The Leaders of Liberalism
As with any political or social idea, it can take several generations and even a few millennia to move to a modern state of thought. Fortunately, there are often several great thinkers to help push the ideas forward to each successive generation. Such is the case with the idea of liberalism. With each new thought that has entered the lexicon of liberal thought, the meaning of liberal has changed. In the current era, being liberal is most commonly applied to political views, with a decidedly American idea of liberal versus conservative politics.
The origin of liberalism goes back to some of the first important historical figures and political theorists. Among these, no name is greater than Aristotle, the seminal Greek thinker who literally wrote the book, Politics, that deals with early liberal thought. Although his liberal views would be considered tame by today's standards, his written works laid the foundation for future generations to come. Ultimately, Aristotle stated that the best government would be a combination of oligarchy and democracy that would keep the lower classes happy.
The historical figure that did the most to change this early view of liberalism was John Locke, a British writer and philosopher that is often crowned the father of liberalism. His works asserted that human nature allowed men to pursue selfish actions and that wealth should be capped at a certain level. This idea of liberalism meant that wealthy landowners would not be able to use their existing power to accumulate more power ad infinitum. In addition, he was one of the first historical figures to speak out against the invention of money, stating that the invention is the separation that allows a person to acquire an unlimited amount of property that cannot be efficiently maintained without lowering the life of others.
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