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Liberalism

A word which has several meanings according to where it is used.

1. 19th century British Liberalism was the name for a series of policies which included: Free Trade, Democracy, opposition to the oligarchies which controlled most of continental Europe. The British Liberal Party espoused these policies in Britain. It also opposed the established Church.

2. In the 20th century the British Liberal Party was associated with the beginnings of the Welfare State: old age pensions, income taxes to pay for them, state provision of education and other benefits. In Britain these policies were then taken up by the Labour Party. Liberalism there in recent years has meant a midway stance between the Labour Party and the Conservative party. More recently the Liberal Democratic party in Britain has emphasised civil liberties, but also wanted more welfare than the recent (Blair) very right wing New Labour government.

2. Europe
In Continental Europe Liberal Parties usually stand for Free Markets - what Americans associate with conservatism.
3. United States
In the United States Liberalism has the same meaning as Socialism (or Social Democracy) in Europe. Liberals tend to want more government regulation and spending on social needs. Most Europeans believe American liberals are very weak Social Democrats.
It is also used as a more or less meaningless term of abuse by extreme rightwing marketisers.
4. Others
In Australia the main conservative party is called Liberal. In Japan the name of the main conservative party is usually translated as Liberal Democratic.
In Austria the Freedom Party is generally considered to be extreme right or neo-Nazi. In Russia the Liberal Democratic party has been the vehicle of a would be dictator.

The opposite of Liberalism may be considered Neo-liberalism, the name by which policies of privatisation of all functions of the state are advocated, giving all power to the owners of capital, nullifying democracy
Colin Crouch - The strange non-death of neo-liberalism




The Strange Non-death of Neo-liberalism

Last revised 10/07/11


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