Classical Liberalism

Topics: Liberalism, Classical liberalism, Liberty Pages: 8 (2777 words) Published: November 19, 2006
Liberalism could be defined as the opposite of the unlimited power that a king would enjoyed for example in the17th century. The kings used to have absolute power by which they decided the fate of all their peasants, no matter they agree or not. In this unlimited power, the opinion of an individual person an his independence was nor consider at, neither it was the will of the community, the only will that was satisfied was the king's will, even if the community was totally hurt by the king's will. Liberalism is also divided in two branches, liberal liberalism and modern liberalism.

The modern liberalism stresses the importance of the liberty of each individual limiting the power of the government as much as possible while the modern liberalism gives more power to the government. The theorist Benjamin Constant, (1767-1838) stresses clearly the opposition of the classical liberal thinking to the unlimited power in his book "On the Limits of the Popular Sovereignty": "No authority on earth is unlimited, neither the people's, nor that of the men who claim to be their representatives, nor that of kings whatever their rule, nor that of the law which, being nothing but the expression of the will of the people or the prince, according to the form of government, must kept within the same bounds as the authority from which it emanates" ( Sources, 138). He claims that society could be held successfully limiting the power that governs, and by that, every individual person would enjoy independence and freedom.

One of the main points of the classical liberalism is evidently emphasized in the book of Jeremy Benetham "An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and legislation". Jeremy makes clear that in a liberal society the good of the individual in the community is more important that the satisfaction of an individual or some few people. No individual should be hurt by any of the components of the society that is pursuing his personal interest. So, there must be laws to create in order to protect the good of every single component of the community as well to protect the entire community. The meaning of community under the liberalism point of view is also well explained by Jeremy in his book: "The community is a fictitious body, composed of the individual persons who are consider as constituting as it were its members" (Data and Documents, 107). After this statement, Jeremy says that the interest of the entire community is then the sum of all the individuals that compose it. All these reflections about community let us see the important role that individual plays under the liberalism doctrine which supports that people that live in a community have to think about all the individuals that live in the community before doing an action that may hurt any person that is included in this community.

The expanding of the suffrage in France and in England indicates a clear growth of liberalism in the society since the privilege of voting is an extension of the individual power to decide his will, and a reduction of the power that the government has by itself.

John Stuart Mill is also very concerned about the liberty and equality of the women, because, he says that the superiority of the man over the women is a clear abuse of power, as well as a violation of the principle of the individual rights. He was also in favor of the suffrage for both male and female, and he also thought that women should be able to do every kind of work in order to enjoy of a total equality "Whit regard to the fitness of women, not only to participate in elections, but themselves to hold offices or practise professions involving important public responsibilities" (The subjection of the Women, Sources, 199). John Stuart Mill anticipates to the modern liberalism if we analyze his book "On Liberty" in which he explains that government have to have power over the community to guaranty the liberty of the community. "Power can be rightfully exercised over any member...
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