Classical Liberal Theory Essay

1320 words - 5 pages

Classical Liberal Theory


Classical liberalism is a very interesting political theory. The underlying belief is that what makes a person human is freedom from the dependence on the will of others. It is complete freedom from any relations with others, except those entered voluntarily. Another main point of classical liberalism is that the individual is the owner of his person and his capacities, for which he owes nothing to society. The individual, although free, has no power to limit anyone else's freedom. Classical liberalism includes the following: an ethical emphasis on the individual as a rights-bearer prior to the existence of any state, community, or society, the support of the right of property carried to its economic conclusion, a free-market system, and the desire for a limited constitutional government to protect individuals' rights from others and from its own expansion. Basically, it is political and economic philosophy emerging along with the growth of capitalism. The central belief is that unregulated free markets are the best means to allocate productive resources and distribute goods and services, and that government intervention should be minimal if that at all. Behind this is an assumption about individuals being rational, self-interested and methodical in the pursuit of their goals. Classical Liberalism is the freedom from any unwanted governmental control or interference. However, this does not mean that a strong government isn't absolutely necessary. For the idea of the theory to work, a government must be established for one purpose only. The only function the governing body may serve is to regulate and maintain the individuals freedom.
When Tocqueville wrote his book, Democracy in America, he criticized the classical liberal theory. He realized that once this type of governing body existed in a democratic society, the conditions are perfect for the emergence of despotism. Equality leads to isolation of individuals. This is just what despotism requires. "Equality places men side by side, unconnected by any common tie; despotism raises barriers to keep them asunder; the former predisposes them not to consider their fellow-creatures, the latter makes general indifference a sort of public virtue." (Vol2, Book2, Chap4) As Tocqueville wrote, "No sooner does a government attempt to go beyond its political sphere and to enter upon this new track, than it exercises, even unintentionally, an insupportable tyranny; for a government can only dictate strict rules, the opinions which it favors are rigidly enforced, and it is never easy to discriminate between its advice and its commands."(Vol2,book2,chap5) The principles which despotism produces are precisely those which equality fosters. These two things mutually complete and assist each other. Equality places men side by side, unconnected by any common tie; despotism raises barriers to keep them this way. Equality predisposes them not to consider their fellow-creatures, and...

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