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To what extent do the similarities between classical and modern liberalism outweigh the differences?

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Introduction

´╗┐Evie Stretch To what extent do the similarities between classical and modern liberalism outweigh the differences? Liberalism is an ideology based on five core principles of individualism, freedom, reason, justice and tolerance. It has two main strands, classical and modern, which can be distinguished historically with classical liberalism coming first in the 18th Century and modern liberalism building on it from the mid 19th Century. There has been a progression of liberal thinkers from Locke to Mill to Rawls. Though the two strands have many similarities they also have differences. Both classical and modern liberalism agree that negative liberty is necessary within society. Negative liberty is a removal of external constraints on the individual, giving them freedom of choice or ?freedom from?. According to Mill and Jefferson, liberty is one of our inalienable natural rights. Negative liberty therefore demands a minimal state with no interference. In real terms this means that a person has a right to make their own decisions without state intervention. ...read more.

Middle

Modern liberals on the other hand believe that it is necessary for the state to intervene in the economy and regulate it to prevent exploitation and economic inequality. As the market became more complex liberal thinkers believed it was increasingly unlikely that it could be successfully self-regulating. Due the high unemployment levels which resulting from the Depression and the World Wars, the free market was deemed to have failed. Policies of economic intervention were adopted, particularly after the Second World War, based upon Keynesian economics which involves government spending and taxes. The role of the state is also another issue about which classical and modern liberalism disagree. Classical liberals advocate a minimal state as shown by their belief in the sufficiency of negative liberty. They believe that the state should be limited and have very few functions: its only role should be protection. This involves protecting people from each other and protecting individuals from any accumulation of economic or political power. ...read more.

Conclusion

T H Green in particular advocated this more positive outlook. Both strands do, however, believe in the importance of individualism. Another difference between the two strands is their outlook on equality. Though they both support it they define it differently. They both consider political equality to be a necessity and, due to our natural rights there must be some degree of social equality, classical liberals allow for much more inequality, particularly socially, as they believe that everyone is capable of doing what they want and the state should not intervene. Modern liberals think that there should be less economic and social inequality which is why the economy needs to be regulated and why the enabling state creates an equality of opportunity. However though there are many differences in the ways that classical and modern liberalism attempt to achieve and maintain their core principles, the principles themselves are the same, meaning that although the two strands are made up of different beliefs which will result in different outcomes they are still part of the same ideology. Though the differences between the strands outweigh the differences, they are still more similar than they would be with strands of any other ideology. ...read more.

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