Classical Liberalism. Liberals. Political Ideas.
Many people are familiar with present day examples of both liberal and conservative parties in politics. Today, in the United States, a person is considered liberal when his or her beliefs tend to lean more to the left-wing of politics, while a person with a conservative viewpoint would generally hold more right-wing beliefs. While modern liberals and conservatives both stress the importance of liberty and personal freedom, each side has a different belief as tto how the government should ensure these freedoms. Modern liberals generally support increased government spending on social welfare programs, such as health care and pensions, to provide care for the population. On the other hand, modern conservatives favor less government intervention.
The political ideas of the classic liberal were very different from those of today's liberals. Classical Liberalism developed as a movement during the late 17th and early 18th centuries in Great Britain. Philosphers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke attempted to determine the proper role of government in society. These early liberals felt that liberty and personal freedom were essential to fulfilment, but they generally agreed that the best way to ensure these values was through a very limited government which did not interefere in the daily lives of its citizens, except to maintain order and prevent a state of lawlessness. Thomas Paine, another influential early liberal, went as far as to call government 'a necessary evil.'
Classical liberals also believed in the importance of an open free market. The less government intervention within the economy, the better. The market would self-adjust based on the needs of the people, and therefore a market functioned most efficiently without any regulations from the government. Thus, some of the most important political ideas of classical liberals are more similar to the beliefs held by modern conservatives. The idea of a small government with little to no intervention in the market place of lives of the people is no longer held by modern liberals today.
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