Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality.〔With a nod to Robert Trivers' definition of altruistic behavior (), Satoshi Kanazawa defines liberalism (as opposed to conservatism) as "the genuine concern for the welfare of genetically unrelated others and the willingness to contribute larger proportions of private resources for the welfare of such others" ().〕 The former principle is stressed in classical liberalism while the latter is more evident in social liberalism.〔.〕 Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas and programs such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free markets, civil rights, democratic societies, secular governments, and international cooperation.
Liberalism first became a distinct political movement during the Age of Enlightenment, when it became popular among philosophers and economists in the Western world. Liberalism rejected the notions, common at the time, of hereditary privilege, state religion, absolute monarchy, and the Divine Right of Kings. The 17th-century philosopher John Locke is often credited with founding liberalism as a distinct philosophical tradition. Locke argued that each man has a natural right to life, liberty and property,〔"All mankind...being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions", John Locke, Second Treatise of Government〕 while adding that governments must not violate these rights based on the social contract. Liberals opposed traditional conservatism and sought to replace absolutism in government with representative democracy and the rule of law.
Prominent revolutionaries in the Glorious Revolution, the American Revolution, and the French Revolution used liberal philosophy to justify the armed overthrow of what they saw as tyrannical rule. Liberalism started to spread rapidly especially after the French Revolution. The 19th century saw liberal governments established in nations across Europe, South America, and North America. In this period, the dominant ideological opponent of classical liberalism was conservatism, but liberalism later survived major ideological challenges from new opponents, such as fascism and communism. During the 20th century, liberal ideas spread even further as liberal democracies found themselves on the winning side in both world wars. In Europe and North America, the establishment of social liberalism became a key component in the expansion of the welfare state.〔Often referred to simply as "liberalism" in the United States.〕〔(Liberalism in America: A Note for Europeans ) by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (1956)
from: The Politics of Hope (Boston: Riverside Press, 1962). 〕 Today, liberal parties continue to wield power and influence throughout the world.
==Etymology and definition==
Words such as ''liberal'', ''liberty'', ''libertarian'', and ''libertine'' all trace their history to the Latin ''liber'', which means "free".〔Gross, p. 5.〕 One of the first recorded instances of the word ''liberal'' occurs in 1375, when it was used to describe the ''liberal arts'' in the context of an education desirable for a free-born man.〔 The word's early connection with the classical education of a medieval university soon gave way to a proliferation of different denotations and connotations. ''Liberal'' could refer to "free in bestowing" as early as 1387, "made without stint" in 1433, "freely permitted" in 1530, and "free from restraint" – often as a pejorative remark – in the 16th and the 17th centuries.〔
In 16th century England, ''liberal'' could have positive or negative attributes in referring to someone's generosity or indiscretion.〔 In ''Much Ado About Nothing'', Shakespeare wrote of "a liberal villaine" who "hath...confest his vile encounters".〔 With the rise of the Enlightenment, the word acquired decisively more positive undertones, being defined as "free from narrow prejudice" in 1781 and "free from bigotry" in 1823.〔 In 1815, the first use of the word ''liberalism'' appeared in English.〔Kirchner, pp. 2–3.〕 In Spain, the ''Liberales'', the first group to use the ''liberal'' label in a political context,〔Colton and Palmer, p. 479.〕 fought for the implementation of the 1812 Constitution for decades. From 1820 to 1823, during the ''Trienio Liberal'', King Ferdinand VII was compelled by the ''liberales'' to swear to uphold the Constitution. By the middle of the 19th century, ''liberal'' was used as a politicised term for parties and movements all over the world.〔Emil J. Kirchner, ''Liberal Parties in Western Europe'', "Liberal parties were among the first political parties to form, and their long-serving and influential records, as participants in parliaments and governments, raise important questions ... ", Cambridge University Press, 1988, ISBN 978-0521323949〕
Over time, the meaning of the word "liberalism" began to diverge in different parts of the world. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "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."〔Liberalism, ''Encyclopædia Britannica''〕 Consequently, in the U.S., the ideas of individualism and ''laissez-faire'' economics previously associated with classical liberalism became the basis for the emerging school of libertarian thought.〔Rothbard, (''The Libertarian Heritage: The American Revolution and Classical Liberalism )''.〕
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