According to many political analysts, the nightmare hovering over Europe these days reflects the demise of the political forces of the center. The problems encountered by many liberal-democratic governments stem from the difficulty of coming to terms with a rapidly changing world. The political categories of the past no longer seem to be valid, neither in their ability to offer an accurate interpretation of events, nor in developing new projects.
“Liberal-democracy” essentially refers to the system that combines the liberal principle of individual rights with the democratic principle of the sovereignty of the people. The 30-year period of the “boomers,” that is, the period of the population explosion (the baby boom) and the economic boom recorded between 1946 and 1964, was the liberal-democratic era par excellence. It was marked by two poles, the liberal and the democratic, and the ability to hold them together, linking them in a vision that was able to take both into account. European social democracies ended up adhering to this vision, moving toward an inclusive, extended welfare state.
In the liberal-democratic and social-democratic era, social guarantees and individual rights were held together, with the welfare state replacing the earlier stance of laissez faire, a theory that had been advanced by the Physiocrats of the 18th century and early Liberals to achieve the abolition of all constraints on economic activity.