In Australia, liberalism is primarily championed by the centre-right Liberal Party. The Liberals are a fusion of classical liberal and conservative forces and are affiliated with the conservative International Democrat Union.
Impact and influence
The fundamental elements of contemporary society have liberal roots. The early waves of liberalism popularized economic individualism while expanding constitutional government and parliamentary authority. One of the liberal triumphs involved replacing the capricious nature of royalist and absolutist rule with a decision-making process encoded in written law. Liberals sought and established a constitutional order that prized important individual freedoms, such as the freedom of speech and of association, an independent judiciary and public trial by jury, and the abolition of aristocratic privileges.
These sweeping changes in political authority marked the modern transition from absolutism to constitutional rule. The expansion and promotion of free markets was another major liberal achievement. Before they could establish markets, however, liberals had to destroy the old economic structures of the world. In that vein, liberals ended mercantilist policies, royal monopolies, and various other restraints on economic activities. They also sought to abolish internal barriers to trade—eliminating guilds, local tariffs, the Commons and prohibitions on the sale of land along the way.
Later waves of modern liberal thought and struggle were strongly influenced by the need to expand civil rights. In the 1960s and 1970s, the cause of Second Wave feminism in the United States was advanced in large part by liberal feminist organizations such as the National Organization for Women. In addition to supporting gender equality, liberals also have advocated for racial equality in their drive to promote civil rights, and a global civil rights movement in the 20th century achieved several objectives towards both goals.
Among the various regional and national movements, the civil rights movement in the United States during the 1960s strongly highlighted the liberal efforts for equal rights. Describing the political efforts of the period, some historians have asserted that “the voting rights campaign marked…the convergence of two political forces at their zenith: the black campaign for equality and the movement for liberal reform,” further remarking about how “the struggle to assure blacks the ballot coincided with the liberal call for expanded federal action to protect the rights of all citizens”.
The Great Society project launched by President Lyndon B. Johnson oversaw the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, the establishment of Head Start and the Job Corps as part of the War on Poverty, and the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964—an altogether rapid series of events that some historians have dubbed the Liberal Hour.
Another major liberal accomplishment includes the rise of liberal internationalism, which has been credited with the establishment of global organizations such as the League of Nations and, after World War II, the United Nations. The idea of exporting liberalism worldwide and constructing a harmonious and liberal internationalist order has dominated the thinking of liberals since the 18th century. “Wherever liberalism has flourished domestically, it has been accompanied by visions of liberal internationalism,” one historian wrote.