May 24, 2005

German-speaking Liberals

For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, Germanic liberals hold truer to the classical liberal philosophy than do English or other liberals. This is somewhat confusing, since the English are certainly closer to the classical liberal vision than the Germans. Perhaps this is the reason in itself, though; being accepted into the mainstream, liberals are freer to change and morph with time. But that doesn't necessarily hold true in all countries, so I think it's in part an example of the unique political development of different countries.

So English liberals: the UK Liberal Party is more or less irrelevant; the UK Independence Party is small but largely a protest vote that has yet to establish a clear liberal vision; the Liberal Democrats are considerably positivist and somewhat to the left. Even the old Liberals were the creators of the welfare state in the UK.

Germanic liberals: the German Free Democrats are quite liberal in support of capitalism, openness and have an abiding focus on smaller government; the Swiss Free-thinking Democrats are market-oriented, capitalist liberals; the Swiss Liberal Party is more moderate but still are generally market liberals.

I don't know what kept Germanic liberals relatively classical, small government-focused and market-oriented. Certainly it doesn't seem to have done much for Germany, currently languishing under a mess of state welfare provisions and burdensome labor laws that create horrendously slow growth (sometimes the slowest in Europe, after only Moldavia).

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