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Liberalism is an ideology, philosophy, and political tradition that holds liberty as the primary political value. Broadly speaking, liberalism seeks a society characterized by freedom of thought for individuals, limitations on power, especially of government and religion, the rule of law, the free exchange of ideas, a market economy that supports private enterprise, and a transparent system of government in which the rights of minorities are guaranteed. In modern society, liberals favour a liberal democracy in the form of either a republic or a constitutional monarchy, with open and fair elections, where all citizens have equal rights by law and an equal opportunity to succeed. Liberalism rejected many foundational assumptions which dominated most earlier theories of government, such as the Divine Right of Kings, hereditary status, and established religion. Fundamental human rights that all liberals support include the right to life, liberty, and property. In many countries, "modern" liberalism differs from classical liberalism by asserting that government provision of some minimal level of material well-being takes priority over freedom from taxation. Liberalism has its roots in the Western Enlightenment, but the term now encompasses a diversity of political thought, with adherents spanning a large part of the political spectrum, from left to right. In the context of economics, the term "liberalism" refers to economic liberalism, which is associated with the political ideology of liberalism itself. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberalism [May 2006]
Liberal elite and liberal elitist are terms used by some ideological opponents of American liberalism to refer pejoratively to affluent liberals, who, their opponents claim, are elitist and disconnected from the rest of society. (cf. limousine liberal, latte liberal). The feelings stem from the populist movement of the late 19th century.
The term is most often applied to residents of the U.S. Northeast, especially New England, and to those who are highly educated. (see Boston Brahmin) An ad by the supply-side organization Club for Growth sums up many of the stereotypes: "Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs."
The term is also often applied to those who have an affinity for European cultures, especially the culture of France. French cheeses (especially brie), French wines, ultra-expensive coffee, wealthy media-Jews, and foreign films (paradoxically, so is Hollywood) are often associated with the liberal elite. Speaking French or even "looking French," a charge leveled against John Kerry, can be a sign of elitism to the Francophobic.
Many liberals argue that the Republican Party contains a much larger percentage of the American upper class than the Democratic Party does, and that Republican economic policies directly benefit the wealthy more than Democratic economic policies do, thus it is the Republican Party that should be called elitist. Most wealthy counties are significantly likelier to vote Republican than Democratic. Also, a higher percentage of the Republican Party is college educated than the Democratic Party, though more Democrats hold advanced Graduate-level degrees than Republicans do.
Charges of liberal elitism based on that fact are often countered with charges of anti-intellectualism. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_elite [Oct 2005]
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