Austria, Germany and Switzerland share geographical-cultural similarities, they are co-ordinated market economies, countries of social partnership and non-majoritarian democracies. All three have to cope with pressing needs of liberalization. We would thus expect similar directions and shapes of liberalization and de-liberalization. However, these patterns show variations. We explain these differences by strategic interactions of those actors who have to decide on liberalization. They differ in terms of correct problem diagnosis, learning about policies that work and that do not work, electoral and organizational side effects of liberalization decisions and policy options due to power positions and coalition building. Particularly salient policies, such as pension, labour health care and industrial relations, are effectively incorporated in strategic decision making in order to benefit the self-interest of politicians or their programmatic orientation. Hence similar pressing needs do not necessarily lead to similar patterns of liberalization.