Liberalism refers to a political doctrine that emphasizes on protecting the freedom and rights of the citizenry. Liberals view the government as an arm that protects citizens from external and internal threats but at the same time recognize that the government by itself can be a threat to the freedom of the citizens. In his pamphlet Common Sense (1776), American philosopher Thomas Paine compared the government to a “necessary evil.” Law enforcers, Judiciary, and the constitution are meant to protect individuals' right, property, and liberty but in some instances, the same institutions might be used to against the individual.
The democratic politics of the 21st century is faced with the challenge of devising governments that protect the liberty of its individuals and preventing those in authority from flexing their muscles against the masses. Most liberals in the late 19th century emphasized that the government can protect and promote the liberty of individuals. However, modern liberals, view the governments as the authority whose role is to remove obstacles that prevent the citizenry from exercising freedom and realizing their full potential. Barriers to liberty and better life include diseases, discrimination, poverty, and ignorance. In the U.S liberalism is associated with state policies advocated by Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt while in Europe it is attributed to the laissez-faire economic policies.
The 10 Most Liberal Countries Of The World
In 2006 the State of World Liberty Index released a ranking of the most liberal countries in the world. The ranking was based on economic freedom, individual freedom, and the size of the government and taxation it levied on its people. Estonia, Ireland, and Canada were ranked 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respectively. The UK and the US were ranked 7th and 8th respectively while New Zealand was ranked 10th. The 2017 ranking used the same data sources but with adjustments to the data.
New Zealand was ranked the most liberal country in the world followed by Switzerland. New Zealand has a good history regarding fundamental rights and freedom. People exercise their political opinions through the electoral process just while the taxation level among the working class n among the lowest in the world. In Switzerland, direct democracy has been decentralized, civil liberties are protected by law, and the country has a good history regarding human rights.
Canada and Australia tie in the third place. Canada is known to respect civil liberties, political rights, and human rights. It has one of the world's best social welfare programs. The Fair Elections Act passed in 2014 guarantees a free and fair electoral process. Just like Canada, Australia has included the civil and human rights in its constitution. Voting is compulsory, and the constitution guarantees a free and fair electoral process. In both economies, the taxation level is low.
Norway, Luxembourg, Sweden, and Finland tied for the fifth place in the ranking. The four countries are all ranked among the 12 best countries to live in terms of political stability, economic prosperity and the quality of life. Norway is a well-established democracy with free and fair elections. The government alternate between the Conservative and Labor Parties. Sweden, on the other hand, is a parliamentary monarchy with a robust multi-party system. The rule of law prevails, and the constitution guarantees the civil and liberty rights of the citizenry. A parliamentary system governs Finland with robust multipartyism. Freedom of speech, association, and religion are guaranteed. The minority in the society are also protected.
The Netherlands and Ireland tie in the ninth place and complete the list of the ten most liberal countries in the world. The parliamentary democracy that governs the Netherlands has a strong record. It is known to safeguard civil liberties, human rights, and political rights. Ireland is a stable democracy. Free and fair elections guaranteed the will of the majority. Same-sex marriage is legal, but abortion is still restricted. The Catholic church maintains significant influence in the society.