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An ideology that upholds private property, individual rights, legal equality, freedom of choice and democratic government. Liberalism suggests that the essence of freedom is to be free from constraint. Liberalism is an ideology that supports capitalism and advocates the principle of free markets, left largely undirected by governments. While liberalism upholds free markets, it also places great value on equal of opportunity and is strongly opposed to ascriptive processes in society, since they restrict individual choice and deny equal access to satisfaction. In the twentieth century, a more active view of the state's role in creating improved equality of opportunity in society became important within liberalism. (This trend in liberalism was also a reaction to the development of trade unions and of socialist and populist movements.) There was a massive expansion in state -provided education, social programs etc. from the end of the 19th century until the 1960's and 1970's. In the 1980's and 1990's a more classical view of liberalism has returned to prominence, one that advocates a much smaller role for the state and increased reliance on the workings of the free market. In making this argument, classical liberals claim that intervention in the market rarely, if ever, promotes choice, but frustrates the market adjustments that ultimately improve efficiency, the wealth of society and the ability of individuals to make choices. See: CLASSICAL LIBERALISM / 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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