- Liberal conservatism
Liberal conservatism is a variant of
conservatismwhich combines conservative and liberal values and positions. As "conservatism" and "liberalism" have had different meanings over time and across countries, the term "liberal conservatism" has been used in quite different senses. In general, it has carried two broad meanings.
Classical conservatism, economic liberalism
Historically, in the 18th and 19th centuries, "conservatism" comprised a set of principles based on concern for established
tradition, respect for authority and religious values. This form of classical conservatism is often considered to be exemplified by the writings of Edmund Burkeand, in more robust form, Joseph de Maistreand the post-Enlightenment Popes. Contemporary "liberalism" - now called classical liberalism- advocated both political freedomfor individuals and a "laissez-faire" free marketin the economic sphere. Ideas of this sort were promulgated by Adam Smith, John Stuart Milland the American Founding Fathers.
The original "liberal conservatives" were those who combined conservative social attitudes with a classical-liberal economic outlook. Over time, the majority of conservatives in the Western world came to adopt free-market economic ideas, to the extent that such ideas are now generally considered and termed "conservative". Nonetheless, in some countries the term "liberal" continues to be used to describe those with pro-capitalist economic views. This is the case, for example, in mainland Europe (
France, Italy, Spain) and (unusually for an English-speaking country) in Australia.
The liberal conservative tradition in the United States combines the economic
individualismof the classical liberals with a Burkean form of conservatism (which has also become part of the American conservative tradition, for example in the writings of Russell Kirk).
Economic conservatism, social liberalism
British English, "liberal conservatism" typically has a quite different meaning. Rather than referring to a combination of classical conservatism and free-market economic ideas, it refers to free-market (in this context, "conservative") economics allied with socially liberal views - on issues such as abortionand gay marriage, for example. This position is also associated with support for moderate forms of the welfare stateand of environmentalism. "Liberal conservatism" in this sense is represented by the British Conservative Party under David Cameron, the Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, and the Irish parties Fine Gaeland the Progressive Democrats.
Confusingly, in continental European discourse, "liberal conservatism" of this sort is sometimes translated into English as
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