|It doesn't stop at the water's edge:|
|Random strands and actors|
Liberals tend to champion individual rights and equality, although it depends on what measures are being taken to realize those rights. Due to this, liberalism can fall under many branches, some even self-contradictory. For instance, classical liberalism favors limiting government rights to promote individual rights while social liberalism tends to favor government action to protect individuals. Unlike conservatism, its traditional political opposite, liberalism may be against the status quo, favoring changes to better society.
Europeans typically use the term to describe politics that draw on classical liberalism's basic touchstone of the free individual operating in a free market economy, a notion similar to modern libertarianism. These liberals oppose government regulation on the free market to promote flow of goods in the market.
The left in Europe today, however, is closer to the U.S. term of liberal. Many developed countries in Europe, especially Britain and France, tend to be more left in general than in the U.S., with government playing a bigger role in general, handling universal health care, work vacations, and comprehensive sex education. The common accusations of "socialism" in the U.S. would've fallen face-flat in European ears, as several socialist leaders stand a significant chance or have won in elections. Not only this, but Europeans are frequently puzzled why Obama is commonly referred as a "socialist" by his detractors.
An prominent example is the United Kingdom's politics. The UK Conservative Party would be called out as "liberals" by the conservatives (or "socialist" depending on their mood) in the U.S.. They support universal health care, while they allow abortions and same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, however, during economic recession, the party has proposed spending cuts, something more in line with conservative politics in the U.S.
In the United States, liberalism is typically used to describe politics on the left side of the political spectrum. Liberals tend to favor individual rights gained by government practice. For instance, liberals often favor universal health care, gay marriage, comprehensive sex education, banning the death penalty, and environmentalism. On other issues, to promote individual freedom, they support issues such as reproductive rights including abortion and birth control, and increased government regulation on corporations. Liberals also tend to favor the separation of church and state, so they may advocate secularism, removing religious symbols in public ground, and disallowing creationism to be taught at public schools. As a result, the vast majority of liberals vote Democrat, although the party is not solidly on the left. It's probably a lesser of evils option.
The term "liberal" is used rather... liberally in the US, but most American liberals are advocates of "social liberalism," a centre to centre-left political philosophy, though it may also refer to advocates of the Third Way (If slightly to the right of social liberals) or social democracy (If slightly to their left) on economics.
The term has been used by the GOP as a synonym for socialist. This is partially due to their use of bullshit scare tactics and partially a legacy from the second Red Scare, when some people with communist sympathies, not wanting to state their affiliation openly, called themselves "liberals" or "progressives" instead. When talking about social issues, "liberal" is usually applied to people who favor fewer restrictions on the individual's right to choose how to live her or his life. Thus liberals tend to support such things as gay marriage and reproductive freedoms, such as abortion and birth control. Such positions are seen as pure evil by the Religious Right and its counterparts overseas; these groups work tirelessly to depict liberals as Satanic monsters, and to make the very word "liberal" into an insult. As a possible result of this, fewer people identify themselves as liberal compared to the amounts of self-identified conservatives and moderates.
 See also
- Conservative, the traditional antonym
- Age of Enlightenment, what created it
- Liberal Party, the various parties explicitly using the name
- Democratic Party, the US party labeled "liberal" since the 20th century and onward
- Combat Liberalism, a 1937 pamphlet published by Mao Tse-Tung
- Neoliberalism, something liberals in the US sense seem not to like very much
- Ordoliberalism, a slightly buffered version of social democracy
- Really embarrassing liberals