Modern Liberalism

Modern liberalism describes what liberalism is today. It is also often described as social liberalism. It includes the following principles and ideas:

● Liberals still see freedom as the primary value.

● Tolerance is a key value which is associated with freedom.

● Modern social liberals subscribe to mechanistic theory — that social problems can be solved using rational solutions and do not require ideological transformation.

● Contemporary liberals are concerned to ensure that strong constitutional rules exist to control the power of government and to preserve citizens’ rights. Where power is over-concentrated in a few hands or where government is insufficiently accountable, liberals support constitutional reform.

● The protection of human rights, both domestically and globally, is a major concern for contemporary liberals.

● The spread of education and welfare provision leads to the idea of the enabling state, a state that helps people ultimately to help themselves.

● Modern liberals are concerned that all sections of society should receive equal treatment by the state and by the law, and that discrimination of any kind should be outlawed and combatted by social action and cultural change. Thus, they champion the cause of women’s equality and anti-discrimination with regard to ethnic minorities, the LGBTQ community, the disabled, the old, etc. Feminist Betty Friedan (1921– 2006) was an early pioneer of women’s equality.

● Those liberals who are seen as ‘progressive’ and who exist within British political parties other than the Liberal Democrats, notably the Labour, Conservative, Green and Scottish National parties, also subscribe to the social democratic ideal of social justice. Social justice encompasses equality of opportunity, a stress on state welfare and some redistribution of income from rich to poor. The concept of distributive justice, as developed by John Rawls (1921–2002), is supported by modern progressive liberals.