Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Political Liberalism

The United States government, independent of which party is in power, is more substantially based on the principles of political liberalism than governments of continental Europe, to say nothing of Iran or Cuba. Generally speaking, English-speaking countries like the USA, the UK, and Canada tend to have governments closer to ideal-typical political liberalism -- and therefore more freedom in civil society and less generous welfare states -- than others in the global North. Adherence to political liberalism in the USA is such that even many benefits and services that some Third-World governments that are more populist than socialist -- such as the Iranian government -- provide as citizens' entitlements are not provided by the government here. You have to shop for them on your own instead.

It's the same strong adherence to the principles of political liberalism that has created a polity in the USA that lets you freely establish businesses and voluntary associations (whether they are socially beneficial or detrimental) in the private sector, allows governments, corporations, medical professions, and so on to freely provide -- and more typically freely withhold -- an extremely wide range of goods and services, and also helps religious institutions, exempt from many laws and regulations, flourish in the USA.

In short, political liberalism tends to privatize, expanding the space for freedom (of the negative sort, freedom from government regulation, the only kind of freedom that Americans recognize as freedom) -- sexual and religious, as well as political and economic, freedoms -- in the private sector and contracting the scope of the public sector that provides citizens with goods and services as a matter of their rights. The American citizen has few social duties but also few social rights, the opposite of the Cuban or Iranian citizen who has many social duties but also many social rights. In the USA, the main obstacle to social rights is the strength of political liberalism that lets everyone in civil society -- individuals, corporations, religious institutions, and so on -- have a great deal of freedom of choice . . . if they can afford it.

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