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How far and to what extent, have modern liberals departed from the ideas of classical liberalism?

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Introduction

How far and to what extent, have modern liberals departed from the ideas of classical liberalism? It is recognised by students of politics that ideologies can be very broad, encompassing varying competing schools of philosophy. Liberalism is often seen to contain two such streams: classical liberalism, which developed alongside idustrialization and the end of the feudal age, and modern liberalism, which developed at the tail end of the industrial revolution. The terms are misleading, insofar as both ideologies continue to compete today. Modern liberalism therefore, should be seen as a divergent of the ideas proposed by the classical liberal theorists, rather than a replacement thereof. This essay will explore liberalism thematically, explaining the classical view, then discussing the deviation or agreement by modern liberals. Liberals are insistent on the primacy of the individual and his freedoms. Classical liberals tend to see man as selfish and egoistic, acting only in his own interests and happiness. They therefore argue for a limited state that exists only to defend the freedoms of one individual from another, a "nightwatchman", as John Locke, a 17th Century English philosopher, put it. ...read more.

Middle

A further example is the formation by universities of quotas to ensure that those who have not received a private education are not discriminated against on the basis of wealth (gritted teeth). Classical liberals oppose welfarism by opposition on to wealth redistribution and an emphasis on self-help. They claim that redistribution of wealth is unfair because it is erodes the doctrine of right to property. According to theorists such as JS Mill, individuals should be able to dispose of fairly-gained wealth in whatever way they ordain, and that the state has only the right to tax for policing that would safeguard their freedoms. If people work hard for wealth, and then have it removed, their incentive to work hard is taken away. Furthermore, classical liberals argue that by a welfare system, one allows the working man to become lazy as he can simply rely on the state to furnish his needs. Only by forcing him to work will you save him from the gutter. ...read more.

Conclusion

For example, on the question of unemployment, Smith believed that employers and employees are mutually dependent, but that their relationship, as with other economic relationships, exists on a basis of supply and demand. Therefore, if unemployment rose, the employers would be able to negotiate lower wages and accept more workers. Smith's economics also promoted the removal of tariffs and 'free trade', which would raise the total wealth of nations and give the individual consumer more freedom of choice, by forcing competition and lower costs. However, the Wall Street Crash of 1929, caused the Great Depression of high unemployment worldwide throughout the 1930's and therefore an economic rethink. Lower wages brought about by 'market forces' meant workers had less money to spend on goods, so as the demand dropped so did the supply, and producers were forced into bankruptcy or to make redundancies, creating a vicious circle. The Keynesian solution to this problem was 'government interventionism', by creating artificial jobs, which would cause workers to spend more on goods, which would allow producers to exist and employ, creating a virtuous circle. ...read more.

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