Liberalism as we know it today has its roots in enlightenment in the 16th and 1700s, where political movements around Europe and North America began to demand greater freedom for the individuals. In the early 1800s, socialism emerged as a reaction to liberalism.
Liberalism is often characterized by the color blue.
What is liberalism?
“Liber” is a Latin word meaning “free” and liberalism is based on the idea that all people are entitled to full-freedom in the society. Liberalism emphasizes some natural rights that should apply to all people, namely the right to life, freedom and being eligible to own private property. All people should be free to live as they wish as long as their choices do not violate the rights of others.
Liberalism in Practice
Liberalism has a critical view of the state with power more than necessary and restricted freedom of the citizens. Liberalism advocates individualism and self-determination, which, provides people with the achievement of their desires/dreams. If the state is given too much power, it is thus a threat to the individual’s welfare, lifestyle, property and opportunities for self-development.
Specifically, the power of the state must be limited by a free and independent judiciary that safeguards citizens’ freedoms. The state should, as a rule, only provide laws and public order, protect the population from external threats and maintain infrastructures such as roads, railways and schools.
In addition to personal freedom, which guarantees people’s rights, economic freedom is also emphasized as a part of liberalism. Economic freedom implies that all people should be able to investing in real estate or launch their own business. Therefore, liberalists advocate private property rights.
Liberalists also believe that there must be free trade and free competition between citizens and businesses in society as it ensures fair terms and low prices for goods and services.
Liberalism’s primary founders are John Locke (1632-1704) and Adam Smith (1723-1790).
John Locke was an English philosopher who, as the first, described two fundamental rules of liberalism: personal and economic freedom. John Locke believes that all people are entitled to personal and financial independence – called the two ‘natural rights’.
Adam Smith was a Scottish economist who, as the first, described how free competition is capable of ensuring prosperity for all. Adam Smith thus explained how the natural freedom of a society will strengthen competition between people and businesses and provide citizens with improved living conditions. Inequality is a built-in condition for free competition as someone will always make more or better than others and thus achieve a higher prosperity than others. It is the consequence of the natural freedom.
Humanity of Liberalism
Liberalism sees man as a sensible but selfish being. Egoism is, however, regarded as something positive, which, like inequality, causes man to perform well.
Liberalism’s advocates believe that all people must be free and equal. However, there will always be inequality because people have various characteristics and thus performance differently. This inequality is not seen as a problem because it motivates people individually. Everyone will eventually benefit as it increases overall prosperity in society.
Every man has his own fortune
Liberalism’s starting point is that every human being free to work for a good life. You are fully responsible for yourself, and if you cant achieve a good life, then it’s your own fault. It is not the state’s task to create a good life for the citizens. Instead, every citizen himself must be able to raise his own life quality by doing his best.
Political and Economic Liberalism
The classic liberalist ideology has gradually been expanded with a variety of different bids on what it should contain. In this context, liberalism has been divided into two branches:
- Political liberalism, which primarily argues for citizens’ democratic rights, freedom in their beliefs and freedom of thought and speech.
- Economic liberalism, primarily argues for the free market economy, where there is great freedom for businesses, commerce and industry. Everybody should be able to compete freely.
Liberalism in general
|State role||Ensure citizens’ basic rights and maintain infrastructure for the citizens.|
|The People||Man is free and should improve himself as far as possible. “Every man has his own fortune”.|
|Economy||Free market economy and free competition.|