When are liberals not liberal?


[lat.] L. is a political world view that puts the freedoms of the individual in the foreground and rejects any form of intellectual, social, political or state coercion.

The four most important principles of L. are: a) the right to self-determination (right of self-determination) on the basis of reason and insight, b) the restriction of political power, c) freedom vis-à-vis the state and d) the self-regulation of the economy on the basis personal property.

As a mainstream of modernity, the L. goes back to central ideas of the Enlightenment. A distinction must be made between political and economic L.

1) The political L. aims to promote the freedom of the individual (e.g. freedom of belief, freedom of opinion) and to restrict political rule (J. Locke) according to the maxim that the range of state violence is limited by the freedom of the individual But freedom ends where the freedom of another individual is impaired. From L.'s point of view, the necessity of the state is in no way denied, rather L.'s goals should be supported by the institutions of the constitutional state (e.g. fundamental rights, constitution) as well as legal security guaranteed by the state (which also includes the state monopoly on the use of force) can be achieved. The most important political stages in the development of L. were: the enactment of the Bill of Rights in England (1689) and the Bill of Rights of Virginia (1776), the promulgation of the US Constitution (1787) and finally the declaration of human rights during the French Revolution (French Revolution) (1789). Since then, individual rights have been asserting themselves in Europe (at different speeds), and law has established itself as the basis for political and state action. In the USA, the constitutional development meant that a (in the European sense) expanded state was prevented until today. The principle of the separation of powers (separation of powers / entanglement of powers) (Montesquieu) became a central element of modern state constitutions and forms of government.

2) Since the pioneering work of A. Smith (1776), the economic L. has regarded private property (especially of the means of production), free competition and free trade as fundamental prerequisites for creating social prosperity. In fact, economic liberalization led to dynamic industrialization processes and the development of a (private) capitalist economic system, which resulted in the impoverishment of large sections of the population (mid / end of the 19th century).

In the 19th century the L. was a (worldwide) political movement of the aspiring bourgeoisie (bourgeoisie / bourgeoisie), which, however, remained largely politically powerless in DEU. In the so-called German Revolution of 1848, the bourgeoisie failed in the attempt to take on a political leadership role in DEU. The industrial development in DEU and the expansion of the economic L. took place on the basis of a conservative (authoritarian) understanding of the state and (due to the social misery) the development of a conservative welfare state. In the Weimar Republic, the politically divided German L. largely disintegrated. It only regained importance after the Second World War with the establishment of the FDP (Free Democratic Party (FDP)) as a liberal party, which is explained less by the size of the (comparatively small) electoral base, but by the continued participation in government.

In terms of economic policy, L. turned away from laissez faire after the Second World War and assigned the state the task of creating the necessary (framework) conditions for free competition and of ensuring that competition through regulatory interventions in economic processes is maintained. This variant of L. was v. a. developed by the Freiburg School (W. Eucken) of ordo- or neoliberalism; its most important political representative, L. Erhard (CDU), is considered - together with A. Müller-Armack - as the founder of the so-called social market economy (social market economy).

Today the L. is not a closed worldview, but rather represents a large "family of thought" that also includes contrary (political and economic) ideas and wings. This becomes clear, for example, through the variety of liberal parties in the EU (European Union (EU)), v. a. but also in the difference between the European and the L. in the USA, where liberal primarily still stands for respect for civil rights, public control of economic power and for social improvements.
See also:
Right of self-determination
Freedom of belief
freedom of speech
constitutional state
Fundamental rights
Monopoly of violence
Human rights
French Revolution
Separation of powers / entanglement of powers
Free trade
Citizens / bourgeoisie
Welfare state
Weimar Republic
World war
Free Democratic Party (FDP)
Social market economy
European Union (EU)
Civil rights
Economic policy

Source: Schubert, Klaus / Martina Klein: Das Politiklexikon. 7th, updated and exp. Edition Bonn: Dietz 2020. Licensed edition Bonn: Federal Agency for Civic Education.