Classical Liberalism

735 Words2 Pages



The ideology of classical liberalism is concerned with the conception

of an ideal society. The term classical refers to the early form of

liberalism that flourished for much of the nineteenth century. It sees

human nature as essentially selfish but rational. Therefore the ideal

society is one where individuals have maximum freedom to pursue their

own interest in competition with everyone else.



Origins of classical liberalism are derived from the break up of the

feudal system, which allowed people more economic freedom and allowed

possible the early growth of capitalism. The fusion of economic and

political liberalism has produced a powerful doctrine that has

influenced governments ever since. However before CL had fully

matured, it was preceded by two opposing movement: Natural rights and


Natural Rights


This doctrine, developed by Thomas Hobbs and John Locke in the 16th

and 17th century is fairly famous due to Hobbs unflatteringly

described 'state of nature' which states without a rule of a sovereign

body then society becomes a 'war…of every man against every man' which

leaves life 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short'. It was argued

by both that each man is born with certain rights, which are natural

and cannot be denied to him by others. This includes the rights to

life, liberty and to avoid pain. In order to protect these rights, man

must also consent to accept control from a sovereign in order to

protect these rights and if this is not accepted, they will be

limited. (This could also be confused by description, as aut...

... middle of paper ... with the natural state of society with providing local

services such as welfare and education that according to Spencer was

tampering with the processes of nature.

Samuel Smiles, a follower of Spencer, took this further and actually

campaigned against welfare provision as it's up to individuals to make

the best of their own lives according to their abilities without

relying on others.

Summary of Classical Liberal Ideas

· The most basic value that must be preserved in society is individual


· The free working of the economic system is vital in maximising


· The state should play a minimal role in society

· Inequality is natural. Creating greater equality is an interference

with nature

· On the whole, individuals are responsible for themselves and their

own welfare

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