The Oxford Companion to Politics

From these twelve points we can clearly see the supposed benefits of liberal democracy. Whilst it can be easy to see British society as failing in a number of ways, there are many reasons to be positive. Before analysing the negative side of the balance sheet, it is worth remembering some of the good things. The UK is vastly richer now than it was in 1950. People can realise goals that could have been no more than dreams a half century ago.

Many enjoy foreign holidays, warmer houses, and longer life expectancy than ever before, as economic freedom grows ever larger. The last fifty years have also seen a rise in female economic emancipation, to match the political emancipation before the war. Women engage in more paid work, there has been a rise in the acceptability of different household forms, and the tax system now treats women equally to men. That rise in economic emancipation has a parallel in social emancipation, with a decline in sexist attitudes to the role of women in society.

The benefits of having people of other nationalities and ethnicities in our society are beginning to be better recognised. A change in national consciousness has gone some way towards pushing overt racism to the margins, although it is still a dangerous force. In analysing the drawbacks with democratic government we must consider some factors. A major source of division relates to the socio-economic background from which people come. This is one of the major factors determining their life chances.

In general, children who are born into more affluent homes do better at school and even receive a better education than those who are born into deprived homes. This serves to exacerbate the cycle of social exclusion. There are fewer GPs per head of the population in the most deprived areas of the country than there are in more affluent areas. In addition, these areas are characterised by poor access to information technology, and financial and legal services, while environmental problems such as pollution tend to be worse in economically poorer areas.

The freedom of lesbian, gay and bisexual people has been greatly enhanced in recent decades as legal and social hostility has shifted at least towards tolerance, although clear inequalities remain, including explicit legal discrimination. The lack of legal protection from being sacked purely on grounds of sexual orientation makes many extremely vulnerable. Finally, to conclude. It's about freedom, that maximising personal freedom is fundamental to a liberal society.

This means a commitment to civil rights, supporting fundamental civil rights to protect people from discrimination and abuses of power, and to safeguard freedom of speech and assembly.


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