Modern American Liberalism
Liberalism has always featured prominently in the history of the United States of America. From the very beginning, the founding fathers of the nation believed in the unalienable rights of the individual, which include, famously, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Aside from these strong beliefs in personal rights and freedom, however, the earliest liberal American politicians would not have had as much in common with today's liberals as one might initially think. These men generally believed in a minimal amount of government interference in the economy or the lives of individual citizens. While they agreed that each person had an undeniable right to personal liberty, this did not necessarily mean that one had a right to health care, education, or any other type of social welfare. They certainly did not feel it was the government's place to provide services such as these, particularly at the cost of increased taxation on the population as a whole and an expanded government.
Modern American liberalism did not truly emerge until much later in the History of America. During the 1930s, the United States was suffering from the effects of the Great Depression. Unemployment was at an all time high, and many people struggled day to day just to put food on the table. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to office in 1933, he offered a 'New Deal' to the people of the United States which included relief programs that provided much needed jobs, and the modern Social Security system of the United States. Before Roosevelt, such far-reaching measures were unheard of. Modern liberalism progressed further during the Cold War which followed the Second World War. As an alternative to the repressive communist regimes which were taking hold across Eastern Europe, American politicians embraced the American ideals of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear even more strongly than before.
Perhaps the biggest shift that formed modern American liberalism into what it is today occurred during the 1960s. This was a major transitional period in the United States. Beginning with the government of John F. Kennedy, the liberal movement became increasingly progressive on issues such as civil rights. Kennedy's Successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, has vision for a 'Great Society' in which laws were passed to eliminate the incidence of poverty and racial injustice. Social justice has been a key feature of liberalism in the United States ever since. Liberalism in America now is essentially a form of social liberalism.
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