Political Liberalism Essay

1110 words - 4 pages

Political Liberalism

Norman Davies describes liberalism as "being developed along two parallel tracks, the political and the economic. Political liberalism focused on the essential concept of government by consent. In its most thoroughgoing form it embraced republicanism, though most liberals favored a popular, limited, and fair-minded monarch as a factor encouraging stability." (A History of Europe, p.802) At the core of liberalism was the idea of freedom of thought and expression. People were now not only able to think for themselves, but also express those same thoughts. Popular sovereignty was also a very strong tenet of liberalism. Popular sovereignty advocated that government derives its power from the people and sovereignty is never unlimited to anyone. Political liberalism centered on the ideas of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of press, the natural rights of man, the freedom to own property, and that status is not a birthright but an extension of talent. Property also represented a very strong idea in the minds of many liberals. Davies concludes, "nineteenth-century liberals also gave great weight to property, which they saw as the principal source of responsible judgement and solid citizenship." (A History of Europe, p.802) However, property soon became defined as a natural right.

Davies expresses, "economic liberalism focused on the concept of free trade, and on the associated doctrine of laissez-faire, which opposed the habit of governments to regulate economic life through protectionist tariffs. It stressed the right of men of property to engage in commercial and industrial activities without undue restraint." (A History of Europe, p.802) Hence, both economic and political liberalism had the right of property as a core ingredient. Property was a major element in the minds of the liberals because it enabled them to be known as a citizen.

The liberals were the working middle classes, those with money but no birthright. Liberalism was translated into a pursuit of wealth by the middle class. "The principal concern of early-nineteenth-century liberalism was protecting the rights of the individual against the demands of the state", explains Davies. (A History of Europe, p.802) Here, the liberals were concerned with the state interfering with the natural rights of man.

The tenets of liberalism affected the political developments in the first half of the nineteenth century. There was a new intellectual outlook introduced. Believing that the old regime had failed them, the people accepted this new intellectual outlook while also allowing new influences to affect their lives. The new influences were introduced in the areas of science, industry, political theory, economics, and technology. Also, a new class structure was introduced in the nineteenth century.

Some of the liberals included John Stuart Mill, Thomas Hill Green, L.T. Hobhouse, David Riccardo, and Herbert Spencer. "In political philosophy, the works...

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