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At the heart of liberalism there is a fear of unchecked power?

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Introduction

At the heart of liberalism there is a fear of unchecked power? John Stuart Mill argued that 'the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any members in a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm from others'. This outlines the liberal view on the use of power. Unchecked power could come in two different forms: the first could be used by an individual over another. Liberals fear that free individuals may wish to exploit others if it is in their interest to do so. They may also break or ignore contracts when it suits them. The liberty of one person is always therefore in danger of becoming license to abuse another; each person can be said to be both a threat to and under threat from every other member of society. Our liberty requires that they are restrained from encroaching upon our freedom and in turn their liberty requires them to be safeguarded from us. ...read more.

Middle

Being able to threaten other individuals. The idea of universalism that everyone is born of equal morale worth would mean nothing in the face of unchecked power. Would everyone's opinion really matter if some are more important than others? The idea that all humans are rational would also be under threat. The ability to develop rational ideas would not grow under a system where power is abused. Would we retain the ability to remain tolerant in this situation? The idea of justice and equality of opportunity would also suffer. The main theme of this is that all these doctrines of liberal ideology rely on a certain aspect of freedom for the individual that unchecked power would infringe on. These central ideas are designed in a way to empower the individual but they can only do that if these ideas themselves are protected. Although liberals are convinced of the need for a government, they are also aware of the dangers that it embodies. ...read more.

Conclusion

Liberals also fear democracy because they believe that political wisdom is not evenly balanced. The educated are able to use their wisdom and experience for the good of others. This means that a representative system where the elected politicians are of an educated background would have been the most favoured. That is why John Stuart Mill suggested that the educated should have more votes than those less so. The system of checks and balances includes a bi-cameral parliament. Where the House of Lords can moderate the House of Commons, this ties in with JS Mill's comments about the more educated because the House of Commons represents the majority. Also the idea of pluralism is important to liberal ideology. More pluralism in a liberal democracy can only be a good thing. Pressure groups can add to the pluralism by challenging powerful government and reducing the democratic deficit. Liberalism as an ideology encapsulates individual freedom and, although it recognizes the need for a certain amount of intervention to protect that freedom, it must be concerned with what unchecked power can do. ...read more.

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