This post (via Crooked Timber) is about British politics, but it nicely lays out the distinction between “economic liberalism” and “social liberalism,” or what we in the U.S. would call “market liberalism” (or libertarianism) and egalitarian or left-liberalism.
For economic (or market) liberals,
there is at times a clear sense that the free market produces a distribution of income and wealth which is a kind of natural or moral baseline. It is departures from the baseline that have to be justified.
For egalitarian liberals, by contrast,
the ‘free market’ is simply one possible ‘basic structure’ for society along with an indefinite range of other possibilities. It has no morally privileged position. So how do we choose which ‘basic structure’ to have? Their answer is that we try to identify principles of social justice and then design a basic structure – including, if necessary, appropriate tax-transfer arrangements – to achieve justice so understood. On this view, taxation and ‘redistribution’ are not invasions into people’s pockets, a taking of what is presumptively already, primevally ‘theirs’. Tax-transfers are a way of ensuring that people do not pocket, through the market, more (or less) than they are genuinely entitled to. Tax-transfer schemes define entitlement; they do not invade it.
Of course, while the UK has at least one party (Labour) that is, theoretically, devoted to this egalitarian ideal, the U.S. has, essentially, more and less severe versions of market liberalism seasoned with generous dollops of crony capitalism.