Liberalism

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Liberalism

Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality which sounds good.

But Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas and programs such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free markets, civil rights, democratic societies, secular governments, gender equality, and international cooperation.

Liberalism rejected the prevailing social and political norms of hereditary privilege, state religion, absolute monarchy, and the Divine Right of Kings.

Liberalism – both as a political current and an intellectual tradition – is mostly a modern phenomenon that started in the 17th century, although some liberal philosophical ideas had precursors in classical antiquity. The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius praised, "the idea of a polity administered with regard to equal rights and equal freedom of speech, and the idea of a kingly government which respects most of all the freedom of the governed".

The introduction of a government polity which is defined as "a form or process of civil government or constitution" brings an exercising authority to force equality, not only of opportunity but of outcome. Without proper moral restraint this will inevitably bring government in conflict with the free markets, rights to property and eventually liberty and even life. Historically we eventually see infringements upon freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion especially the original meaning of religion as a system of moral or righteous welfare which would be untouched by any polity.

  • Virtually all major religions from Hinduism[1] to Judaism[2] Buddhism[3] to Christianity[4] even Hinduism,[5] and Sikhism[6] are in opposition to desiring anything that belongs to another. Just to desire anything that the product of the life of others and certainly to conspire or scheme to obtain what is the rightful property of others is a primal betrayal of a moral conscience and degrades the fabric of society and the individual if not the rights of the individual.

Based on the social contract principle, Locke argued that there was a natural right to the liberty of conscience, which he argued must therefore remain protected from any government authority.

Liberals opposed traditional conservatism and sought to replace absolutism in government with representative democracy and the rule of law.

Social liberalism

Social liberalism is a political ideology that believes individual liberty requires a level of social justice. Like classical liberalism, social liberalism endorses a market economy and the expansion of civil and political rights and liberties, but differs in that it believes the legitimate role of the government includes addressing economic and social issues such as poverty, health care, and education which allows for the expansion of duties and therefore the power of government.

Social liberalism accepts the idea that the individual requires a level of social justice and gives the power to government to resolve problems in society like the needs of the elderly, the poor, individual health care, and education at all levels through wealth distribution. This not only opens a Pandora's box of power and financial control but as Polybius warns it will degenerate the people into savages and make them vulnerable to despots.

It should be opposed by almost all religions or religious people because it includes covetous practices through the power of government under the pseudo morality of the greater good or social justice.

Social liberalism is a socialist political philosophy that includes liberal principles within it. Liberal socialism does not have the goal of abolishing capitalism with a socialist economy; instead, it supports a mixed economy that includes both public and private property in capital goods but is a political instrument that provides a direction for democracy will allow society to follow to socialism and communism.

  • Karl Marx, who was an advocate of communism, claimed, “Democracy is the road to socialism.”

By the end of the nineteenth century, the principles of classical liberalism were being increasingly challenged by downturns in economic growth, a growing perception of the evils of poverty, unemployment and relative deprivation present within modern industrial cities, and the agitation of organised labour. The ideal of the self-made individual, who through hard work and talent could make his or her place in the world, seemed increasingly implausible. A major political reaction against the changes introduced by industrialisation and laissez-faire capitalism came from conservatives concerned about social balance, although socialism later became a more important force for change and reform. Some Victorian writers – including Charles Dickens, Thomas Carlyle, and Matthew Arnold – became early influential critics of social injustice.


Classical liberalism

Classical liberalism is a political ideology and a branch of liberalism which advocates civil liberties under the rule of law, and emphasizes economic freedoms found in economic liberalism which is also called free market capitalism.

Classical liberalism was first called that in the early 19th century, but was built on ideas of the previous century. It was a response to urbanization, and to the Industrial Revolution in Europe and the United States. Notable individuals whose ideas contributed to classical liberalism include John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Jean-Baptiste Say, Thomas Malthus, and David Ricardo. It drew on the economics of Adam Smith and on a belief in natural law, utilitarianism, and progress.

The term classical liberalism was applied in retrospect to distinguish earlier 19th-century liberalism from the newer social liberalism. Core beliefs of classical liberals included new ideas—which departed from both the older conservative idea of society as a family and from later sociological concept of society as complex set of social networks—that individuals were "egoistic, coldly calculating, essentially inert and atomistic"[7] and that society was no more than the sum of its individual members.

Classical liberals argued for minimal state, limited to the following functions:

  • protection against foreign invaders, extended to include protection of overseas markets through armed intervention,
  • protection of citizens from wrongs committed against them by other citizens, which included protection of private property, enforcement of contracts, and suppression of trade unions,
  • building and maintaining public institutions, and
  • "public works" that included a stable currency, standard weights and measures, and support of roads, canals, harbours, railways, and postal and other communications services.

They asserted that rights are of a negative nature which require other individuals (and governments) to refrain from interfering with the free market, whereas social liberals asserts that individuals have positive rights, such as the right to vote, the right to an education, the right to health care, and the right to a living wage. For society to guarantee positive rights requires taxation over and above the minimum needed to enforce negative rights.

Core beliefs of classical liberals did not necessarily include democracy where law is made by majority vote by citizens, because "there is nothing in the bare idea of majority rule to show that majorities will always respect the rights of property or maintain rule of law."

James Madison argued for a constitutional republic with protections for individual liberty over a pure democracy, reasoning that, in a pure democracy, a "common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole...and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party...."[8]

Friedrich Hayek identified two different traditions within classical liberalism: the "British tradition" and the "French tradition". Hayek saw the British philosophers Bernard Mandeville, David Hume, Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, Josiah Tucker and William Paley as representative of a tradition that articulated beliefs in empiricism[9], the common law, and in traditions and institutions which had spontaneously evolved but were imperfectly understood. The French tradition included Rousseau, Condorcet, the Encyclopedists and the Physiocrats. This tradition believed in rationalism[10] and sometimes showed hostility to tradition and religion. Hayek conceded that the national labels did not exactly correspond to those belonging to each tradition: Hayek saw the Frenchmen Montesquieu, Constant and Tocqueville as belonging to the "British tradition" and the British Thomas Hobbes, Priestley, Richard Price and Thomas Paine as belonging to the "French tradition"

In the United States, liberalism took a strong root because it had little opposition to its ideals, whereas in Europe liberalism was opposed by many reactionary or feudal interests such as the nobility, the aristocracy, the landed gentry, the established church, and the aristocratic army officers.

Thomas Jefferson adopted many of the ideals of liberalism but, in the Declaration of Independence, changed Locke's "life, liberty, and property" to the more socially liberal "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness".


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Footnotes

  1. Yudhishthira said: "Thou hast said, O grandsire, that the foundation of all evils is covetousness."
  2. Exodus 20:17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that [is] thy neighbour’s.
  3. "When a man's deeds, O monks, are performed through covetousness, arise from covetousness, are occasioned by covetousness, originate in covetousness, wherever his personality may be, there those deeds ripen, and wherever they ripen, there he experiences the fruition of those deeds..."
  4.  : Mark 7:20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man... 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
    Luke 12:15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
    Luke 16:14 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.
    Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
    Romans 13:9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
    1 Corinthians 5:10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. 11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
    1 Corinthians 6:10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
    Ephesians 5:3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints... 5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
    Colossians 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
    1 Timothy 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless... 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
    2 Timothy 3:2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, ... from such turn away.
    Hebrews 13:5 [Let your] conversation [be] without covetousness; [and be] content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
    2 Peter 2:3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
    2 Peter 2:14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:
  5. “Covetest thou not anyone's riches,” “covet not the goods of anyone at all,” “wealth,” “set not your heart on another's possession,” Hinduism: The Dharma of India By Panikkar, Raimon
  6. Guru Arjan Dev refers to lobh (covetousness) thus, "0 lobh, thou has swayed even the best of men by thy waves." In Guriabadratmikar, Bhai Kahan Singh renders lobh as the "desire to possess what belongs to others." Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, the source of five evils: lust, covetousness, wrath, pride and attachment. Haumai is putting yourself before others. The opposite of Haumai is humility, which is considered a virtue
  7. Hunt, E. K. Property and Prophets: the Evolution of Economic Institutions and Ideologies. New York: M. E. Sharpe, Inc., 2003 ISBN 0-7656-0608-9
  8. James Madison, Federalist No. 10 (22 November 1787), in Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, The Federalist: A Commentary on the Constitution of the United States, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (New York, 1888), p. 56
  9. Empiricism is a theory that states that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience.
  10. rationalism is the view that "regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge" or "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification". More formally, rationalism is defined as a methodology or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive".