Portal:Liberalism

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Introduction

Liberalism is a political and moral philosophy based on liberty and equality. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but they generally support civil rights, democracy, secularism, gender equality, racial equality, internationalism, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion.

Liberalism became a distinct movement in the Age of Enlightenment, when it became popular among Western philosophers and economists. Liberalism sought to replace the norms of hereditary privilege, state religion, absolute monarchy, the divine right of kings and traditional conservatism with representative democracy and the rule of law. Liberals also ended mercantilist policies, royal monopolies and other barriers to trade, instead promoting free markets. Philosopher John Locke is often credited with founding liberalism as a distinct tradition, arguing that each man has a natural right to life, liberty and property, adding that governments must not violate these rights based on the social contract. While the British liberal tradition has emphasised expanding democracy, French liberalism has emphasised rejecting authoritarianism and is linked to nation-building.

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Social liberalism is a political ideology that believes individual liberty requires a level of social justice. Like classical liberalism, social liberalism endorses a market economy and the expansion of civil and political rights and liberties, but differs in that it believes the legitimate role of the government includes addressing economic and social issues such as poverty, health care, and education. Under social liberalism, the good of the community is viewed as harmonious with the freedom of the individual. Social liberal policies have been widely adopted in much of the capitalist world, particularly following World War II. Social liberal ideas and parties tend to be considered centrist or centre-left.

In American political usage, the term "social liberalism" describes progressive stances on socio-political issues like abortion, same-sex marriage or gun control, as opposed to "social conservatism". A social liberal in this sense may hold either "liberal" or "conservative" views on fiscal policy. (See Modern liberalism in the United States.)

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Picture of John Locke
John Stuart Mill (20 May 1806 – 8 May 1873) was an English philosopher, political economist and civil servant. One of the most influential thinkers in the history of liberalism, he contributed widely to social theory, political theory and political economy. Dubbed "the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the nineteenth century", Mill's conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state and social control. Mill was a proponent of utilitarianism, an ethical theory developed by his predecessor Jeremy Bentham, and contributed significantly to the theory of the scientific method. A member of the Liberal Party, he was also the first Member of Parliament to call for women's suffrage.

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John Dewey
John Dewey, Liberalism and Social Action, 1935.

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"The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor", 16 December 1773
Credit: Kevin Myers

The Boston Tea Party was a political protest by the Sons of Liberty in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 16, 1773. The demonstrators, some disguised as Native Americans, in defiance of the Tea Act of May 10, 1773, destroyed an entire shipment of tea sent by the East India Company. They boarded the ships and threw the chests of tea into Boston Harbor. The British government responded harshly and the episode escalated into the American Revolution. The Tea Party became an iconic event of American history, and since then other political protests such as the Tea Party movement have referred to themselves as historical successors to the Boston protest of 1773.

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