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The philosophical tradition of liberalism informs many familiar political values and principles, including liberty, individual rights, limited government, toleration, autonomy, private property, and consent of the governed. These ideas gained momentum during the early modern era and Enlightenment and found articulation in the French and American revolutions. They continued to develop (and be challenged) throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. They are central to liberal democracies around the world, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, much of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Africa. This entry focuses on liberalism as a philosophical tradition that has shaped American politics, outlining the historical development of liberalism as an idea and describing some of the main philosophical questions it raises.

In American popular political discourse, liberalism often refers ...

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