Interventionism, when referring to a political practice or doctrine, generally relates to significant activity undertaken by a state to influence something not directly under its control. The most common applications of the term are for economic interventionism (a state's intervention in its own economy) and foreign interventionism (a state's intervention in the affairs of another nation).
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Economic interventionism, basically defined, is activity undertaken by a central government to affect the country's economy. Generally, this will be in an attempt to increase economic growth, but it may also be to promote a philosophical belief (such as a belief in equality).
Support for economic interventionism
Economic interventionism is often a feature of left-wing governments, which seek to establish or maintain some degree of public control over the economy. These governments typically claim that some degree of central coordination, or some degree of state assistance, is beneficial to the economy, and that market forces are not sufficient to produce good outcomes. (Communist governments, however, generally should not be labelled "interventionist", as their policies go beyond interventionism - they seek absolute and permanent control, not merely the ability to intervene in certain circumstances). Economic interventionism is not restricted to leftists, however - it can also be found in highly conservative, paternalistic, or authoritarian administrations, which believe that the state has a responsibility to manage and direct the economy for the good of society or the state. They typically see free market liberalism as a threat to tradition, social order, and state authority. Examples of interventionist but conservative governments can be found in various right-wing military regimes that existed in Latin America.
Opposition to economic interventionism
Economic interventionism is strongly opposed by classical liberals and libertarians, who see it as an infringement of personal freedom. Interventionist economies are sometimes described by them as "hampered market economies" - there is private ownership (unlike a communist system), but market forces are not given free rein. Interventionism contrasts strongly with the laissez-faire capitalism that libertarians usually seek.