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University of Toronto St. George
Kenneth Bartlett

HIS109 Jan. 31, 2011 Liberalism Liberal idea percolating everywhere, ideology part of the Enlightenment tradition, also owed much to the American & French Revolutions Idea of a liberal state, equality of citizens, fraternity Became more significant as Industrial Revolution made rapid strides because the developing middle class largely adopted the doctrine as its own Divergences among people classified as Liberals, however all began with the belief that people should be as free from restraint as possible Economic Liberalism Primary tenet was the concept of laissez-faire: the belief that the state should not interrupt the free play of natural economic forces, especially supply & demand Government should not restrain the economic liberty of the individual & should restrict itself only to 3 primary functions: defense of the country, police protection of individuals, & the construction & maintenance of public works too expensive for individuals to undertake Individual’s economic liberty would bring about the maximum good for the maximum number & benefit the general welfare of society Malthus, Essay on the Principle of Population: Population increases at a geometric rate while the food supply increases at a much slower arithmetic rate – resulting in severe overpopulation & starvation for human race if not unchecked Misery & poverty inevitable - the result of the law of nature; no government or individual should interfere with it Ricardo, Principles of the Political Economy: Increase in population means more workers which in turn cause wages to fall below the subsistence level Result is misery & starvation which then reduce the population Number of workers decline wages rise above the subsistence level again encourages workers to have larger families, repeating the cycle Raising wages arbitrarily would be pointless since it would accomplish little but perpetuate this vicious cycle Political Liberalism Protection of civil liberties or the basic rights of all people, including equality before the law, freedom of assembly, speech, & press, freedom from arbitrary arrest Freedoms should be guaranteed in a written document (e.g., American Bill of Rights, French Declaration of the Rights of Man & Citizen) Religious toleration for all, separation of church & state Right of peaceful opposition to the government in & out of parliament, & the making of laws by a representative assembly (legislature) elected by qualified voters In a constitutional monarchy or state with limits on the powers of government to prevent despotism & in written constitutions that would help guarantee these rights Advocated ministerial responsibilities: system in which the king’s ministers were responsible to the legislature rather than the king, giving legislative branch a check on the power of the executive First half of 19 century Liberals believed in limited suffrage – although all entitled to equal civil rights; they should not have equal political rights Right to vote & hold office would be only open to men who met certain property qualifications Liberalism as a political philosophy tied to middle-class men, especially industrial middleclass men who favoured the extension of voting rights so that they could share power with the landowning classes (little desire to let lower classes share that power) Liberals NOT democrats Late 19 - early 20 century; L.T Hobhouse To be free we have to be willing to except restraint Taxation is necessary – it’s the price we pay for civilization (Churchill) Those who are taxed must agree to that alienation of property – they must agree to the level of taxation, & supervise the expenditure Representatives of the community must ensure that the taxation is a legitimate action taken by a legitimate government for legitimate purpose Freedom of thought, freedom to hold opinions, to express them in speech, writing, & political organization Freedom of religion – state had no right to interfere in personal beliefs, tell you what is wrong Should not be an established liberty Personal liberties must be subject to restraint Where do you draw the line on free speech? Ask the Liberals Where do you draw the line on what is offensive or dangerous Courts, law so you know where to draw the line Freedom to trade, & associate – basic economic freedom, free from unjust restrictions (the freedom of the market place – must be free to operate, as an unseen hand according to Adam Smith, for example)
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