, liberalism is a philosophy about the meaning of humanity and society. Political philosopher John Gray identified the common strands in liberal thought as being individualist, egalitarian, meliorist, and universalist. The individualist element avers the ethical primacy of the human being against the pressures of social collectivism
Collectivism
Collectivism is any philosophic, political, economic, mystical or social outlook that emphasizes the interdependence of every human in some collective group and the priority of group goals over individual goals. Collectivists usually focus on community, society, or nation...

, the egalitarian element assigns the same moral worth and status to all individuals, the meliorist element asserts that successive generations can improve their sociopolitical arrangements, and the universalist element affirms the moral unity of the human species and marginalizes local cultural differences. The meliorist element has been the subject of much controversy, defended by thinkers such as Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

, who believed in human progress, while suffering from attacks by thinkers such as Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of 18th-century Romanticism. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought.His novel Émile: or, On Education is a treatise...

, who believed that human attempts to improve themselves through social cooperation would fail. Describing the liberal temperament, Gray claimed that it "has been inspired by skepticism
Skepticism
Skepticism has many definitions, but generally refers to any questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere...

 and by a fideistic certainty of divine revelation ... it has exalted the power of reason even as, in other contexts, it has sought to humble reason's claims". The liberal philosophical tradition has searched for validation and justification through several intellectual projects. The moral and political suppositions of liberalism have been based on traditions such as natural rights and utilitarian theory
Utilitarianism
Utilitarianism is an ethical theory holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes the overall "happiness", by whatever means necessary. It is thus a form of consequentialism, meaning that the moral worth of an action is determined only by its resulting outcome, and that one can...

, although sometimes liberals even requested support from scientific and religious circles. Through all these strands and traditions, scholars have identified the following major common facets of liberal thought: believing in equality and individual liberty
Liberty
Liberty is a moral and political principle, or Right, that identifies the condition in which human beings are able to govern themselves, to behave according to their own free will, and take responsibility for their actions...

, supporting private property
Private property
Private property is the right of persons and firms to obtain, own, control, employ, dispose of, and bequeath land, capital, and other forms of property. Private property is distinguishable from public property, which refers to assets owned by a state, community or government rather than by...

 and individual rights, supporting the idea of limited constitutional government, and recognizing the importance of related values such as pluralism, toleration
Toleration
Toleration is "the practice of deliberately allowing or permitting a thing of which one disapproves. One can meaningfully speak of tolerating, ie of allowing or permitting, only if one is in a position to disallow”. It has also been defined as "to bear or endure" or "to nourish, sustain or preserve"...

, autonomy, and consent
Consent of the governed
"Consent of the governed" is a phrase synonymous with a political theory wherein a government's legitimacy and moral right to use state power is only justified and legal when derived from the people or society over which that political power is exercised...

.

Classical and modern



Early liberals, including Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury , in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy...

, John Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

 and Baruch Spinoza
Baruch Spinoza
Baruch de Spinoza and later Benedict de Spinoza was a Dutch Jewish philosopher. Revealing considerable scientific aptitude, the breadth and importance of Spinoza's work was not fully realized until years after his death...

, attempted to determine the purpose of government in a liberal society. To these liberals, securing the most essential amenities of life—liberty
Liberty
Liberty is a moral and political principle, or Right, that identifies the condition in which human beings are able to govern themselves, to behave according to their own free will, and take responsibility for their actions...

 and private property
Private property
Private property is the right of persons and firms to obtain, own, control, employ, dispose of, and bequeath land, capital, and other forms of property. Private property is distinguishable from public property, which refers to assets owned by a state, community or government rather than by...

 among them—required the formation of a "sovereign" authority with universal jurisdiction. In a natural state of affairs, liberals argued, humans were driven by the instincts of survival and self-preservation, and the only way to escape from such a dangerous existence was to form a common and supreme power capable of arbitrating between competing human desires. This power could be formed in the framework of a civil society that allows individuals to make a voluntary social contract
Social contract
The social contract is an intellectual device intended to explain the appropriate relationship between individuals and their governments. Social contract arguments assert that individuals unite into political societies by a process of mutual consent, agreeing to abide by common rules and accept...

 with the sovereign authority, transferring their natural rights to that authority in return for the protection of life, liberty, and property. These early liberals often disagreed in their opinion of the most appropriate form of government, but they all shared the belief that liberty was natural and that its restriction needed strong justification. Liberals generally believed in limited government, although several liberal philosophers decried government outright, with Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine
Thomas "Tom" Paine was an English author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States...

 writing that "government even in its best state is a necessary evil".

As part of the project to limit the powers of government, various liberal theorists—such as James Madison
James Madison
James Madison, Jr. was an American statesman and political theorist. He was the fourth President of the United States and is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being the primary author of the United States Constitution and at first an opponent of, and then a key author of the United...

 and the Baron de Montesquieu
Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu
Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu , generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French social commentator and political thinker who lived during the Enlightenment...

—conceived the notion of separation of powers, a system designed to equally distribute governmental authority among the executive
Executive (government)
Executive branch of Government is the part of government that has sole authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state bureaucracy. The division of power into separate branches of government is central to the idea of the separation of powers.In many countries, the term...

, legislative
Legislature
A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and...

, and judicial
Judiciary
The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes...

 branches. Governments had to realize, liberals maintained, that poor and improper governance gave the people authority to overthrow the ruling order through any and all possible means—even through outright violence and revolution, if needed. Contemporary liberals, heavily influenced by social liberalism
Social liberalism
Social liberalism is the belief that liberalism should include social justice. It differs from classical liberalism in that it believes the legitimate role of the state includes addressing economic and social issues such as unemployment, health care, and education while simultaneously expanding...

, have continued to support limited constitutional government while also advocating for state services and provisions to ensure equal rights. Modern liberals claim that formal or official guarantees of individual rights are irrelevant when individuals lack the material means to benefit from those rights, urging a greater role for government in the administration of economic affairs. Early liberals also laid the groundwork for the separation of church and state. As heirs of the Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

, liberals believed that any given social and political order emanated from human interactions
Consent of the governed
"Consent of the governed" is a phrase synonymous with a political theory wherein a government's legitimacy and moral right to use state power is only justified and legal when derived from the people or society over which that political power is exercised...

, not from divine will
Divine law
Divine law is any law that in the opinion of believers, comes directly from the will of God . Like natural law it is independent of the will of man, who cannot change it. However it may be revealed or not, so it may change in human perception in time through new revelation...

. Many liberals were openly hostile
Atheism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...

 to religious belief
Religious belief
Religious belief is a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny. Such a state may relate to the existence, characteristics and worship of a deity or deities, divine intervention in the universe and human life, or values and practices centered on the teachings of a...

 itself, but most concentrated their opposition to the union of religious and political authority—arguing that faith could prosper on its own, without official sponsorship or administration from the state.

Beyond identifying a clear role for government in modern society, liberals also have obsessed over the meaning and nature of the most important principle in liberal philosophy: liberty. From the 17th century until the 19th century, liberals—from Adam Smith
Adam Smith
Adam Smith was a Scottish social philosopher and a pioneer of political economy. One of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, Smith is the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations...

 to John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill was a British philosopher, economist and civil servant. An influential contributor to social theory, political theory, and political economy, his conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control. He was a proponent of...

—conceptualized liberty as the absence of interference from government and from other individuals, claiming that all people should have the freedom to develop their own unique abilities and capacities without being sabotaged by others. Mill's On Liberty
On Liberty
On Liberty is a philosophical work by British philosopher John Stuart Mill. It was a radical work to the Victorian readers of the time because it supported individuals' moral and economic freedom from the state....

(1859), one of the classic texts in liberal philosophy, proclaimed that "the only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way". Support for laissez-faire
Laissez-faire
In economics, laissez-faire describes an environment in which transactions between private parties are free from state intervention, including restrictive regulations, taxes, tariffs and enforced monopolies....

capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 is often associated with this principle, with Friedrich Hayek
Friedrich Hayek
Friedrich August Hayek CH , born in Austria-Hungary as Friedrich August von Hayek, was an economist and philosopher best known for his defense of classical liberalism and free-market capitalism against socialist and collectivist thought...

 arguing in The Road to Serfdom
The Road to Serfdom
The Road to Serfdom is a book written by the Austrian-born economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek between 1940–1943, in which he "warned of the danger of tyranny that inevitably results from government control of economic decision-making through central planning," and in which he argues...

(1944) that reliance on free markets would preclude totalitarian control by the state. Beginning in the late 19th century, however, a new conception of liberty entered the liberal intellectual arena. This new kind of liberty became known as positive liberty
Positive liberty
Positive liberty is defined as having the power and resources to fulfill one's own potential ; as opposed to negative liberty, which is freedom from external restraint...

 to distinguish it from the prior negative version
Negative liberty
Negative liberty is defined as freedom from interference by other people, and is set in contrast to positive liberty, which is defined as an individual's freedom from inhibitions of the social structure within the society such as classism, sexism or racism and is primarily concerned with the...

, and it was first developed by British philosopher Thomas Hill Green
Thomas Hill Green
Thomas Hill Green was an English philosopher, political radical and temperance reformer, and a member of the British idealism movement. Like all the British idealists, Green was influenced by the metaphysical historicism of G.W.F. Hegel...

. Green rejected the idea that humans were driven solely by self-interest, emphasizing instead the complex circumstances that are involved in the evolution of our moral character. In a very profound step for the future of modern liberalism, he also tasked social and political institutions with the enhancement of individual freedom and identity. Foreshadowing the new liberty as the freedom to act rather than to avoid suffering from the acts of others, Green wrote the following:

Rather than previous liberal conceptions viewing society as populated by selfish individuals, Green viewed society as an organic whole in which all individuals have a duty to promote the common good. His ideas spread rapidly and were developed by other thinkers such as L. T. Hobhouse
Leonard Trelawny Hobhouse
Leonard Trelawny Hobhouse was a British liberal politician and sociologist, who has been considered one of the leading and earliest proponents of social liberalism. His works, alongside that of writers such as T.H. Green and John A. Hobson, occupy a seminal position within the canon of New...

 and John Hobson
John A. Hobson
John Atkinson Hobson , commonly known as John A. Hobson or J. A. Hobson, was an English economist and critic of imperialism, widely popular as a lecturer and writer.-Life:...

. In a few short years, this Social Liberalism had become the essential social and political program of the Liberal Party
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 in Britain, and it would encircle much of the world in the 20th century. In the 21st century it is being argued that emerging is a New Liberalism
New Liberalism
New Liberalism may refer to:*New Liberalism *New liberalism as a synonym for social liberalism*New Liberalism , a party...

that is centred on the concept of timeless liberty, which would extend negative and positive liberty to future generations through proactive action today. In addition to examining negative, positive, and timeless liberty, liberals have tried to understand the proper relationship between liberty and democracy. As they struggled to expand suffrage rights
Universal suffrage
Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors and non-citizens...

, liberals increasingly understood that people left out of the democratic decision-making process were liable to the tyranny of the majority
Tyranny of the majority
The phrase "tyranny of the majority" , used in discussing systems of democracy and majority rule, is a criticism of the scenario in which decisions made by a majority under that system would place that majority's interests so far above a dissenting individual's interest that the individual would be...

, a concept explained in Mill's On Liberty and in Democracy in America
Democracy in America
De la démocratie en Amérique is a classic French text by Alexis de Tocqueville. A "literal" translation of its title is Of Democracy in America, but the usual translation of the title is simply Democracy in America...

(1835) by Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville was a French political thinker and historian best known for his Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution . In both of these works, he explored the effects of the rising equality of social conditions on the individual and the state in...

. As a response, liberals began demanding proper safeguards to thwart majorities in their attempts at suppressing the rights of minorities.

Besides liberty, liberals have developed several other principles important to the construction of their philosophical structure, such as equality
Egalitarianism
Egalitarianism is a trend of thought that favors equality of some sort among moral agents, whether persons or animals. Emphasis is placed upon the fact that equality contains the idea of equity of quality...

, pluralism, and toleration
Toleration
Toleration is "the practice of deliberately allowing or permitting a thing of which one disapproves. One can meaningfully speak of tolerating, ie of allowing or permitting, only if one is in a position to disallow”. It has also been defined as "to bear or endure" or "to nourish, sustain or preserve"...

. Highlighting the confusion over the first principle, Voltaire
Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

 commented that "equality is at once the most natural and at times the most chimeral of things". All forms of liberalism assume, in some basic sense, that individuals are equal. In maintaining that people are naturally equal, liberals assume that they all possess the same right to liberty. In other words, no one is inherently entitled to enjoy the benefits of liberal society more than anyone else, and all people are equal subjects before the law
Equality before the law
Equality before the law or equality under the law or legal egalitarianism is the principle under which each individual is subject to the same laws....

. Beyond this basic conception, liberal theorists diverge on their understanding of equality. American philosopher John Rawls
John Rawls
John Bordley Rawls was an American philosopher and a leading figure in moral and political philosophy. He held the James Bryant Conant University Professorship at Harvard University....

 emphasized the need to ensure not only equality under the law, but also the equal distribution of material resources that individuals required to develop their aspirations in life. Libertarian
Libertarianism
Libertarianism, in the strictest sense, is the political philosophy that holds individual liberty as the basic moral principle of society. In the broadest sense, it is any political philosophy which approximates this view...

 thinker Robert Nozick
Robert Nozick
Robert Nozick was an American political philosopher, most prominent in the 1970s and 1980s. He was a professor at Harvard University. He is best known for his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia , a right-libertarian answer to John Rawls's A Theory of Justice...

 disagreed with Rawls, championing the former version of Lockean equality
Equal opportunity
Equal opportunity, or equality of opportunity, is a controversial political concept; and an important informal decision-making standard without a precise definition involving fair choices within the public sphere...

 instead. To contribute to the development of liberty, liberals also have promoted concepts like pluralism and toleration. By pluralism, liberals refer to the proliferation of opinions and beliefs that characterize a stable social order. Unlike many of their competitors and predecessors, liberals do not seek conformity and homogeneity in the way that people think; in fact, their efforts have been geared towards establishing a governing framework that harmonizes and minimizes conflicting views, but still allows those views to exist and flourish. For liberal philosophy, pluralism leads easily to toleration. Since individuals will hold diverging viewpoints, liberals argue, they ought to uphold and respect the right of one another to disagree. From the liberal perspective, toleration was initially connected to religious toleration
Religious toleration
Toleration is "the practice of deliberately allowing or permitting a thing of which one disapproves. One can meaningfully speak of tolerating, ie of allowing or permitting, only if one is in a position to disallow”. It has also been defined as "to bear or endure" or "to nourish, sustain or preserve"...

, with Spinoza condemning "the stupidity of religious persecution
Religious persecution
Religious persecution is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group of individuals as a response to their religious beliefs or affiliations or lack thereof....

 and ideological wars". Toleration also played a central role in the ideas of Kant and John Stuart Mill. Both thinkers believed that society will contain different conceptions of a good ethical life and that people should be allowed to make their own choices without interference from the state or other individuals.

Criticism and support



Liberalism has drawn both criticism and support in its history from various ideological groups. For example, some scholars suggest that liberalism gave rise to feminism
Feminism
Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women. Its concepts overlap with those of women's rights...

, although others maintain that liberal democracy
Liberal democracy
Liberal democracy, also known as constitutional democracy, is a common form of representative democracy. According to the principles of liberal democracy, elections should be free and fair, and the political process should be competitive...

 is inadequate for the realization of feminist objectives. Liberal feminism
Liberal feminism
Liberal feminism asserts the equality of men and women through political and legal reform. It is an individualistic form of feminism and theory, which focuses on women’s ability to show and maintain their equality through their own actions and choices...

, the dominant tradition in feminist history
History of feminism
The history of feminism involves the story of feminist movements and of feminist thinkers. Depending on time, culture and country, feminists around the world have sometimes had different causes and goals...

, hopes to eradicate all barriers to gender equality
Gender equality
Gender equality is the goal of the equality of the genders, stemming from a belief in the injustice of myriad forms of gender inequality.- Concept :...

—claiming that the continued existence of such barriers eviscerates the individual rights and freedoms ostensibly guaranteed by a liberal social order. British philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft
Mary Wollstonecraft
Mary Wollstonecraft was an eighteenth-century British writer, philosopher, and advocate of women's rights. During her brief career, she wrote novels, treatises, a travel narrative, a history of the French Revolution, a conduct book, and a children's book...

 is widely regarded as the pioneer of liberal feminism, with A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects , written by the 18th-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. In it, Wollstonecraft responds to those educational and political theorists of the 18th...

(1792) expanding the boundaries of liberalism to include women in the political structure of liberal society. Less friendly to the goals of liberalism has been conservatism
Conservatism
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism...

. Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke PC was an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher who, after moving to England, served for many years in the House of Commons of Great Britain as a member of the Whig party....

, considered by some to be the first major proponent of modern conservative thought, offered a blistering critique of the French Revolution by assailing the liberal pretensions to the power of rationality and to the natural equality of all humans. Conservatives have also attacked what they perceive to be the reckless liberal pursuit of progress and material gains, arguing that such preoccupations undermine traditional social values rooted in community and continuity. However, a few variations of conservatism, like liberal conservativism, expound some of the same ideas and principles championed by classical liberalism
Classical liberalism
Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets....

, including "small government and thriving capitalism".

Even more uncertain is the relationship between liberalism and socialism
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

. Socialism began as a concrete ideology in the 19th century with the writings of Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

, and it too—as with liberalism and conservatism—fractured into several major movements in the decades after its founding. Marx rejected the foundational aspects of liberal theory, hoping to destroy the liberal distinction between society and the individual while fusing the two into a collective whole designed to overthrow the developing capitalist order of the 19th century. After Marx, the most prominent branch of socialism eventually became social democracy
Social democracy
Social democracy is a political ideology of the center-left on the political spectrum. Social democracy is officially a form of evolutionary reformist socialism. It supports class collaboration as the course to achieve socialism...

, which can be broadly defined as a project that aims to correct what it regards as the intrinsic defects of capitalism by reducing the inequalities that exist within an economic system. Several commentators have noted strong similarities between social liberalism
Social liberalism
Social liberalism is the belief that liberalism should include social justice. It differs from classical liberalism in that it believes the legitimate role of the state includes addressing economic and social issues such as unemployment, health care, and education while simultaneously expanding...

 and social democracy, with one political scientist even calling American liberalism "bootleg social democracy" due to the absence of a significant social democratic tradition in the United States that liberals have tried to rectify. Another movement associated with modern democracy, Christian democracy
Christian Democracy
Christian democracy is a political ideology that seeks to apply Christian principles to public policy. It emerged in nineteenth-century Europe under the influence of conservatism and Catholic social teaching...

, hopes to spread Catholic social ideas
Catholic social teaching
Catholic social teaching is a body of doctrine developed by the Catholic Church on matters of poverty and wealth, economics, social organization and the role of the state...

 and has gained a large following in some European nations. The early roots of Christian democracy developed as a reaction against the industrialization and urbanization
Urbanization
Urbanization, urbanisation or urban drift is the physical growth of urban areas as a result of global change. The United Nations projected that half of the world's population would live in urban areas at the end of 2008....

 associated with laissez-faire liberalism in the 19th century. Despite these complex relationships, some scholars have argued that liberalism actually "rejects ideological thinking" altogether, largely because such thinking could lead to unrealistic expectations for human society.

Worldwide


Liberalism is frequently cited as the dominant ideology
Ideology
An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

 of modern times. Politically, liberals have organized extensively throughout the world. Liberal parties
Liberal Party
Liberal Party is the name for dozens of political parties around the world. Liberal parties can be center-left, centrist, or center-right depending on their location...

, think tanks, and other institutions are common in many nations, although they advocate for different causes based on their ideological orientation. Liberal parties can be center-left
Centre-left
Centre-left is a political term that describes individuals, political parties or organisations such as think tanks whose ideology lies between the centre and the left on the left-right spectrum...

, centrist
Centrism
In politics, centrism is the ideal or the practice of promoting policies that lie different from the standard political left and political right. Most commonly, this is visualized as part of the one-dimensional political spectrum of left-right politics, with centrism landing in the middle between...

, or center-right
Centre-right
The centre-right or center-right is a political term commonly used to describe or denote individuals, political parties, or organizations whose views stretch from the centre to the right on the left-right spectrum, excluding far right stances. Centre-right can also describe a coalition of centrist...

 depending on their location.

They can further be divided based on their adherence to social liberalism
Social liberalism
Social liberalism is the belief that liberalism should include social justice. It differs from classical liberalism in that it believes the legitimate role of the state includes addressing economic and social issues such as unemployment, health care, and education while simultaneously expanding...

 or classical liberalism
Classical liberalism
Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets....

, although all liberal parties and individuals share basic similarities, including the support for civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

 and democratic institutions
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

. On a global level, liberals are united in the Liberal International
Liberal International
Liberal International is a political international federation for liberal parties. Its headquarters is located at 1 Whitehall Place, London, SW1A 2HD within the National Liberal Club. It was founded in Oxford in 1947, and has become the pre-eminent network for liberal parties and for the...

, which contains over 100 influential liberal parties and organizations from across the ideological spectrum
Political spectrum
A political spectrum is a way of modeling different political positions by placing them upon one or more geometric axes symbolizing independent political dimensions....

.

Some parties in the LI are among the most famous in the world, such as the Liberal Party of Canada
Liberal Party of Canada
The Liberal Party of Canada , colloquially known as the Grits, is the oldest federally registered party in Canada. In the conventional political spectrum, the party sits between the centre and the centre-left. Historically the Liberal Party has positioned itself to the left of the Conservative...

, while others are among the smallest, such as the Liberal Party of Gibraltar. Regionally, liberals are organized through various institutions depending on the prevailing geopolitical context. In the European Parliament
European Parliament
The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...

, for example, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe is a transnational alliance between two European political parties: the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party and the European Democratic Party. It has political groups in the European Parliament, the EU Committee of the Regions, the...

 is the predominant group that represents the interest of European liberals.

Europe


In Europe
Liberalism in Europe
In general, liberalism in Europe is a political movement that supports a broad tradition of individual liberties and constitutionally-limited and democratically accountable government...

, liberalism has a long tradition dating back to 17th century. Scholars often split those traditions into English
Gladstonian Liberalism
Gladstonian Liberalism is a political doctrine named after the British Victorian Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Party, William Ewart Gladstone. Gladstonian Liberalism consisted of limited government expenditure and low taxation whilst making sure government had balanced budgets...

 and French
Liberalism and radicalism in France
Liberalism and radicalism in France do not form the same type of ideology. In fact, the main line of conflict in France during the 19th century was between monarchist opponents of the Republic and supporters of the Republic...

 versions, with the former version of liberalism emphasizing the expansion of democratic values
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

 and constitutional reform
Constitutional amendment
A constitutional amendment is a formal change to the text of the written constitution of a nation or state.Most constitutions require that amendments cannot be enacted unless they have passed a special procedure that is more stringent than that required of ordinary legislation...

 and the latter rejecting authoritarian political and economic structures, as well as being involved with nation-building
Nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

. The continental French version was deeply divided between moderates and progressives
Progressivism
Progressivism is an umbrella term for a political ideology advocating or favoring social, political, and economic reform or changes. Progressivism is often viewed by some conservatives, constitutionalists, and libertarians to be in opposition to conservative or reactionary ideologies.The...

, with the moderates tending to elitism
Elitism
Elitism is the belief or attitude that some individuals, who form an elite — a select group of people with intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or other distinctive attributes — are those whose views on a matter are to be taken the most seriously or carry the most...

 and the progressives supporting the universalization of fundamental institutions, such as universal suffrage
Universal suffrage
Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors and non-citizens...

, universal education
Public education
State schools, also known in the United States and Canada as public schools,In much of the Commonwealth, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, the terms 'public education', 'public school' and 'independent school' are used for private schools, that is, schools...

, and the expansion of property rights
Property
Property is any physical or intangible entity that is owned by a person or jointly by a group of people or a legal entity like a corporation...

. Over time, the moderates displaced the progressives as the main guardians of continental European liberalism. A prominent example of these divisions is the German Free Democratic Party
Free Democratic Party (Germany)
The Free Democratic Party , abbreviated to FDP, is a centre-right classical liberal political party in Germany. It is led by Philipp Rösler and currently serves as the junior coalition partner to the Union in the German federal government...

, which was historically divided between national liberal and social liberal
Social liberalism
Social liberalism is the belief that liberalism should include social justice. It differs from classical liberalism in that it believes the legitimate role of the state includes addressing economic and social issues such as unemployment, health care, and education while simultaneously expanding...

 factions.

Before the First World War, liberal parties dominated the European political scene, but they were gradually displaced by socialists and social democrats in the early 20th century. The fortunes of liberal parties since World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 have been mixed, with some gaining strength while others suffered from continuous declines. The fall of the Soviet Union and the breakup of Yugoslavia at the end of the 20th century, however, allowed the formation of many liberal parties throughout Eastern Europe. These parties developed varying ideological characters. Some, such as the Slovenia
Slovenia
Slovenia , officially the Republic of Slovenia , is a country in Central and Southeastern Europe touching the Alps and bordering the Mediterranean. Slovenia borders Italy to the west, Croatia to the south and east, Hungary to the northeast, and Austria to the north, and also has a small portion of...

n Liberal Democrats
Liberal Democracy of Slovenia
Liberal Democracy of Slovenia is a liberal political party in Slovenia. It is led by Katarina Kresal and is a member of the Liberal International and the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party...

 or the Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

n Social Liberals, have been characterized as center-left
Centre-left
Centre-left is a political term that describes individuals, political parties or organisations such as think tanks whose ideology lies between the centre and the left on the left-right spectrum...

. Others, such as the Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

n National Liberal Party
National Liberal Party (Romania)
The National Liberal Party , abbreviated to PNL, is a centre-right liberal party in Romania. It is the third-largest party in the Romanian Parliament, with 53 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 22 in the Senate: behind the centre-right Democratic Liberal Party and the centre-left Social...

, have been classified as center-right
Centre-right
The centre-right or center-right is a political term commonly used to describe or denote individuals, political parties, or organizations whose views stretch from the centre to the right on the left-right spectrum, excluding far right stances. Centre-right can also describe a coalition of centrist...

.

In Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

, some liberal parties have undergone renewal and transformation, coming back to the political limelight after historic disappointments. One of the most notable examples features the Liberal Democrats
Liberal Democrats
The Liberal Democrats are a social liberal political party in the United Kingdom which supports constitutional and electoral reform, progressive taxation, wealth taxation, human rights laws, cultural liberalism, banking reform and civil liberties .The party was formed in 1988 by a merger of the...

 in Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. The Liberal Democrats are the heirs of the once-mighty Liberal Party
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

, which suffered a huge erosion of support to the Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 in the early 20th century. After nearly vanishing from the British political scene altogether, the Liberals eventually united with the Social Democratic Party
Social Democratic Party (UK)
The Social Democratic Party was a political party in the United Kingdom that was created on 26 March 1981 and existed until 1988. It was founded by four senior Labour Party 'moderates', dubbed the 'Gang of Four': Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams...

, a Labour splinter group, in 1988 to form the current Liberal Democrats, a social liberal party.

The Liberal Democrats have earned significant popular support in the general election of 2005
United Kingdom general election, 2005
The United Kingdom general election of 2005 was held on Thursday, 5 May 2005 to elect 646 members to the British House of Commons. The Labour Party under Tony Blair won its third consecutive victory, but with a majority of 66, reduced from 160....

 and in local council elections
United Kingdom local elections, 2008
The 2008 United Kingdom local elections were held on 1 May 2008. These elections took place in 137 English Local Authorities and all Welsh Councils....

, marking the first time in decades that a British party with a liberal ideology has achieved such electoral success. Following the general election of 2010, the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition government
Coalition government
A coalition government is a cabinet of a parliamentary government in which several political parties cooperate. The usual reason given for this arrangement is that no party on its own can achieve a majority in the parliament...

 with the Conservatives
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 resulting in party leader Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg
Nicholas William Peter "Nick" Clegg is a British Liberal Democrat politician who is currently the Deputy Prime Minister, Lord President of the Council and Minister for Constitutional and Political Reform in the coalition government of which David Cameron is the Prime Minister...

 becoming the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a senior member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom. The office of the Deputy Prime Minister is not a permanent position, existing only at the discretion of the Prime Minister, who may appoint to other offices...

 and many other members becoming ministers.

Both in Britain and elsewhere in Western Europe, liberal parties have often cooperated with socialist and social democratic parties, as evidenced by the Purple Coalition
Purple (government)
Purple is a common term in politics for governments or other political entities consisting of parties that have red and blue as their political colours...

 in the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 during the late 1990s and into the 21st century. The Purple Coalition, one of the most consequential in Dutch history
History of the Netherlands
The history of the Netherlands is the history of a maritime people thriving on a watery lowland river delta at the edge of northwestern Europe. When the Romans and written history arrived in 57 BC, the country was sparsely populated by various tribal groups at the periphery of the empire...

, brought together the progressive left-liberal D66
Democrats 66
Democrats 66 is a progressive and social-liberal political party in the Netherlands. D66 was formed in 1966 by a group of politically unaligned, young intellectuals, led by journalist Hans van Mierlo. The party's main objective was to democratise the political system; it proposed to create an...

, the market liberal
Classical liberalism
Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets....

 and center-right VVD
People's Party for Freedom and Democracy
The People's Party for Freedom and Democracy is a conservative-liberal political party located in the Netherlands. The VVD supports private enterprise in the Netherlands and is often perceived as an economic liberal party in contrast to the social-liberal Democrats 66 alongside which it sits in...

, and the social democratic Labour Party—an unusual combination that ultimately legalized same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage in the Netherlands
Same-sex marriage has been legal in the Netherlands since 1 April 2001...

, euthanasia
Euthanasia in the Netherlands
Euthanasia in the Netherlands is regulated by the "Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act" from 2002. It states that euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are not punishable if the attending physician acts in accordance with criteria of due care...

, and prostitution
Prostitution in the Netherlands
Prostitution in the Netherlands is legal and regulated. Operating a brothel is also legal. In the last few years, a significant number of brothels and "windows" have been closed because of suspected criminal activity...

 while also instituting a non-enforcement policy on marijuana
Drug policy of the Netherlands
The drug policy of the Netherlands officially has four major objectives:# To prevent recreational drug use and to treat and rehabilitate recreational drug users.# To reduce harm to users....

.

Americas




In North America, unlike in Europe, the word liberalism almost exclusively refers to social liberalism
Social liberalism
Social liberalism is the belief that liberalism should include social justice. It differs from classical liberalism in that it believes the legitimate role of the state includes addressing economic and social issues such as unemployment, health care, and education while simultaneously expanding...

 in contemporary politics. The dominant Canadian and American parties, the Liberal Party
Liberal Party of Canada
The Liberal Party of Canada , colloquially known as the Grits, is the oldest federally registered party in Canada. In the conventional political spectrum, the party sits between the centre and the centre-left. Historically the Liberal Party has positioned itself to the left of the Conservative...

 and the Democratic Party
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

, are frequently identified as being modern liberal or center-left
Centre-left
Centre-left is a political term that describes individuals, political parties or organisations such as think tanks whose ideology lies between the centre and the left on the left-right spectrum...

 organizations in the academic literature. In Canada, the long-dominant Liberal Party, colloquially known as the Grits, ruled the country
History of the Liberal Party of Canada
- Party systems model :According to recent scholarship there have been four party systems in Canada at the federal level since Confederation, each with its own distinctive pattern of social support, patronage relationships, leadership styles, and electoral strategies...

 for nearly 70 years during the 20th century. The party produced some of the most influential prime ministers in Canadian history
History of Canada
The history of Canada covers the period from the arrival of Paleo-Indians thousands of years ago to the present day. Canada has been inhabited for millennia by distinctive groups of Aboriginal peoples, among whom evolved trade networks, spiritual beliefs, and social hierarchies...

, including Pierre Trudeau
Pierre Trudeau
Joseph Philippe Pierre Yves Elliott Trudeau, , usually known as Pierre Trudeau or Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was the 15th Prime Minister of Canada from April 20, 1968 to June 4, 1979, and again from March 3, 1980 to June 30, 1984.Trudeau began his political career campaigning for socialist ideals,...

, Lester B. Pearson
Lester B. Pearson
Lester Bowles "Mike" Pearson, PC, OM, CC, OBE was a Canadian professor, historian, civil servant, statesman, diplomat, and politician, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for organizing the United Nations Emergency Force to resolve the Suez Canal Crisis...

 and Jean Chrétien
Jean Chrétien
Joseph Jacques Jean Chrétien , known commonly as Jean Chrétien is a former Canadian politician who was the 20th Prime Minister of Canada. He served in the position for over ten years, from November 4, 1993 to December 12, 2003....

, and has been primarily responsible for the development of the Canadian welfare state
Welfare state
A welfare state is a "concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those...

. The enormous success of the Liberals—virtually unmatched in any other liberal democracy
Liberal democracy
Liberal democracy, also known as constitutional democracy, is a common form of representative democracy. According to the principles of liberal democracy, elections should be free and fair, and the political process should be competitive...

—has prompted many political commentators over time to identify them as the nation's natural governing party.

In the United States, modern liberalism traces its history to the popular presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who initiated the New Deal
New Deal
The New Deal was a series of economic programs implemented in the United States between 1933 and 1936. They were passed by the U.S. Congress during the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The programs were Roosevelt's responses to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call...

 in response to the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

 and won an unprecedented four elections. The New Deal coalition
New Deal coalition
The New Deal Coalition was the alignment of interest groups and voting blocs that supported the New Deal and voted for Democratic presidential candidates from 1932 until the late 1960s. It made the Democratic Party the majority party during that period, losing only to Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952...

 established by Franklin Roosevelt left a decisive legacy and influenced many future American presidents, including John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

, a self-described liberal who defined a liberal as "someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions...someone who cares about the welfare of the people".

In the late 20th century, a conservative backlash against the kind of liberalism championed by Roosevelt and Kennedy developed in the Republican Party
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

. This brand of conservatism primarily reacted against the civil unrest and the cultural changes that transpired during the 1960s. It helped launch into power such presidents as Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

, George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

, and George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

. Economic woes in the early 21st century led to a resurgence of social liberalism with the election of Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 in the 2008 presidential election
United States presidential election, 2008
The United States presidential election of 2008 was the 56th quadrennial presidential election. It was held on November 4, 2008. Democrat Barack Obama, then the junior United States Senator from Illinois, defeated Republican John McCain, the senior U.S. Senator from Arizona. Obama received 365...

, but there was a strong conservative backlash, and the question of whether or not the US will accept a return to social liberalism remains in doubt.

In Latin America
Liberalism and conservatism in Latin America
Liberalism and conservatism in Latin America have unique historical roots. Latin American independence began to occur in 1808 after the French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars that eventually engulfed all of Europe. French revolutionaries in the 1790s began an intellectual awakening...

, liberal unrest dates back to the 19th century, when liberal groups frequently fought against and violently overthrew conservative
Conservatism
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism...

 regimes in several countries across the region. Liberal revolutions in countries such as Mexico
Mexican Revolution
The Mexican Revolution was a major armed struggle that started in 1910, with an uprising led by Francisco I. Madero against longtime autocrat Porfirio Díaz. The Revolution was characterized by several socialist, liberal, anarchist, populist, and agrarianist movements. Over time the Revolution...

 and Ecuador
Liberal Revolution of 1895
The Liberal Revolution of 1895 took place in Ecuador, and was a period of radical social and political upheaval. The Revolution started on June 5 1895 and ultimately resulted in the overthrow of the conservative government, which had ruled Ecuador for several decades, by the Radical Liberals, led...

 ushered in the modern world for much of Latin America. Latin American liberals generally emphasized free trade
Free trade
Under a free trade policy, prices emerge from supply and demand, and are the sole determinant of resource allocation. 'Free' trade differs from other forms of trade policy where the allocation of goods and services among trading countries are determined by price strategies that may differ from...

, private property
Private property
Private property is the right of persons and firms to obtain, own, control, employ, dispose of, and bequeath land, capital, and other forms of property. Private property is distinguishable from public property, which refers to assets owned by a state, community or government rather than by...

, and anti-clericalism
Anti-clericalism
Anti-clericalism is a historical movement that opposes religious institutional power and influence, real or alleged, in all aspects of public and political life, and the involvement of religion in the everyday life of the citizen...

. Today, market liberals
Classical liberalism
Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets....

 in Latin America are organized in the Red Liberal de América Latina
Liberal Network for Latin America
The Liberal Network for Latin America is an international network founded in 2003 with the official launch taking place in Costa Rica November, 2004. It includes 45 liberal institutions from 16 Latin American countries.Members of RELIAL include political parties as well as think tanks, foundations...

 (RELIAL), a center-right network that brings together dozens of liberal parties and organizations.

RELIAL features parties as geographically diverse as the Mexican
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 Nueva Alianza
New Alliance Party (Mexico)
The New Alliance Party is one of the newest political parties in Mexico.Its creation was proposed by the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación , the largest trade union in Latin America, led by Elba Esther Gordillo, the controversial former general secretary of the Institutional...

 and the Cuban Liberal Union
Cuban Liberal Union
The Cuban Liberal Union is a liberal party in Cuba. The party is a member of Liberal International.-See also:*Liberalism*Contributions to liberal theory*Liberalism worldwide*List of liberal parties*Liberal democracy*Liberalism in Cuba...

, which aims to secure power in Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

. Some major liberal parties in the region continue, however, to align themselves with social liberal ideas and policies—a notable case being the Colombian Liberal Party
Colombian Liberal Party
The Colombian Liberal Party is a center-left party in Colombia that adheres to social democracy and social liberalism.The Party was founded in 1848 and, together with the Colombian Conservative Party, subsequently became one of the two main political forces in the country for over a century.After...

, which is a member of the Socialist International
Socialist International
The Socialist International is a worldwide organization of democratic socialist, social democratic and labour political parties. It was formed in 1951.- History :...

. Another famous example is the Paraguay
Paraguay
Paraguay , officially the Republic of Paraguay , is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the...

an Authentic Radical Liberal Party
Authentic Radical Liberal Party
The Authentic Radical Liberal Party is a liberal party in Paraguay.The party is an observer member of Liberal International. At the last legislative elections, 27 April 2003, the party won 25.7 % of the popular vote and 21 out of 80 seats in the Chamber of Deputies of Paraguay and 24.3 %, leading...

, one of the most powerful parties in the country, which has also been classified as center-left.

Asia and Africa



In Asia, liberalism is a much younger political current than in Europe or the Americas. Continentally, liberals are organized through the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats
Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats
The Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats is a regional organization of liberal and democratic political parties in Asia. The Council was created on October 15, 1993, in a meeting in Taipei...

, which includes powerful parties such the Liberal Party
Liberal Party (Philippines)
The Liberal Party of the Philippines is a liberal party in the Philippines, founded by then senators Senate President Manuel Roxas, Senate President Pro-Tempore Elpidio Quirino, and former 9th Senatorial District Senator Jose Avelino, on November 24, 1945 by a breakaway Liberal group from the...

 in the Philippines, the Democratic Progressive Party
Democratic Progressive Party
The Democratic Progressive Party is a political party in Taiwan, and the dominant party in the Pan-Green Coalition. Founded in 1986, DPP is the first meaningful opposition party in Taiwan. It has traditionally been associated with strong advocacy of human rights and a distinct Taiwanese identity,...

 in Taiwan, and the Pheu Thai Party in Thailand. Two notable examples of liberal influence can be found in India and Australia, although several Asian nations have rejected important liberal principles.

In Australia, liberalism is primarily championed by the center-right
Centre-right
The centre-right or center-right is a political term commonly used to describe or denote individuals, political parties, or organizations whose views stretch from the centre to the right on the left-right spectrum, excluding far right stances. Centre-right can also describe a coalition of centrist...

 Liberal Party
Liberal Party of Australia
The Liberal Party of Australia is an Australian political party.Founded a year after the 1943 federal election to replace the United Australia Party, the centre-right Liberal Party typically competes with the centre-left Australian Labor Party for political office...

. The Liberals in Australia support free markets as well as social conservatism
Social conservatism
Social Conservatism is primarily a political, and usually morally influenced, ideology that focuses on the preservation of what are seen as traditional values. Social conservatism is a form of authoritarianism often associated with the position that the federal government should have a greater role...

. In India, the most populous democracy in the world, the Indian National Congress
Indian National Congress
The Indian National Congress is one of the two major political parties in India, the other being the Bharatiya Janata Party. It is the largest and one of the oldest democratic political parties in the world. The party's modern liberal platform is largely considered center-left in the Indian...

 has long dominated political affairs. The INC was founded in the late 19th century by liberal nationalists demanding the creation of a more liberal and autonomous India. Liberalism continued to be the main ideological current of the group through the early years of the 20th century, but socialism
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 gradually overshadowed the thinking of the party in the next few decades.

A famous struggle led by the INC eventually earned India's independence from Britain
Indian independence movement
The term Indian independence movement encompasses a wide area of political organisations, philosophies, and movements which had the common aim of ending first British East India Company rule, and then British imperial authority, in parts of South Asia...

. In recent times, the party has adopted more of a liberal streak, championing open markets while simultaneously seeking social justice. In its 2009 Manifesto, the INC praised a "secular and liberal" Indian nationalism
Indian nationalism
Indian nationalism refers to the many underlying forces that molded the Indian independence movement, and strongly continue to influence the politics of India, as well as being the heart of many contrasting ideologies that have caused ethnic and religious conflict in Indian society...

 against the nativist, communal, and conservative ideological tendencies it claims are espoused by the right
Right-wing politics
In politics, Right, right-wing and rightist generally refer to support for a hierarchical society justified on the basis of an appeal to natural law or tradition. To varying degrees, the Right rejects the egalitarian objectives of left-wing politics, claiming that the imposition of equality is...

. In general, the major theme of Asian liberalism in the past few decades has been the rise of democratization as a method facilitate the rapid economic modernization of the continent. In nations such as Myanmar, however, liberal democracy has been replaced by military dictatorship
Military dictatorship
A military dictatorship is a form of government where in the political power resides with the military. It is similar but not identical to a stratocracy, a state ruled directly by the military....

.

In Africa, liberalism is comparatively weak. The Wafd Party
Wafd Party
The Wafd Party was a nationalist liberal political party in Egypt. It was said to be Egypt's most popular and influential political party for a period in the 1920s and 30s...

 ("Delegation Party") was a nationalist liberal political party in Egypt. It was said to be Egypt's most popular and influential political party for a period in the 1920s and 30s. Recently, however, liberal parties and institutions have made a major push for political power. On a continental level, liberals are organized in the Africa Liberal Network
Africa Liberal Network
The Africa Liberal Network is an organization composed of 27 political parties from 21 African countries, and is an associated organisation of Liberal International, the political family to which Liberal Democratic parties belong...

, which contains influential parties such as the Popular Movement
Popular Movement
The Popular Movement is a conservative liberal party in Morocco established in 1957 by the Berber Caid Mahjoubi Aherdane with help from Dr. Abdelkrim al-Khatib who founded later a splinter party that became the Justice and Development Party.The present party results from a 25 March 2006 merger...

 in Morocco, the Democratic Party
Senegalese Democratic Party
The Senegalese Democratic Party is a political party in Senegal. The party considers itself a liberal party and is a member of the Liberal International. Abdoulaye Wade, Senegal's president, is the party's leader...

 in Senegal, and the Rally of the Republicans
Rally of the Republicans
The Rally of the Republicans is a liberal party in Côte d'Ivoire. It is presently the country's governing party; the party's leader, Alassane Ouattara, is the current President of Côte d'Ivoire....

 in Côte d'Ivoire. Among African nations, South Africa stands out for having a notable liberal tradition
Liberalism in South Africa
This article gives an overview of liberal parties in South Africa. It is limited to liberal parties with substantial support, mainly proved by having had a representation in parliament.-Introduction:...

 that other countries on the continent lack. In the middle of the 20th century, the Liberal Party
South African Liberal Party
The Liberal Party of South Africa was a South African political party from 1953 to 1968.-Founding of the Party:The party was founded on 9 May 1953 at a meeting of the South African Liberal Association in Cape Town . Essentially it grew out of a belief that the United Party was unable to achieve any...

 and the Progressive Party
Progressive Party (South Africa)
The Progressive Party was a liberal party in South Africa that opposed the ruling National Party's policies of apartheid, and championed the Rule of Law. For years its only member of parliament was Helen Suzman...

 were formed to oppose the apartheid policies of the government. The Liberals formed a multiracial
Multiracial
The terms multiracial and mixed-race describe people whose ancestries come from multiple races. Unlike the term biracial, which often is only used to refer to having parents or grandparents of two different races, the term multiracial may encompass biracial people but can also include people with...

 party that originally drew considerable support from urban
Urban area
An urban area is characterized by higher population density and vast human features in comparison to areas surrounding it. Urban areas may be cities, towns or conurbations, but the term is not commonly extended to rural settlements such as villages and hamlets.Urban areas are created and further...

 Africans and college-educated whites.

It also gained supporters from the "westernized sectors of the peasant
Peasant
A peasant is an agricultural worker who generally tend to be poor and homeless-Etymology:The word is derived from 15th century French païsant meaning one from the pays, or countryside, ultimately from the Latin pagus, or outlying administrative district.- Position in society :Peasants typically...

ry", and its public meetings were heavily attended by black Africans. The party had 7,000 members at its height, although its appeal to the white population as a whole was too small to make any meaningful political changes. The Liberals were disbanded in 1968 after the government passed a law that prohibited parties from having multiracial membership. Today, liberalism in South Africa is represented by the Democratic Alliance, the official opposition party to the ruling African National Congress
African National Congress
The African National Congress is South Africa's governing Africanist political party, supported by its tripartite alliance with the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party , since the establishment of non-racial democracy in April 1994. It defines itself as a...

. The Democratic Alliance is the second largest party in the National Assembly
National Assembly of South Africa
The National Assembly is the lower house of the Parliament of South Africa, located in Cape Town, Western Cape Province. It consists of no fewer than 350 and no more than 400 members...

 and currently leads the provincial government of Western Cape.

Impact and influence



The fundamental elements of contemporary society
Modernity
Modernity typically refers to a post-traditional, post-medieval historical period, one marked by the move from feudalism toward capitalism, industrialization, secularization, rationalization, the nation-state and its constituent institutions and forms of surveillance...

 have liberal roots. The early waves of liberalism popularized economic individualism
Free market
A free market is a competitive market where prices are determined by supply and demand. However, the term is also commonly used for markets in which economic intervention and regulation by the state is limited to tax collection, and enforcement of private ownership and contracts...

 while expanding constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

al government and parliament
Parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

ary authority. One of the greatest liberal triumphs involved replacing the capricious nature of royalist
Royalist
A royalist supports a particular monarch as head of state for a particular kingdom, or of a particular dynastic claim. In the abstract, this position is royalism. It is distinct from monarchism, which advocates a monarchical system of government, but not necessarily a particular monarch...

 and absolutist
Absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy is a monarchical form of government in which the monarch exercises ultimate governing authority as head of state and head of government, his or her power not being limited by a constitution or by the law. An absolute monarch thus wields unrestricted political power over the...

 rule with a decision-making process encoded in written law. Liberals sought and established a constitutional order that prized important individual freedoms, such as the freedom of speech
Freedom of speech
Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used...

 and of association
Freedom of association
Freedom of association is the individual right to come together with other individuals and collectively express, promote, pursue and defend common interests....

, an independent judiciary and public trial by jury
Jury trial
A jury trial is a legal proceeding in which a jury either makes a decision or makes findings of fact which are then applied by a judge...

, and the abolition of aristocratic privileges.

These sweeping changes in political authority marked the modern transition from absolutism to constitutional rule. The expansion and promotion of free markets was another major liberal achievement. Before they could establish markets, however, liberals had to destroy the old economic structures of the world. In that vein, liberals ended mercantilist policies
Mercantilism
Mercantilism is the economic doctrine in which government control of foreign trade is of paramount importance for ensuring the prosperity and security of the state. In particular, it demands a positive balance of trade. Mercantilism dominated Western European economic policy and discourse from...

, royal monopolies, and various other restraints on economic activities. They also sought to abolish internal barriers to trade—eliminating guild
Guild
A guild is an association of craftsmen in a particular trade. The earliest types of guild were formed as confraternities of workers. They were organized in a manner something between a trade union, a cartel, and a secret society...

s, local tariffs
Protectionism
Protectionism is the economic policy of restraining trade between states through methods such as tariffs on imported goods, restrictive quotas, and a variety of other government regulations designed to allow "fair competition" between imports and goods and services produced domestically.This...

, and prohibitions on the sale of land along the way.

Later waves of liberal thought and struggle were strongly influenced by the need to expand civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

. In the 1960s and 1970s, the cause of Second Wave feminism
Second-wave feminism
The Feminist Movement, or the Women's Liberation Movement in the United States refers to a period of feminist activity which began during the early 1960s and lasted through the early 1990s....

 in the United States was advanced in large part by liberal feminist
Liberal feminism
Liberal feminism asserts the equality of men and women through political and legal reform. It is an individualistic form of feminism and theory, which focuses on women’s ability to show and maintain their equality through their own actions and choices...

 organizations such as National Organization for Women
National Organization for Women
The National Organization for Women is the largest feminist organization in the United States. It was founded in 1966 and has a membership of 500,000 contributing members. The organization consists of 550 chapters in all 50 U.S...

. In addition to supporting gender equality
Gender equality
Gender equality is the goal of the equality of the genders, stemming from a belief in the injustice of myriad forms of gender inequality.- Concept :...

, liberals also have advocated for racial equality
Racial equality
Racial equality means different things in different contexts. It mostly deals with an equal regard to all races.It can refer to a belief in biological equality of all human races....

 in their drive to promote civil rights, and a global civil rights movement
Civil rights movement
The civil rights movement was a worldwide political movement for equality before the law occurring between approximately 1950 and 1980. In many situations it took the form of campaigns of civil resistance aimed at achieving change by nonviolent forms of resistance. In some situations it was...

 in the 20th century achieved several objectives towards both goals. Among the various regional and national movements, the civil rights movement in the United States during the 1960s strongly highlighted the liberal crusade for equal rights
Social equality
Social equality is a social state of affairs in which all people within a specific society or isolated group have the same status in a certain respect. At the very least, social equality includes equal rights under the law, such as security, voting rights, freedom of speech and assembly, and the...

. Describing the political efforts of the period, some historians have asserted that "the voting rights campaign marked...the convergence of two political forces at their zenith: the black campaign for equality and the movement for liberal reform," further remarking about how "the struggle to assure blacks the ballot coincided with the liberal call for expanded federal action to protect the rights of all citizens". The Great Society
Great Society
The Great Society was a set of domestic programs in the United States promoted by President Lyndon B. Johnson and fellow Democrats in Congress in the 1960s. Two main goals of the Great Society social reforms were the elimination of poverty and racial injustice...

 project launched by President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson , often referred to as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States after his service as the 37th Vice President of the United States...

 oversaw the creation of Medicare
Medicare (United States)
Medicare is a social insurance program administered by the United States government, providing health insurance coverage to people who are aged 65 and over; to those who are under 65 and are permanently physically disabled or who have a congenital physical disability; or to those who meet other...

 and Medicaid
Medicaid
Medicaid is the United States health program for certain people and families with low incomes and resources. It is a means-tested program that is jointly funded by the state and federal governments, and is managed by the states. People served by Medicaid are U.S. citizens or legal permanent...

, the establishment of Head Start and the Job Corps
Job Corps
Job Corps is a program administered by the United States Department of Labor that offers free-of-charge education and vocational training to youth ages 16 to 24.-Mission and purpose:...

 as part of the War on Poverty
War on Poverty
The War on Poverty is the unofficial name for legislation first introduced by United States President Lyndon B. Johnson during his State of the Union address on January 8, 1964. This legislation was proposed by Johnson in response to a national poverty rate of around nineteen percent...

, and the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964
Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against African Americans and women, including racial segregation...

—an altogether rapid series of events that some historians have dubbed the Liberal Hour.

Another major liberal accomplishment includes the rise of liberal internationalism
Liberal internationalism
Liberal internationalism is a foreign policy doctrine that argues that liberal states should intervene in other sovereign states in order to pursue liberal objectives. Such intervention can include both military invasion and humanitarian aid. This view is contrasted to isolationist, realist, or...

, which has been credited with the establishment of global organizations such as the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 and, after the Second World War, the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

. The idea of exporting liberalism worldwide and constructing a harmonious and liberal internationalist order has dominated the thinking of liberals since the 18th century. "Wherever liberalism has flourished domestically, it has been accompanied by visions of liberal internationalism," one historian wrote. But resistance to liberal internationalism was deep and bitter, with critics arguing that growing global interdependency would result in the loss of national sovereignty and that democracies represented a corrupt order incapable of either domestic or global governance.

Other scholars have praised the influence of liberal internationalism, claiming that the rise of globalization
Globalization
Globalization refers to the increasingly global relationships of culture, people and economic activity. Most often, it refers to economics: the global distribution of the production of goods and services, through reduction of barriers to international trade such as tariffs, export fees, and import...

 "constitutes a triumph of the liberal vision that first appeared in the eighteenth century" while also writing that liberalism is "the only comprehensive and hopeful vision of world affairs". The gains of liberalism have been significant. In 1975, roughly 40 countries around the world were characterized as liberal democracies, but that number had increased to more than 80 as of 2008. Most of the world's richest and most powerful
Great power
A great power is a nation or state that has the ability to exert its influence on a global scale. Great powers characteristically possess military and economic strength and diplomatic and cultural influence which may cause small powers to consider the opinions of great powers before taking actions...

 nations are liberal democracies with extensive social welfare programs
Welfare state
A welfare state is a "concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those...

.

See also

  • Africa Liberal Network
    Africa Liberal Network
    The Africa Liberal Network is an organization composed of 27 political parties from 21 African countries, and is an associated organisation of Liberal International, the political family to which Liberal Democratic parties belong...

     is the main organization for liberal parties on the African continent.
  • Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
    Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
    The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe is a transnational alliance between two European political parties: the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party and the European Democratic Party. It has political groups in the European Parliament, the EU Committee of the Regions, the...

     is the major liberal political group in the European Parliament.
  • Americans for Democratic Action
    Americans for Democratic Action
    Americans for Democratic Action is an American political organization advocating progressive policies. ADA works for social and economic justice through lobbying, grassroots organizing, research and supporting progressive candidates.-History:...

     is an American advocacy organization that champions modern liberalism.
  • Liberal Democrats
    Liberal Democrats
    The Liberal Democrats are a social liberal political party in the United Kingdom which supports constitutional and electoral reform, progressive taxation, wealth taxation, human rights laws, cultural liberalism, banking reform and civil liberties .The party was formed in 1988 by a merger of the...

     are the main liberal party in Great Britain.
  • Liberal International
    Liberal International
    Liberal International is a political international federation for liberal parties. Its headquarters is located at 1 Whitehall Place, London, SW1A 2HD within the National Liberal Club. It was founded in Oxford in 1947, and has become the pre-eminent network for liberal parties and for the...

     is the premier international political federation of liberal parties and institutions.
  • Liberal Party of Canada
    Liberal Party of Canada
    The Liberal Party of Canada , colloquially known as the Grits, is the oldest federally registered party in Canada. In the conventional political spectrum, the party sits between the centre and the centre-left. Historically the Liberal Party has positioned itself to the left of the Conservative...

     is one of the largest and the most dominant liberal parties in the world.
  • Liberal Party of Gibraltar is one of the smallest liberal parties in the world.
  • Ludwig von Mises Institute
    Ludwig von Mises Institute
    The Ludwig von Mises Institute , based in Auburn, Alabama, is a libertarian academic organization engaged in research and scholarship in the fields of economics, philosophy and political economy. Its scholarship is inspired by the work of Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises...

     is a think tank devoted to the appreciation of historic mittel-european aristocratic liberty.
  • Friedrich Naumann Foundation
    Friedrich Naumann Foundation
    The Friedrich Naumann Foundation is a German foundation for liberal politics, related to the Free Democratic Party. Established in 1958 by Theodor Heuss, the first president of the Federal Republic of Germany, it promotes individual freedom and liberalism.The Foundation follows the ideals of the...

     is a global advocacy organization that supports liberal ideas and policies.
  • The American Prospect
    The American Prospect
    The American Prospect is a monthly American political magazine dedicated to American liberalism. Based in Washington, DC, The American Prospect is a journal "of liberal ideas, committed to a just society, an enriched democracy, and effective liberal politics" which focuses on United States politics...

     is an American political magazine that backs social liberal policies.
  • The Liberal
    The Liberal
    The Liberal is a UK-based online magazine "dedicated to promoting liberalism around the world". The publication explores liberal attitudes to a range of cultural issues, and encourages a dialogue between liberal politics and the liberal arts...

    is a British magazine dedicated to coverage of liberal politics and liberal culture.
  • Rule according to higher law
    Rule according to higher law
    The rule according to a higher law means that no written law may be enforced by the government unless it conforms with certain unwritten, universal principles of fairness, morality, and justice...

  • Muscular Liberalism
    Muscular liberalism
    Muscular liberalism is a form of liberalism advocated by British Prime Minister David Cameron that describes his policy towards state multiculturalism.Cameron coined the term in a speech in Munich on 5 February 2011...


External links