Summary: Classical Liberalism
Classical Liberalism is a political philosophy developed from the 17 century to the
18 century by philosophers John Locke, Adam Smith, and Immanuel Kant. It emphasizes the
rights of individuals. These rights include the rights to life, liberty and property.
When it comes to human nature, Classical Liberalists believe that humans are
rational, self-interested, competitive actors. With this belief, Thomas Hobbes assumed that in a
state of nature, where people are “under no other legislative power…nor under the dominion of
any will or restraint” that human life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” He believed
that a state of nature is a state of war which is defined by Hobbes as “force without right upon a
man’s person…both where there is and is not a common judge.” In order to avoid a state of war
the Social Contract was established.
John Locke adopted the idea of the Social Contract from Thomas Hobbes, which is
the foundation of constitutionalism. By entering the social contract, individuals give rule to an
authority, such as the government in order to maintain social order. Th