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This paper explores the role of classical-liberal ideas in Colombia from the early nineteenth century to the beginning of the twenty-first century. The story has features common to other Latin American countries: difficult separation from imperial Spain (leaving poor finances), political instability, dysfunctional government, and struggles with the church, along with some enthusiasm for the ideas of Adam Smith, Jean-Baptiste Say, Frédéric Bastiat, and other liberals. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Liberal Party emerged—originally significantly liberal—and became preeminent during Colombia’s liberal period. It peaked in 1863 and introduced a successful episode of free banking that ended by 1885, at which point the times generally turned toward collectivism. Throughout the twentieth century, liberalism has been marginalized in Colombia but never entirely silenced. We tell of the undulations and important individuals and institutions up to the present day.
Podcast related to this article: Sebastián Rodríguez on Liberalism in Colombia (EJW Audio, March 2022).