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Political liberalism

Political liberalism is the respective political traditions of the liberal parties around the world.

This tradition changes from country to country, but is usually a blend between some of social democracy, though of a moderate reformist kind as opposed to revolutionary socialists, and selected bits of classical liberalism, especially an attachment to a sphere of individual liberties, though without any strong principle in circumscribing government intervention. Liberals usually think of themselves as progressive as opposed to conservative, and as moderate[?] and reformist as opposed to radical or revolutionary. They will defend a democratic constitution that guarantees civil rights, as opposed to monarchies, aristocracies, or otherwise non-democratic systems.

More precise liberal agendas often vary considerably from country to country and throughout history, as social standards[?], and cultural attitudes[?] deal directly with some issues regarding personal freedom.

As in all political battles, what is apparent does not resemble the underlying political mechanics, and all political issues should be taken with a grain of salt. Thus, many attempts by liberals and conservatives to characterize each other, are more akin to a public stage-play based on symbolic[?] idealisms[?] than on the real workings of compromise in government. Compromises and the personal interest of politicians mean that political discourse are taylored to pander to expected voters and fit their common prejudice, whereas promises are forgotten once the party holds power.

This distinction of political liberalism carries a caveat, which is that in the absence of strong principles characteristic of successful power-seeking endeavours, there is no possible strong definition liberty, and liberalism will refer to the vague common prejudices of the day. The countries where liberals have stronger principles are those where they are farther removed from any contention of holding power.

Some who use the name "liberal" as political monicker can in contrast of fact, be, within their country relatively conservative (Japan, Australia, and Canada). While some are left of center (USA), others are far right (Austria's FP), and some are almost classical liberals (France).

Great Britain

Originally known as Whigs, from the Seventeenth Century up to the mid Nineteenth Century, the British liberals were reformists who would stand against the privileges of the King and the landed aristocracy. They alternated with the conservative Tories between government and opposition, up to World War I. After the War, their influence was undermined by the social democrat Labour Party, who took over as the main reformist/popular party as opposed to the Conservatives. The doctrine of the party evolved a lot throughout history, matching concerns of the day. For historical details, see the article about Whiggism.

Nowadays, the party is generally regarded as being on the centre-left, combining support for free trade and civil liberties with an endorsement of the Welfare State and social democracy. Officially, they are known today as Liberal Democrats.

United States

In recent decades the most common use of the term liberal in the USA is greatly at variance from the use of the term in the rest of the world, and with the historical meaning of the word in the USA through the mid 20th century.

Some think that conservatives have been successful in undermining progressives as 'liberals', by deliberate public relations campaigns, through repeated use of the word, 'liberal', in ways that associate it with irresponsibility.

Some independent leftists and libertarians who dislike the USA's two leading parties allege that since liberal means being in favor of liberty, both parties are telling the truth when they deny that they are liberals.

In the United States, the label of liberal is sometimes used as derogatory or politically undermining label. It can imply a overly free-spirited, unaccountable, and compromised character, or someone in favor of vast and needless government intrusion into peoples lives.

USA Conservatives in recent years, often those of the Republican Party, sometimes use liberal as an subversive adjective for anyone who is a member of or supports any policy of the Democratic Party.

Consequently, while far right wing politics often are debated and voiced in the political world, liberalism has been associated with far-left politics, whose agendas are often voided.

See: Politicized issues[?]

Twentieth century American political liberalism traditionally held many of the following views:

  • Support for the rights of women and minorities, particularly racial and religious minorities, the disabled, and homosexuals. Some further support such programs as affirmative action and multi-lingual education[?].
  • Support for abortion rights.
  • Support for government social programs such as welfare, medical care, unemployment benefits, and retirement programs.
  • Support for strong environmental regulations.
  • Support for trade unions and strong regulation of business.
  • Support for animal rights.
  • Support for gun control
  • Opposition to the death penalty

This resembled what in other countries was sometimes referred to as social democracy. However, unlike european social democrats, American liberals never widely endorsed nationalization of industry. In addition, in recent years the term has become somewhat confused, as the term has been applied to a broad spectrum of viewpoints. As the United States Democratic Party, the standard bearer of American liberals, adopted of the more centrist outlook of the Democratic Leadership Council[?], the term "liberal" has become associated with more centrist candidates and issues who, for example, support the death penalty or take pro-business positions. For this reason, many Americans on the left of the political spectrum prefer to use the term progressive to describe their views, disassociating themselves from contemporary mainstream liberalism.

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