Liberalism in the United States

Liberalism in the United States is a political and moral philosophy based on concepts of unalienable rights of the individual. The fundamental liberal ideals of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, the separation of church and state, the right to due process and equality under the law are widely accepted as a common foundation of liberalism. It differs from liberalism worldwide because the United States has never had a resident hereditary aristocracy[1] and avoided much of the class warfare that characterized Europe.[2] According to Ian Adams, "all US parties are liberal and always have been. Essentially they espouse classical liberalism, that is a form of democratized Whig constitutionalism plus the free market. The point of difference comes with the influence of social liberalism" and the proper role of government.[3]

Modern liberalism includes issues such as same-sex marriage, reproductive and other women's rights, voting rights for all adult citizens, civil rights, environmental justice and government protection of the right to an adequate standard of living.[4] National social services such as equal educational opportunities, access to health care and transportation infrastructure are intended to meet the responsibility to promote the general welfare of all citizens as established by the United States Constitution. Some liberals, who call themselves classical liberals, fiscal conservatives or libertarians, endorse fundamental liberal ideals, but they diverge from modern liberal thought, claiming that economic freedom is more important than equality and that providing for general welfare as enumerated in the Taxing and Spending Clause exceeds the legitimate role of government.[5]

Since the 1930s, the term liberalism is usually used without a qualifier to refer to social liberalism, a variety of liberalism that endorses a regulated market economy and the expansion of civil and political rights, with the common good considered as compatible with or superior to the freedom of the individual.[6] This political philosophy was exemplified by Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal policies and later Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society. Other accomplishments include the Works Progress Administration and the Social Security Act in 1935 as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This variety of liberalism is also known as modern liberalism to distinguish it from classical liberalism, from which it sprang out along with modern conservatism.[7]