Social liberalism  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Social liberalism (also known as modern liberalism or egalitarian liberalism) is a political ideology and a variety of liberalism that endorses a market economy and the expansion of civil and political rights while also believing that 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. Social liberals see themselves as occupying the middle ground between social democrats and classical liberals.

The term "social liberalism" is used to differentiate it from classical liberalism, which dominated political and economic thought for a number of years until social liberalism branched off from it around the Great Depression. 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.

Decline

Following economic problems in the 1970s, liberal thought underwent some transformation. Keynesian economic management was seen as interfering with the free market, while increased welfare spending that had been funded by higher taxes prompted fears of lower investment, lower consumer spending and the creation of a "dependency culture". Trade unions often caused high wages and industrial disruption while full employment was regarded as unsustainable. Writers such as Milton Friedman and Samuel Brittan, who were influenced by Friedrich Hayek, advocated a reversal of social liberalism. Their policies which are often called neoliberalism had a significant influence on Western politics, most notably on the governments of United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and United States President Ronald Reagan, who pursued policies of deregulation of the economy and reduction in spending on social services.

Part of the reason for the collapse of the social liberal coalition was a challenge in the 1970s from financial interests that could operate independently of national governments. Another cause was the decline of organized labor which had formed part of the coalition, but was also a support for left-wing ideologies challenging the liberal consensus. Related to this was the decline of working class consciousness and the growth of the middle class. The push by the United States which had been least accepting of social liberalism for trade liberalization further eroded support.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Social liberalism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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