Liberalism. What is Liberalism?



Most people have heard the world 'Liberalism' at some point, but exactly what is liberalism? Liberalism at its heart is the belief in the innate right of freedom, or liberty for all people. This includes, importantly, equal rights for all individuals. There are different groups of liberals with different beliefs aside from this key tenant of liberalism, but most liberals today also agree that the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, free elections, democracy, and free trade are also essential. Within the large group of liberals, there are varying ideologies such as classical liberalism and social liberalism. Two people who would otherwise both consider themselves liberal may still hold some opposing political beliefs.

Classical liberalism developed during the late 17th century and early 18th century in Britain. Philosophers such as John Locke and Thomas Hobbes believed that freedom and liberty were essential for all people. However, aside from this, their beliefs differed greatly from what most would consider a liberal viewpoint today. A central aspect of classical liberalism is a lack of government interference. This means that the government should not suppress the rights of its citizens, but also that it should not regulate the economy or otherwise take on tasks that would require a large and involved government. Therefore the government would also not be responsible for providing social services such as health care or education to its citizens. In this way, classical liberals resemble modern conservatives.

Today, what is a liberal? Generally, modern liberalism is a form of social liberalism. Social liberals feel that social justice is an integral part of liberalism. hey believe that the government of a state has a duty to provide services to its citizens and to address issues such as economic disparity and social welfare. This is the view held by most people who consider themselves liberal today. Thus, modern liberals would generally support measures that would provide services such as affordable health care and education for the poor, even if these services meant increased government spending or taxation on the wealthier members of society.

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