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Introduction Liberalism seeks to promote individual liberty by trying to guarantee equality of opportunity within a tolerant society Hallmark of liberalism.

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Presentation on theme: "Introduction Liberalism seeks to promote individual liberty by trying to guarantee equality of opportunity within a tolerant society Hallmark of liberalism."— Presentation transcript:

1 Introduction Liberalism seeks to promote individual liberty by trying to guarantee equality of opportunity within a tolerant society Hallmark of liberalism is promotion of individual liberty Liberals disagree over what exactly liberty is and how to best promote it Human nature: Human beings are fundamentally rational Self-interest is primary motivation Humans are naturally competitive Liberals consider the individual to be the best judge of her or his own interests 1

2 Liberalism, Human Nature, and Freedom Some conception of human nature provides the underpinnings for every political ideology. For liberalism, human beings are typically rational, self- interested, and competitive, making them capable of living freely Liberals want to promote the freedom not of a particular group or class of people but of each person as an individual The individual must be free to decide for himself and herself what goals to pursue in life Each person ought to be free to live as he or she sees fit — as long as the person does not choose to interfere with others’ freedom to live as they see fit Everyone should have an equal opportunity to succeed 2Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

3 The Liberal View of Freedom Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All Rights Reserved.3 Agent: the individual Obstacle: Laws, customs, or conditions that block individual choice Goal: to live as one chooses

4 The Origins of Liberalism Reaction against medieval concepts of “ascribed status” and “religious conformity” Ascribed status: notion that one’s social status is fixed and determined by birth Under feudalism, society was divided along class lines into nobles and commoners Religious conformity: the Church encouraged Kings and other secular authorities to enforce religious obedience Luther emphasized freedom of conscience in the Protestant Reformation (1521) This challenged the supremacy of the church and led to a profusion of protestant sects 4

5 Thomas Hobbes Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651) was the first work of political philosophy to be considered liberal Hobbes imagines a state of nature in which all individuals are free with no authority over them These individuals have a natural right to do as they wish “Restless desire for power” is a product of human nature that turns the state of nature into a state of war Rational individuals form a social contract to establish a political authority to provide security 5Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

6 John Locke Like Hobbes, Locke sought to establish a basis for political authority by starting with the state of nature: Individuals are naturally equal and free with natural rights to life, liberty, and property Individuals form a social contract to establish a political society to protect their natural rights Limited government and the right of revolution Governmental authority is only legitimate when it secures natural rights If the government violates these rights, the people have a right to overthrow the government No such right exists in Hobbes’s political society 6

7 The American Revolution American Revolutionaries used Locke’s theory of natural rights to justify the overthrow of British rule Thomas Paine argued that government is a necessary evil that exists mainly to protect our natural rights The Declaration of Independence has two distinctively liberal positions: 1.“all men are created equal” – mirrors the state of natural equality presented by Hobbes and Locke 2.Defense of rights and liberties of individuals against government echoes the arguments of Locke and Paine that governments exist to protect individual rights 7Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

8 The French Revolution Enlightenment thinkers in France began to challenge the three leading features of the ancien régime (old order): 1.Religious conformity – Catholicism 2.Aristocratic privilege – hereditary aristocracy 3.Political absolutism – king is above the law French Revolutionaries originally set out to establish a limited government to protect the rights of citizens The revolution became increasingly radical Demands for greater democracy superseded property rights 17,000 suspected enemies of the Republic were guillotined during the “reign of terror” (June 1793-July 1794) French republic abolished by Napoleon Bonaparte in

9 Liberalism and Capitalism, I 17 th and 18 th century liberals began to focus on economic liberties, particularly important to the middle class, or, bourgeoisie. Prevailing economic theory was mercantilism – economic policy is meant to promote national interests at the expense of individual liberty Zero-sum game: one country can improve its economic strength only at the expense of another country Resulted in colonization, high tariffs, and government supported monopolies in certain sectors of the economy Economic opportunities of the middle class were limited Acquisition of wealth was primary means of social advancement Mercantilism favored elites who were able to secure government privileges Middle class began to push for more equal opportunity in competition 9Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

10 Liberalism and Capitalism, II Capitalism – economic exchanges are private matters between individuals pursuing profits Christian and republican traditions did not place great value on either privacy or profits Early capitalist theorists: Bernard Mandeville ( ) – The Fable of the Bees: Private Vices, Publick Benefits (1714) The best way to promote the good of society as a whole is to let people pursue their private interests Physiocrats – French thinkers who argued that wealth is best cultivated by unrestricted free enterprise Laissez faire, laissez passer – “let it be, leave it alone” Adam Smith ( ) – An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations 10Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

11 Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand Government should have little to do with economic exchanges Restraints on economic competition led to higher prices and scarcer goods Governments should also eliminate trade barriers on foreign imports because free trade benefits consumers An “invisible hand” directs the private interests of individuals toward the common interest of society Three functions of government: National defense, protection of property rights, and provision of “public works” 11

12 Liberalism in the 19 th Century From France to South America, liberalism in the early 1800s remained a revolutionary force Wars of Liberation in the Spanish Colonies Creation of the Napoleonic Code Abolition of Serfdom in Prussia In Britain, the Industrial Revolution made England the world’s first great industrial power “The workshop of the world” Increased social division along class lines; the working class labored under extremely harsh and insecure conditions 12Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

13 Utilitarianism Jeremy Bentham attempted to make society and its legal institutions more rational Principle of “utility” – humans naturally seek pleasure and avoid pain Government should use this insight to promote “the greatest happiness for the greatest number” John Stuart Mill built upon Bentham’s utilitarianism to defend and extend individual liberty Stressed the “educative theory of democracy” rather than the “protectionist theory” of democracy Like Tocqueville, Mill thought democracy was susceptible to “the tyranny of the majority” 13

14 Mill on the Limits of Government The harm principle – all sane adults should be free to do as they choose as long as their actions do not harm or threaten harm to others Establishes the only legitimate purpose for the use of government power over its citizens Mill defended this principle by appealing to utility Freedom promotes “the permanent interests of man as a progressive being” Mill does NOT appeal to natural rights as early liberals had Mill stressed the importance of freedom of thought Progress depends on the right of “nonconformists” to express their views without censorship by the majority 14

15 Liberalism Divided Neoclassical liberals believe that government should be limited to protection against force and fraud Social Darwinists argued that the struggle for survival was a natural phenomenon Government should be a “nightwatchman” Welfare liberals believe government can be a positive force to ensure equal opportunity T.H. Green ( ) drew a distinction between positive and negative freedom Negative freedom: absence of restraint Positive freedom: freedom to do something 15Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

16 Liberalism in the 20 th century John Rawls ( ) defends the modern welfare state by reverting back to social contract theory Justice requires an equal distribution of wealth as a starting point Robert Nozick ( ) draws on the idea of the state of nature to support the protection of individual rights Libertarianism - only the “minimal state” is legitimate because it does not violate property rights Murray Rothbard ( ) and libertarian anarchists advocate abolition of the state Individuals are free and private enterprise replaces government services 16

17 The Libertarian Vision For libertarians, government is necessary to secure and order society But it should be a government that does little or nothing more than protect people against threats to their property and safety. Deregulation – phasing out of government regulations Libertarians envision a market-driven society in which formerly public services would be bought and sold in presumably competitive markets Advocates say that goods and services would be delivered more cheaply, abundantly, and efficiently under competitive market conditions Critics respond that competitive markets are open to the machinations of manipulators 17Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

18 Liberalism Today Three points distinguish today’s liberalism from its past variants: 1.Liberalism is no longer the revolutionary force it once was— at least in the West 2.Liberals remain divided among themselves 3.Liberals are now wrestling with difficult problems that stem from their commitments to individual liberty and equality of opportunity How far should individuals be able to go in exercising their freedom? How far should equal opportunity be promoted? According to communitarian critics of liberalism, rights must be balanced by responsibilities Individuals may have rights against others, but individuals must also recognize that they owe something to the community that enables them to exercise these rights 18Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

19 Liberalism as an Ideology 1.Explanation: Social conditions are the result of individual choices 2.Evaluation: Best conditions are those in which individuals have equal opportunity to freely choose for themselves how to best succeed 3.Orientation: People are rational, self-interested individuals who want the freedom to choose how to live 4.Program: Oppose religious conformity, ascribed status, economic privileges, political absolutism, and tyranny of the majority Neoclassical and welfare liberals disagree on how best to secure equal opportunity 19

20 Conclusion: Liberalism and Democracy Liberals favor democracy for its ability to protect individual rights and liberties Based on the premise of equality among humans Voting as a way to protect individual liberties Enables citizens to hold government accountable State should be neutral to the pursuit of private goods Liberal democracy is meant to protect individuals from outside interference in private matters Political participation is valuable, but secondary to the primary concern of protecting the private affairs of individuals 20Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

21 Readings: Part III: Liberalism Thomas Hobbes—The State of Nature and the Basis of Obligation John Locke—Toleration and Government Thomas Paine—Government, Rights, and the Freedom of Generations Declaration of Independence of the United States Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens Adam Smith—Private Profit, Public Good Immanuel Kant—Freedom and Enlightenment John Stuart Mill—Liberty and Individuality William Graham Sumner—According to the Fitness of Things T. H. Green—Liberalism and Positive Freedom Franklin Delano Roosevelt – New Deal Liberalism: A Defense Barack Obama — Speech at Osawatomie, Kansas Donald Allen—Paternalism vs. Democracy: A Libertarian View Murray Rothbard—Libertarian Anarchism Terence Ball—A Libertarian Utopia 21


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