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Definitions of Liberalism

An exploration of the values of Liberalism and the Liberal Democrats.

Before looking at the definitions, if you want to see whether you are a liberal, try the questionnaire.

Questionnaire: Are You a Liberal?

The ideology of the Liberal Democrats is based on liberal values. There is however no generally agreed definition of the values, although it is generally recognised that they are more widely held than the specific principles of the Liberal Democrats. Here are 3 definitions based on an academic study, on the traditions of the Liberal Party and on discussions of values by the Liberal Democrats.

Academic Definition Based on Peoples' Values

Summary: a Liberal is concerned with limiting all power (state or otherwise) and with supporting all minorities; probably also with the environment.

Definition based on Liberal Party History

Summary: attitudes of the Liberal Party to the state - or rather government - varied over time. The constant has been the distrust of centralised and of unaccountable power, the tolerance of difference and the valuing of individual freedom. Other attitudes depended on what the main threats to that freedom were.

Definition based on Liberal Democrat Values

Summary: pluralism, participation and sustainability

You will notice that all 3 definitions amount to much the same thing.

Some Liberal Democrats have espoused values which would come under the definition of left or right, but the values defined as liberal have generally been supported by all. There are many people not in the party who share these values, but the Liberal Democrats are the only party which champions them.

return to What Liberal Democrats Stand For