The consequence of certain gauge theories, particularly quantum chromodynamics, that the forces between such particles as quarks become weaker at shorter distances (i.e. higher energies) and vanish as the distance between particles tends to zero. Only non-Abelian gauge theories with unbroken gauge symmetries can have asymptotic freedom (see group theory). In contrast, quantum electrodynamics implies that the interaction between particles decreases as a result of dielectric screening; asymptotic freedom for quarks implies that antiscreening occurs. Physically, asymptotic freedom postulates that the vacuum state for gluons is a medium that has colour paramagnetism, i.e. the vacuum antiscreen colour charges.
Asymptotic freedom explains the successes of the parton model of pointlike objects inside hadrons and enables systematic corrections to the parton model to be calculated using perturbation theory. That the interaction between quarks increases as the distance between them increases has given rise to the hypothesis of quark confinement. It appears that if a theory requires the presence of Higgs bosons, asymptotic freedom is destroyed. Thus, electroweak theory does not have asymptotic freedom.