Classical liberalism began in the late eighteenth century and began to flourish during the nineteenth century. Classical liberalism is a political ideology that argues for a minimal relationship between the civil society, and the state or government. The goal of classical liberalism is to be the ideal society; one in which individuals have the freedom and the right to do things as they choose with minimum government interference. Some of t he main characteristics that attribute to classical liberalism are as follows: self-interest, individual rights and freedom (individualism), private property, economic freedom, competition, and rule of law.
*Watch the video below for the principles of Classical Liberalism
The well-known philosopher who is often referred to as “The Father of Classical Liberalism”, John Locke, argued that the government’s role should only be to guarantee that individuals have security while they are on their pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness (which he refers to as the natural rights); and to protect private property. In Locke’s most famous writing, Second Treatise of Government, he argued that individuals should be able to choose what they feel is best for themselves as long as it is within the respects of the law. It is in Locke’s writings where he began to showcase the idea of individualism.
The essay “Self-Reliance” by the American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, strongly promotes individualism. There are several similarities in thoughts and writings of Locke and Emerson. They both believe that every individual is entitled is able to do as they choose; emphasizing of individual rights. They slightly differ on the rule of law. Locke believes that individuals should be free to do as they choose while still respecting the law; while Emerson believes that submitting to the law takes away from him being able to be an individual. Emerson stated that“no law can be sacred to me but that of my nature” in the essay “Self-Reliance”.
Another early supporter of classical liberalism is Adam Smith. Smith focused more on government interference in the economy. Smith invented the term ‘invisible hand’. This term is used as metaphor for the market, favoring their natural rights; which leads business owners to have the right to make a profit, and maximize it without the need of interference from the government.
Ayn Rand is a philosopher from Russia, who moved to America and suddenly began to make a lot of critiques about the American government.One of Rand’s most famous book is Fountainhead; in her writings it became clear that she despised any type of assistance from the government. I feel as if Rand and Smith’s ideas are related because they both believe that the economy would be better off if the government didn’t provide assistance to individuals; they also believe that competition between businesses is what the economy needs.
In my opinion, the ideas of classical liberalism are still incorporated into today’s society. In particular I see a lot of the common ground of classical liberalism within the conservative party’s such as republicans. Republicans typically care more about themselves and their families (individualism), and they are also known not to support systems that provide assistance (government interference), the only advocate for things that are a benefit (self-interest) to them.
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