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A political and economic philosophy emerging along with the growth of capitalism. The central belief is that unregulated free markets are the best means to allocate productive resources and distribute goods and services and that government intervention should be minimal. Behind this is an assumption about individuals being rational, self-interested and methodical in the pursuit of their goals. By the end of the 19th century, the belief in free markets became moderated in some versions of liberalism to acknowledge the growing conviction that liberty or freedom for the individual was a hollow promise if the social conditions of society made liberty meaningless. It was believed that the state must become more involved in managing the economy in order to soften the negative effects of market economies and maximize the well-being of each individual. This new direction for liberalism is often referred to as ‘progressive liberalism’. This newer philosophy supported the growth of the welfare state, but has come under attack in the past two decades. See: CLASSICAL ECONOMIC THEORY / NEO-LIBERALISM / .

Last updated 2002--0-9-

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Athabaca University ICAAP

© Robert Drislane, Ph.D. and Gary Parkinson, Ph.D.
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*This social science dictionary has 1000
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