It has long been argued that the prevalence of liberal values is one of the main reasons why there is no labour party in the United States. This article seeks to reassess these arguments by comparing the United States with Australia, where the influence of liberal values was also strong. It focuses on the early 1890s, when Australian unionists established an electorally successful labour party, and when their American counterparts came closest to doing something similar. The article tests the claim that the prevalence of the idea of individual freedom was a constraint on the emergence of a labour party, by examining how labour leaders themselves responded to this idea and made use of it. It finds that, far from being a constraint, the prevalence of the idea of individual freedom was treated as an ideological opportunity by those who were seeking to establish a labour party.