Has Liberalism Betrayed Its Classical Principles

1470 words - 6 pages

Has Liberalism betrayed its classical principles?

Classical liberalism seeks to maximise the realm of unconstrained individual action, by establishing a minimal state and a reliance on market economics. These ideas developed a lot during the early industrialisation of the 19th century.

Modern liberalism provides a qualified endorsement for social and economic intervention as a means of promoting personal development. These ideas were related to the further development of industrialisation.

Classical liberals thought that the best way to promote individualism was to allow individuals to make the most out of their individualism whereas modern liberals make sure everyone has the ...view middle of the document...

This remained strong in UK throughout 19th century and in USA, they were not seriously challenged until the 1930's. This is where the liberal’s view of the economy changed and became modern.

Modern liberals completely rejected classical liberals thinking of the economy, mainly its belief in a self-regulating free market and the doctrine of laissez-faire. This was due to the Great Depression, sparked of by the Wall Street Crash of 1929, which made it difficult for liberals to maintain the belief that industrial capitalism brought general prosperity for all if they were left alone. After World War II, all western states had policies of economics intervention to prevent the levels of unemployment they were at before the war. Most of these policies were inspired from UK economist John Maynard Keynes, who didn't believe in a self-regulating market but thought that government could manage their economies by influencing the level of aggregate demand. Therefore, unemployment could be solved by government intervention, not by the 'invisible hand'.

The modern liberal idea of a managed economy shouldn't be seen as a betrayal to its classical principles but rather a development as the economy itself changed which may have led to the change in from classical to modern liberalism, economically. These were only changed to adapt to the western modern states as depression levels were high, and a self-regulating market wasn't ideal. However, having the state intervene in the economy added constraints to businesses. Freedom within a market means freedom of choice which was a main aspect of liberalism, which could be seen as the modern views betraying its classical principles.

True liberalism is limiting the states power and intervention, to let individuals be free, which links with the idea of negative freedom and positive freedom.

Classical liberals believe that the state should play a minimal role, which is known as negative freedom; freedom from restriction and interference. Having no interference from government allows the individual to achieve their maximum potential and have a greater sense of freedom and 'choice' as there are no state interventions to make decisions for the individual. Also if someone is at a lower position in terms of status, it is only their fault and they should be working harder to work their way up. The state is regarded as a 'necessary evil', which means that it should just lay down the conditions for orderly existence but it is evil as it limits the freedom of the individual as it forces a collective will on society.

This is different to modern liberals view as they believe that the state should actually support the individual to allow them to develop their skills and talents. This is known as positive freedom; freedom to achieve full potential. This view allows individuals to be autonomous and their own master, which involves the individual having to develop their abilities, increase their understanding (education,...

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