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Flashcards in Liberalism Deck (62):

Define classical liberalism

A strand of liberalism which seeks to maximise individual action, typically by establishing a minimal state and reliance on market economics


Define modern liberalism

A strand of liberalism that provides a qualified endorsement for social and economic intervention as a means of promoting personal development


What are the key principles of liberalism







Define individualism

The belief that the individual is supreme and more important than any social group or collective body


Define egotistical individualism

Humans are essentially self interested and are capable of deciding what is best for themselves. Individuals are self reliant and do not need others to tell them what to do. Individuals have no obligations or responsibilities for other individuals


Define developmental individualism

Individualism is not simply being free to pursue material interest, but being able to better yourself or flourish. Being able to self develop allows humans to become autonomous.


Why do Liberals support idividualism

1.)Humans are rational and know what is in their best interest. This means that no group has the right to tell an individual what to do

2.) Humans desire freedom. This means that they should be treated as individuals instead of conforming to expectations

3.)Each human is unique. This means that you cannot expect each humsn to behave the same way

4.)Individualism is a condition of social progress. This is because societies which promote competition and diversity will flourish

5.)Individualism is concerned with protecting the rights of the individual from the will of the majority and over powerful governments which by nature threaten individualism


How do classical liberals promote individualism

1.)Societies should be organised to promote diversity and the development of the individual(tolerance)

2.)Individuals should be grantedthe maximum amount of freedom

3.)The role of the government should be to protect individual rights

4.)Regulation and legislation should be kept to a minimum and should only prevent monopolies.(Laissez Faire economics)


How do modern liberals promote individualism

1.)Society should promote diversity and the development of the individual

2.)Individuals should have the maximum amount of freedom

3.)The role of the government is to enable individuals to become autonomous

4.)Governments should promote a sense of social responsibility through welfare programmes

5.)Market regulation


Define freedom

The ability to think or act as one wishes, a capacity that can be associated with the individual, a social group or a nation.


Why do liberals support freedom

Every human shares the desire for freedom in common

Without freedom, an individual is denied what is essential to being human.

Humans are rational, therefore given freedom and choice, we will be able to excersie a sense of responsibility

Freedom guarantees individualism

Freedom can prevent interference from an overpowerful state 

Freedom is a prerequisite for social progress


Classical liberal view of freedom

Classical liberals support negative freedom

J.S Mill said "True freedom is the absence of restraint...the only purpose for which power can rightfully be excerised over an individual is to prevent harm to others 

Individuals should have total freedom in self regarding cts and limited freedom in acts that involve others as long as it does not cause them harm



What are the implications of the classical liberal view of freedom

rugged individualism (Individuals are free to pursue their own interests and need only take responsibility for themselves and their own actions)

Society should be constructed in ways that allow individuals the maximum freedom 

The state should be restrained from interfering with the actions of self regarding individuals

Support of the free market as it allows individuals to pursue their own material interests

Low taxation


Modern liberal view of freedom

modern liberals support positive freedom

Economic freedom can lead to exploitation. unrestrained capitalism does not give each individual the same opportunities for self-realization

Freedom consists of each person being able to become autonomous

There should be the widest possible amount of choice and opportunity for everyone


What are the implications of the modern liberal view of freedom

GIven freedom and choice, we should excercise a sense of social responsibility

There should be limited economic regulation/ management

Equal opportunities to grow and develop can only be provided by collective action

There should be a welfare state



Define rationalism

The belief that the world has a rational structure and that humans can understand the world by excercising reason. Human behaviour is largely governed by reason as opposed to non-rational drives or impulses


Implications of the view that humans are rational

Humans can make judgements about what is in their interests therefore, a 'nanny' state is not needed

Humans can resolve disagreements through argument and debate rather than conflict

Humans can improve themselves

Humans can design good priniciples of governance(utilitarianism) through rational thought


How is liberalism linked to rationalism

Liberalism is a product of the enlightenment- an intelectual movement which based its ideas on rationalism

Faith in the ability of human being to behave rationally

Belief in the ability of human reason to understand th eworkd around them and ensure progress



What is th classical liberal view of human nature

  • Self-seeking
  • Largely self-reliant
  • Competitive
  • Power seeking
  • Corruptable
  • Rational
  • Utilitarian



Modern liberal view of human nature

Humans have;

  • Sympathy for one another and are capable of altruism 
  • a sense of social responsibility
  • Desire to achieve self-realization


Define Utilitarianism

The idea that individuals are motivated by self-interest and act to increase happiness (usually seen in terms of material consumption) and avoid pain


Define altruism

Concern for the interest and welfare of others, based either on the belief of common humanity


Define equality

The state of being equal especialliy in status, rights and opportunities


Define Foundation equality

People are born equal therefire, they should have the same human rights


Define formal equality

The idea that individuals should enjoy the same formal status within the law. This can be summarised by 'equality under the law'


Define equality of opportunity

Everyone should have equal amounts of political and economic power. People have equal moral rights so shoukd be treated the same. Everyone should have the ability to rise and fall in society


Define meritocracy

Rule by those who merit it, merit being intelligence plus effort; a society in whuch social position is determined by ability and hard work


Define egalitarianism

The idea that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities


Why do liberals support the doctrine of egalitarianism?

  • As humans have equal moral worth, there should be no discrimination
  • Individuals can achieve autonomy if there is equality of opportunity
  • Liberals disapprove of any social privilleges or advantages that are enjoyed by some and not all based on factors such as race, coulour, creed, religion or social background


How have classical liberals supported equality?

  • Classical liberals believe that equality of opportunity is provided for by the free market.
  • Support of rule of law-no one is abouve the law 
  • support for democracy
  • Free market does not discriminate as it does not matter what your background is, if people want what you produce they will buy it
  • Defence of rights and freedoms- leads to constitutionalism


How do modern liberals critique the classical liberal view of equality

Modern liberals realised that this type of equality leads to some people having excessive wealth and others living in extreme poverty. Therefore, modern liberals believe the free market does not provide equality of opportunity 


How have modern liberals supported equality

  • Support of rule of law, democracy and protection of rights
  • The free market ALONE cannot provide equality of freedom
  • Equality can only be achieved through collective action through progressive taxation and the state through social welfarism


How have classical liberals criticised the modern liberal view of equality

Classical liberals do not agree with economic intervention as they believe it infringes on an individual's rights and freedoms, particularily property rights and believe instead that the free market provides equality of opportunity 


Define Toleration

A willingness to allow people to think, speak and act in ways we might disagree with


Why have liberals supported and free speech


  • Toleration guarantees freedom as it is a condition for moral self-development
  • It is a solution to dull conformism which implies the majority is always right
  • It is necessary to ensure social progress, this is because within a free market of ideas, good will replace bad and ignorance will be progressively banished


What are the implications of liberals supporting tolerance?


  • Leads liberals to support the harm principle(classical liberals) and the offence principle(Modern liberals)
  • Allows intolerant views to be expressed
  • Encourages diversity e.g multiculturalism
  • Tolerance is a prerequisite for social progress
  • Freedom of expression must be protected in law


What is the Harm Principle?

An idea by J.S Mill that no one should have their free speech constrained unless they will harm another person by expressing their view.


What is the Offence Principle?

An extention of the Harm Principle where someone should not be allowed to express their view if it will offend someone else


Define universalism

The belief, based on rationalism and progress. It states that there are certain truths that apply to all people and all societies regardless of historical, cultural and other differences


What are the implications of universalism, the harm principle and the offence principle?

  • Assumes that humans will agree on universal truths
  • Places limits on toleration(Harm and offence principle)
  • Implies a moral right to criticise those whose intolerance may constrain freedom of expression which is intolerant in itself 


Define pluralism

A belief in the diversity of ideas and beliefs and that power should be dispersed 


Why do liberals promote diversity and pluralism?

  • The existence of different cultures, values and belief systems help to prevent discrimination.
  • Limits the power of government as power is dispersed 
  • Diversity enables social progress
  • Leads to individualism


Implication of liberal view of pluralism and diversity

  1. Freedom of speech and expression should be tolerated, provided it does not threaten the security of the country
  2. The diversity of cultures, religions, ethnic groups and lifestyles in society should be tolerated and the rights of such groups should be protected


What is the liberal view if the state?

  • Liberals are convinced with the need of a state as life would be nasty, brutish and short without it- Thomas Hobbes
  • Liberals fear power. As human beings are self-serving creatures, if they have power they will naturally use it for their own benefit at the expense of others
  • Egoism + power= corruption


What did Lord Acton say about power?

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely


How do liberals attempt to constrain and fragment power?

  • Liberals promote formal equality which includes one person, one vote
  • Devolution takes power away from one body
  • Social contract theory
  • Constitutionalism


What is social contravt theory?

The idea that all citizens have a defined relationship with the state, and we agree with this relationship. As a state is necessary, we elect one that acts in our interest. This means that we must follow the laws they make


Define Constituitionalism

The idea that a constitution can create an equilibrium and constrain government as well as protecting the rights of individuals


Classical liberal view of the state?

  • The greatest threat to individual freedom is the state
  • State intervention and social reform is unecessary and even damaging 
  • State should be restrained from interfering in the free market
  • Resist social welfarism


Modern liberal view of the state

  • The greatest threat to individual freedon is poverty not the power of the state as it does not allow individuals to self actualise and become autonomous
  • The role of the state should be to combat the 5 giants of poverty
  • Accept the need for economic management
  • Support the principle of welfarism


What are the five giants of poverty and how do modern liberals try to solve them

  1. Squalor - Council Housing
  2. Idleness - 
  3. Ignorance - Comprehensive education
  4. Disease - NHS
  5. Want - Benefits


In what ways do liberals agree on the state?

  • The state is a necessary evil
  • Both fear excessive concentrations of power
  • Both support constitutionalism
  • Both want to maximise individual freedom


Why do classical liberals support rights

  • Rights guarntee maximum freedom
  • We are morally equal therefore we should have the same rights
  • Rights protect our freedom of expression and choice
  • Diversity and social progress is protected


What are John Locke's natural rights

Life, liberty and property



What is an atomistic society and who subscribes to it?

  • Classical liberals
  • A society that is created by man, individuals are not responsible for others and ties between individuals are largely contractual


What is an organic society and who subscribes to it?

  • Modern liberals
  • A society that arises naturally, individuals have social responsibilities, humans are connected by bonds of sympathy and caring


Why do liberals support democracy

  • Power should lie with the people rather than the state
  • Authority should only be obtained by consent
  • Democracies fragment political power 
  • Democracies can ensure political representations and formal equality


Why do liberals fear democracy

  • It is collectivist. Runs counter to liberal doctrine of individualism
  • It implies majoritarianism and can lead to a 'tyranny of the majority'- Alex Toqueville
  • Minority rights can be crushed in the name of the people 
  • It may threaten property rights
  • It encourages dull conformism


What is dull conformism

The belief that the majority must always be right- J.S Mill


How do liberals deal with the contradiction of a liberal democracy?

  • Education and socialisation
  • Representative democracy
  • Constitutionalism(separation of powers, universal franchise, regular elections)
  • Principles; Individual freedom, rule of law, property right


What are the main features of economic liberalism?

  •  Support for capitalism
  • Encourage rugged individualism and competition
  • Object to high levels of taxation- Robin Hood taxes
  • Accept inequality as it provides an incentive to work
  • An unrestrained free market is essential to wealth generation and social progress


What are the main features of social liberalism

  • Support for capitalism and welfarism
  • Support for economic management based on keyenesian principles
  • Accept the need for higher levels of taxation to combat excessive inequality and poverty
  • Reducing poverty leads to social progress
  • The state(through collective action) guarantees the widening of freedom and equality of opportunity not the market