liberalism debates

liberal democracy: a contradiction in terms?

yes

  • tends to be guided by majorities-threatens some individuals with the tyranny of the majority
  • classical liberalism faovured a limited electorate to safeguard property rights
  • john stuart mill thought votes should be given only to those with appropriate formal education
  • modern liberals flirt with supranational bodies where there is a democratic deficit
  • liberals seek to mitigate democracy's effects via assorted constitutional devices

no

  • complements individualism, allowing individuals to shape their lives via the ballot box
  • complements government by consent
  • helps avoid the concentration of political power
  • optimistic about human nature- it presupposes an intelligent electorate, capable of rational decisions
  • john stuart mill thought democracy would have an educative effect upon voters and abet developmental individualism
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has modern liberalism abandoned the principles of

yes

  • C defined liberty as individuals being left alone; M think individuals are not free unless they are actively enabled via interference from others
  • C championed a minimal state; M champion an enlarged, enabling state
  • C was inclined to see taxation as theft and sought to restrict it; M often see increased taxation as the key method for implementing positive freedom
  • C favoured laissez faire capitalism from which the state is detached; M favour keynesian capitalism where the state seeks to manage market forces
  • C had an ambivalent view of democracy, prioritising instead the interests of property owners; M has championed representative democracy

no

  • both C and M have an optimisitc view of human potential
  • C and M believe in rationalism and insist upon tolerance of minorities
  • C and M see individualism as the goal of politics and society; differ about how to achieve it
  • C and M believe in capitalism and oppose state ownership of the economy
  • C and M believe in a constitutional state and government by consent
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do liberals have a coherent view of the state?

yes

  • optimistic, believing that human beings are rational; believe in a constitutional state drawn up as a result of rational discussion
  • believe in government by consent; their constitutional state should be seen as a contract between government and governed
  • believe in limited government with politicians restrained by the rules of the constitution
  • speak of a natural society where all individuals enjoy natural rights; support a limited state that embodies natural advantages via mechanisms like a bill of rights
  • reaction against the medieval state; liberal state should be one in which power is more dispersed

no

  • slow to adopt the principles of democracy, sexual equality and universal adult suffrage
  • fails to recognise that most individuals under the state's jurisdiction have not owned property
  • allows the consent of a majority to be defied via courts, checks and balances
  • modern liberals have advocated a significant extension of state intervention in the name of positive liberty
  • have compromised their belief in government by consent by supporting supranational bodies which erode the authority of elective parliaments and elected representatives
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can liberalism be reconciled to conservatism?

yes

  • L and C support private property and capitalism
  • L and C see inequality of outcome as a sign of liberty
  • L and C deny the inevitability of class conflict
  • ML and C support gradual reform and reject revolution
  • NL and NRC reject keynesian economics and champion a more laissez faire economy

no

  • L have an optimisitc view of human nature; C are sceptical
  • L see rationalism as central to human behaviour; C stress habit, emotion. instinct
  • L prioritise individual liberation; C stress order and restraint
  • L see individuals as potentially autonomous; C see individuals as communal
  • L extol free market capitalism; TC are more sceptical and protectionist
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