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liberalism Political and intellectual belief that advocates the right of the individual to make decisions, usually political or religious, according to the dictates of conscience. Its modern origins lie in the 18th-century Enlightenment. In politics, it opposes arbitrary power and discrimination against minorities. In British history, its greatest influence was exercised in the 19th century. In the USA, liberalism has, since the 1930s, referred to a belief in government action to manage the economy and (from the 1960s on) to improve the position of women and racial minorities. See also Liberal Party

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