Politics in Minutes (2016)


The word ‘liberal’, with its connotations of freedom and generosity, has been used to describe a range of very different political ideologies. Used loosely, it has come to mean something similar to ‘left-wing’, especially in the USA, where it has even taken on a pejorative connotation. However in political theory, liberalism has a more precise meaning, referring to a philosophy based on principles of liberty and equality.

From its beginnings in the political philosophy of the Enlightenment period, liberalism has advocated ideas of democracy and civil rights, particularly for the individual, and developed into a movement supporting social reform. At the same time, a strand of economic liberalism has advocated free trade and minimal government interference. It is perhaps better then, rather than defining liberalism in terms of left or right, to see it as a broad range of social and economic stances that together sit at one end of a scale, the other end of which is occupied by authoritarianism.