What is liberal?

Liberal has a couple of different meanings in political thought.
  • Classical liberalism: a focus on individual rights to liberty and property, and universal equality. This was similar to modern-day Libertarianism. Generally holds that less government is better, with a few exceptions, and that free enterprise will solve most problems.
  • Modern liberalism: a focus on social justice and social welfare, as well as equal rights and civil liberties. Generally holds that strong government is required to keep powerful minorities and wealthy corporations from instituting oppressive and exploitative policies.


The word liberal is derived from the Latin word "liber" meaning free. Liberals believe in liberal democracy; free and fair elections; human rights; capitalism; free trade among nations; separation of church and state; spread of civil rights and civil liberties. They don't believe in welfare states and are always campaigning on the "rule of Law" (the Constitution). Basically, they believe in individual rights. The liberal movement has it's roots connected to an Englishman named John Locke in 1689. However, it goes further back to the "Magna Carta" issued in the year 1215.