Types of Liberalism

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A2 Government & Politics Liberalism
Types of Liberalism
Early Forms
Tended to refer to themselves as `radicals', `republicans' or `rationalists'
Main principle was natural rights
John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rosseau, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson are regarded as the
champions of natural rights
Emphasis on natural rights led to political developments:
o Gov't has no authority to encroach upon the rights of its people, unless the people
expressly consent to sacrifice some of their rights to gov't. If rights have been
sacrificed, the people should be able to dissolve gov't
o All are born with equal rights that gov't should respect and promote equal rights
o The most important right that nature grants all, except the right to life, is the right to
be free, to pursue one's interests. Gov't must respect and protect this
o The exercise of power without the expressed authority of the people cannot be
justified since it denies fundamental rights
Developed by early economists in late 18th Century (Jeremy Bentham)
Believed it was possible to calculate how many utility each individual could derive from
consuming certain goods
Believed it was possible to calculate total amount of utility a whole society achieved
Individuals decide what gave them more or less utility for themselves
Free-market economics
Admitted possibility gov't could contribute to sum utility by taking certain actions
Bentham argued actions of gov't should be determined by calculus and algebra, establishing
whether total utility would be increased or not, implying
o Gov't had to accept what people asserted would give them satisfaction
o Gov't should be limited to providing what the people preferred as a whole
`The greatest good for the greatest number'
Accept freedom of individuals
Liberals identify two main problems with utilitarianism
o Took a simplistic view of what motivated individuals and gave them pleasure
o Doctrine opened door to excessive state intervention
Classical Liberalism
Inspired by dominant philosophy of John Stuart Mill (On Liberty)
Early liberals derived freedom in terms of the ability to pursue own self-interest
Mill believed freedom would maximise human progress; promotes innovation and creativity
Unit 3 ­ Introducing Political IdeologiesPage 1

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A2 Government & Politics Liberalism
o "I regard utility as the ultimate appeal on all ethical questions; but it must be utility in
the largest sense, grounded on the permanent interests of a man as a progressive
Bentham = self-interest + freedom in terms of consumption of goods
Mill interested in human progress
Concept of freedom led to interest in tolerance as a political virtue (political tolerance)
Liberal argument: own freedom depends on freedom of others ­ respect others' freedom
o Freedom of expression…read more

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A2 Government & Politics Liberalism
1. Free economic markets to extremes, proposing removal of all state
2.…read more

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A2 Government & Politics Liberalism
and fear of want, freedom from idleness and fear of idleness enforced by
unemployment, freedom from war and fear of war.…read more


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