Politics in Minutes (2016)

Liberal democracy

The basic principles of liberalism – protection of individual rights of liberty and protection against oppressive government – have been so widely accepted that they are sometimes seen as synonymous with the idea of democracy. Although democracies may take on a variety of forms (see here), today most describe themselves as liberal democracies in that they combine the democratic principle of fair and free elections with the liberal principle of protection of rights and freedoms. However, in practice, democracies can and do limit certain freedoms, and many governments in so-called liberal democracies impose regulations on trade and industry, and the free movement of labour, and control the distribution of wealth through systems of taxation. In addition, they may take an active role in social policy. The justification for this type of intervention is typically that it is sometimes necessary to become less liberal in order to be more democratic; that restrictions and regulation may be needed to protect certain basic freedoms, and even democracy itself.