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Why is liberalism so concerned with the individual?

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Why is liberalism so concerned with the individual? The concept of individual freedom is central to any form of liberal belief. The very nature of the word 'liberalism', stemming as it does from the Latin liber meaning free, would seem to support this judgement. Liberals believe not that the individual is in someway fundamentally 'good' but that individuals have the potential to make rational decisions and in a given situation will normally act in a manner which can be described as rational. Another key belief in liberalism is linked to this concept and that is that all human action is ultimately self seeking. Far form this being seen a fault, that humans are selfish, it is, in fact, seen as a natural manifestation of humanities capability for rationalism. Liberals the desire to better oneself as a fundamental part of human nature and many classical liberals went on to say that if an individual did not act in a manner which resulted in that individual bettering himself, then the action was not rational. ...read more.


One of the natural rights identified by Locke was property. The concept of property as a right can be seen to have stemmed from the liberal belief in the individual. The ultimate piece of 'property' owned by every individual is their body. They have the right to use it as they choose and in liberal theory it is thought that they would generally use their body in the way that the mind considers to be rational. With this body, they will generally use it in a way which increases their material wealth in other ways, i.e. through working. The ownership of the body is therefore the first step on the road to the ownership of material wealth and consequently property. Another reason to consider the liberal interest in the rights of the individual is to consider the times from which liberalism originated. Beginning in the early 17th century, it is a philosophy which developed as society was changing. ...read more.


Without the idea of the rights of the individual, there can be no argument against a state becoming too powerful. Without a belief in an individual's right to express an opinion, there can be no belief in tolerance or pluralism. Without the belief that individuals are rational, there can be no support of democracy. Without the belief in the individual as a self contained 'entity' which is largely independent of outside influences, there can be no belief in the concept of individual rights. It is clear, therefore, that everything that liberalism, classical and modern, stands for stems from their belief in the individual and individual freedom. Without this belief there is no supporting argument for any of their other key ideological concepts. It is also their belief in individual rights which encourages them to advocate a certain level of state interference. If they simply believed in the individual, they would be anarchists. It is their support of individual rights which encourages them to support the view that a certain level of state intervention is necessary to preserve those rights. ...read more.

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