Major Points of Classical Liberalism
Natural Law and Natural Rights
In classical liberalism, individuals believe that there are natural laws. These natural laws may also be considered natural rights. These rights are not created by man, they are discovered. These laws are based upon what is moral and what is not. Thomas Paine described these rights in his book Rights of Man, and how these rights were being violated by the monarchies and hereditary governments. These laws include the idea that all men are created equal. These natural rights were used to help create the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
This is the idea that individuals can own their own assets. The state should not own any means of production. Everything that can be privately owned should be.
Idea of Spontaneous Order
This is the idea that order will come naturally. To create order we do not need to plan. This is emphasized in the idea that if individuals work in their self-interest, then the common good will also be benefitting. During the Scottish Enlightenment, philosophers began to develop the idea of the market as a spontaneous order. Adam Ferguson’s “Essay on the History of Civil Society” stressed the importance of spontaneous order in our world.
Markets that are driven by supply and demand are considered to be free. To be under the influence of supply and demand, government must not intervene. After the industrial revolution, business owners stressed this idea. Adam Smith developed the ideas behind supply and demand.
Just as classical liberalists did not want government intervention in the market, they do not want it affecting their life in other major ways. As defined in the United States constitution, government is to protect life, liberty and property. The government should not do anything more than protect individuals.
Rule of Law
The basic idea behind the rule of law is that everyone is equal under the law, and no one is above the law. This idea is important to classical liberalists because the believe in equality. This idea also helps limit the power of government officials, by not allowing them to be subject to the same laws that they persecute others for.
Individual Rights and Freedoms
Classical liberalists believed that the individual had rights and freedoms that were of upmost importance. These rights could not be infringed upon by anyone or anything including the government.
Classical Liberalists were concerned amount themselves. They wanted themselves to be wealthy, themselves to be powerful. This put more emphasis on the individual and less on the group. This drove the spirit of competition and self-interest.
Skepticism about power
After the monarchies had overstretched their powers over the average person, individuals became wary of that happening again. Classical liberalists had strong beliefs that government should not be a major player in an...