Essay on Analysis of Liberalism and Democracy

Essay on Analysis of Liberalism and Democracy

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Analysis of Liberalism and Democracy
Liberalism has an ambivalent relationship with democracy, as liberals
are against collective power, but support political equality. In the
nineteenth century liberals were often opposed to democracy as they
saw it as a threat to individual rights - the people are not a single
entity but rather a collection of individuals with different opinions
and interests, and so it is impossible for every view and opinion to
be respected. Since the twentieth century most liberals have come
round to the idea of democracy, and support it, but they still have

Liberals defend democracy for a variety of reasons. First of all it
ensures public accountability. This gives the people a degree of
protection against governments becoming too strong. Liberals believe
in limited government, and democracy provides this system, as the
government is accountable to the people. Although most liberals would
agree that government is essential in order to defend the rights of
the people, it can also be seen as a threat to individual liberty, so
people need some form of protection against it.

According to John Stuart Mill, ‘the only purpose for which power can
be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community,
against his will, is to prevent harm to others’. Therefore, the role
of government is to protect the liberty of individuals against others
who may seek to exploit them for their own gain. In the liberal view,
government powers should not extend beyond this minimal role. However,
government officials may exploit their position for their own personal
gain, and therefore the people should have a ...

... middle of paper ...

...this also links with the liberal idea of limited
government - the state should not become involved with the economy, or
any other matter which does not concern the protection and defence of
human rights.

In conclusion liberalism is not entirely compatible with democracy -
some important liberal ideas, in particular the principle that every
individual opinion should be taken into account, directly conflict
with the system of democracy. However, in many other ways democracy
does correspond with liberal values - it provides political equality
for example, and protects the rights of the people against overly
strong governments. In general, I feel that liberalism has been able
to adapt and fit in with democracy, despite the problem of trying to
balance popular participation against the protection of individual

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