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Why Do Liberals Favour Limited Government And How They Propose It Be Achieved?

998 words - 4 pages

Why do liberals favour limited government and how they propose it be achieved? (45 marks)

Classical Liberalism advocates what is called the ‘minimal state’, in this style of government the influence of the state upon society is kept to its absolute basic necessities. Namely the only public sector services available is an army – to prevent attack by a foreign nation, a police force to keep law and order, and an adjoining judicial system to pronounce judgement upon criminals who break laws. The state is seen as a ‘night watchman’ and exists only to preserve the liberties of civil society. This is seen by Classical Liberals as a society in which individuals are allowed the most possible ...view middle of the document...

Liberals who favour ‘limited government’ support this idea because they believe that no single establishment should have ultimate power over society, this is because the risk of the government becoming tyrannical and reducing people’s liberties is too high. Therefore if governments are only small, limited institutions then it is increasingly difficult for them to reduce anyone’s freedom. Liberals also believe strongly in the view that ‘power corrupts’, or that ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’.
Liberals traditionally believe that the state is the only institution capable of restraining all individuals and groups within society to prevent them encroaching on the freedom of others. Freedom can therefore only exist ‘under the law’; as John Locke put it ‘where there is no law there is no freedom’. Without a government or a social contract Liberals believe that humanity may revert to the ‘state of nature’ as we are all selfish, greedy and power-seeking, the state of nature would be characterized as an unending civil war of each against all. As Thomas Hobbes put it life would be ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’. All individuals would therefore recognize that it is in their collective interests to sacrifice a portion of their liberty in order to set up a system of law and government. The state embodies the interests of all citizens and acts as neutral arbiter amongst the competing individuals and groups in society. The state does not exist to further its own interests, just the interests of the individual. If the state becomes tyrannical then it is within the rights of its citizens to rebel against the state.
The state exercises sovereign power and poses a constant threat to individual liberty. Liberals therefore fear arbitrary government and uphold the principle of limited government. Liberals have created solutions devising how to limit the influence of government. The powers of government and politicians can be limited by the...

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