To what extent has the US realized its liberal ideals in practice, both historically and in contemporary times?
Not every essence of liberal thought got put into American practice. The founders conceived of universal male suffrage, as long as the males were not slaves, and not women. Race and sex inequality would continue a long way into the future, and are indeed still sorting out today. However, the rights laid down by the founders would later be applied to these “minority” groups, and as such are vital to understand. The roots of the country delve deeply into liberal thought, and within these liberal thoughts is the idea that all people should be equal before the law and equal in the voting booths, where they can then make their own decisions and pilot their own destiny.
To ask what liberal ideas the United States has followed and espoused is to ask the question, what are the liberal ideas? Generally, then, people point to the Bill of Rights, which lays down what things are allowed, such as free speech and the right to bear arms. People turn to these guaranteed rights all the time when arguing their actions. However, more philosophically, the framework of the American liberal tradition is the Declaration of Independence. Therein lays the famous line: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” All of America’s classical liberalism begins there. However, this had its own roots in earlier traditions and political discourses. John Locke said that a man has “by nature a power, not only to preserve his property, that is, his life, liberty, and estate, against the injuries and attempts of other men; but to judge of and punish the breaches of that law in others.” These ideals made it straight into the Declaration of Independence. However, discussing this same topic (liberal democratic government), other political theorists extended this in an important way. John Stuart Mill concluded that.
It is evident that the only government which can fully satisfy all the exigencies of the social state is one in which the whole people participate… that the participation should every where be as great as the general degree of the improvement of the community will allow; and that nothing less can be ultimately desirable than the admission of all to a share in the sovereign power of the state. But since all can not, in a community exceeding a single small town, participate personally in any but some very minor portions of the public business, it follows that the ideal type of a perfect government must be representative.
The Constitution describes the creation of a “more perfect Union;” Mill described the more perfect union as having a representative government very much like the US, yet he expected the representation to be based on everyone, irregardless of...