Is liberalism merely the ideological justification for capitalism?
In this essay I intend to outline the argument by which affirms liberalism to be an ideological justification for capitalism. Evident to this, it is clear that liberalism interconnects with the economic infrastructure of capitalism through the means of private ownership of property and largely the free market. Many key intellectuals such as, Locke and John Stuart Mill shed evidence to this relationship in their writings.
In order to develop this argument, I will initially outline the way in which capitalism is a necessary condition and a bi-product for a liberal democracy to work and flourish. Liberalism is a political ideology, whereas capitalism is an economic ideology. Zuckert introduces how the issues of liberty over ownership of property and the free market, can be mirrored in the ethos of capitalism ‘the emphasis on rights of liberty, free labour, property, and contract is tremendously supportive of markets and capitalist interests.’[footnoteRef:1] It is clear that both systems heavily rely on the institutional framework of the state to guarantee a seamless working political and economic system, as one cannot work without the other. Locke, a major liberal thinker, also holds this position as he argues that the state or government should protect a person’s right to property regarding these fundamental principles, ‘Individuals have the right to dispose of their own labour and to possess property. The right to property is a right to ‘life, liberty, and estate’[footnoteRef:2]. Capitalism is also dependent on property rights, this is supported by Rubin and Klummp: “capitalism cannot exist without property rights”[footnoteRef:3] These interpretations, albeit simplistic gives us a clear indication that there is an interrelation between x and y. [1: Zuckert, Michael P. “Judicial liberalism and capitalism: justice field reconsidered.” Social Philosophy and Policy 28.2 (2011): 102–134. ] [2: Held, David. “Models of democracy” p63] [3: Rubin, Paul H., and Tilman Klumpp. "Property Rights and Capitalism." Oxford Handbooks Online. 2012-11-21. Oxford University Press. ]
Capitalism serves a system of laissez-faire[footnoteRef:4], enforcing a scheme of private economic rights and liberties within a system of free competitive markets designed to achieve conditions of economic efficiency in both the allocation and distribution of income and wealth. Major liberal thinkers believed that to uphold and maintain freedom that a free market would have to exist, Mill concluded that: “‘English liberalism’: the state was to have the role of umpire or referee while individuals pursues in civil society. According to the rules of economic competition and free exchange”[footnoteRef:5]. Liberals would therefore support the view that without a capitalist system, maintaining the opportunity for income and wealth, it would remove an individual’s right to freedom: “Liberalism interpreted this in different...