What Is a Liberalor

What Is a Liberalor

What Is a Liberal

A liberal is a person who believes in social equality and tolerance. This does not mean that they always agree with other liberals, as they hold many different viewpoints on various issues. Though often associated with liberalism, social democracy is not the same as being a liberal. A social democrat believes that capitalism is not the best system, but it is not their goal for society to be a socialist society.


The intellectual founders of liberalism were the English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704), who developed a theory of political authority based on natural individual rights and the consent of the governed, and the Scottish economist and philosopher Adam Smith (1723–90), who argued that societies prosper when individuals are free to pursue their self-interest within an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and competitive markets, controlled neither by the state nor by private monopolies.

We borrowed liberal arts from French in the 14th century, and sometime after this liberal began to be used in conjunction with other words (such as education, profession, and pastime). When paired with these other words liberal was serving to indicate that the things described were fitting for a person of high social status. However, at the same time that the term liberal arts was beginning to make 14th century college-tuition-paying-parents a bit nervous about their children’s future job prospects, liberal was also being used as an adjective to indicate “generosity” and “bounteousness.” By the 15th century, people were using liberal to mean “bestowed in a generous and openhanded way,” as in “poured a liberal glass of wine.” (Source: www.merriam-webster.com)


The problem is compounded when one asks whether this is all that government can or should do on behalf of individual freedom. Some liberals—the so-called neoclassical liberals, or libertarians—answer that it is. Since the late 19th century, however, most liberals have insisted that the powers of government can promote as well as protect the freedom of the individual. According to modern liberalism, the chief task of government is to remove obstacles that prevent individuals from living freely or from fully realizing their potential. Such obstacles include poverty, disease, discrimination, and ignorance. The disagreement among liberals over whether government should promote individual freedom rather than merely protect it is reflected to some extent in the different prevailing conceptions of liberalism in the United States and Europe since the late 20th century. In the United States liberalism is associated with the welfare-state policies of the New Deal program of the Democratic administration of Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, whereas in Europe it is more commonly associated with a commitment to limited government and laissez-faire economic policies (see below Contemporary liberalism).

Liberalism also derives from the practice of adversariality in European political and economic life, a process in which institutionalized competition—such as the competition between different political parties in electoral contests, between prosecution and defense in adversary procedure, or between different producers in a market economy (see monopoly and competition)—generates a dynamic social order. Adversarial systems have always been precarious, however, and it took a long time for the belief in adversariality to emerge from the more traditional view, traceable at least to Plato, that the state should be an organic structure, like a beehive, in which the different social classes cooperate by performing distinct yet complementary roles. The belief that competition is an essential part of a political system and that good government requires a vigorous opposition was still considered strange in most European countries in the early 19th century. (Source: www.britannica.com)


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