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Differences And Similarities Of Liberalism Essay Research

Differences And Similarities Of Liberalism Essay, Research Paper

Differences and Similarities of Liberalism

The purpose of this paper is to treat the similarly and differences of

liberalism. I will use John Locke and Adam Smith to represent classical

liberals. John Stuart Mill and John Maynard Keynes will be used to show

contemporary liberals.

John Locke

In John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government he develops a theory of

government as a product of a social contract, which when broken justifies the

creation of a new government for the protection of life, liberty and property.

He begins his argument by developing a theory of the state of nature which is

…what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of

perfect freedom to order their actions and dispose of their

possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds

of the law of nature, without asking leave or depending upon

the will of any other man.1

The state of nature includes the ?…law of nature to govern it, which obliges

everyone; and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but

consult it…?2 The state of nature also includes inequality

…since gold and silver, being little useful to the life of a

man in proportion to food, raiment, and carriage, has its value

only from the consent of men, whereof labour yet makes, in

great part, the measure, it is plain that men have agreed to a

disproportional and unequal possession of the earth.3

In Locke’s state on nature there are also three distinct problems. First

there is no established settled known law. As each man consults his own law of

nature he receives a slightly different interpretation.

Secondly there no known and indifferent judge. Which creates the

problem of trying to decide which is the correct law of nature which will be

followed in an impartial manor.

Thirdly there is insufficient force of execution. This is the problem

of how to carry out the decision of the law of nature on another when he has a

different interpretation or doesn’t consult the law of nature.

Locke states that the three problems in the state of nature would be

best solved by coming together to form a new government to protect there


The great and chief end therefore, of men’s coming into commonwealths,

and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their


And goes further into what this new government should be empowered to do

firstly…established, settled known law, received and allowed by

common consent to be the standard of right and wrong, and the

common measure to decide all controversies between them…

secondly…there wants a known and indifferent judge, with

authority to determine all differences according to the

established law…thirdly…There often wants power to back

and support the sentence when right, and to give it due execution.

They who by any injustice offend, will seldom fail, where they

are able, by force to make good their injustice…5

In Locke’s government men only give up the right to the above mentioned

things, to create the law for themselves, to judge the law for themselves, and

to execute the law for themselves. These are the only rights that the

government has the right to interfere in as it is the only reason that people

entered into a commonwealth. Locke also explains the new social contract that

the new government should operate under. The first point of the contract is

that the people agree to form a body politic, in which the majority rule.

Second the body politic selects a government of the day. (elects people on a

regular basis to the government to legislate the law)

Locke laid out who should be allowed the right to vote, who shouldn’t be

allowed to vote and gives his reason why.

…all men as members for the purposes of being ruled and only men

of estate as members for the prepossess of ruling. The right to

rule (more accurately, the right to control any government) is

given to the men of estate only: it is they who are given the

decisive voice about taxation, without which no government can

subsist. On the other hand, the obligation to be bound by law

and subject to the lawful government is fixed on all men whether

or not they have property in the sense of estate, and indeed

whether or not they have made an express compact.6

Johns Stuart Mill

There is no difficulty in showing that the ideally best form of

government is that

in which the sovereignty, or supreme controlling power in the last

resort, is

vested in the entire aggregate of the community.7

It is with this statement that Mill begins his augment in The Ideally

Best Polity showing his believe in Locke’s democracy but saying that all people

could be best served by the government if everyone could vote. As this is the

only way the government learns what it needs to know in order to govern. He

comes to this concussion by saying that participatory democracy is the best

answer to the two questions that he poses as to what makes a good government.

…namely how far it promotes the good management of the affairs

of society by means of the existing faculties, moral, intellectual,

and active, of its various members, and what effect in improving or

deteriorating those faculties.8

Mill believes that it is necessary to expand the role of government not

only to protect the people from the government but to promote liberty by putting

limits on what can be expressed as public opinion against a minority, and to

involve people in the government so as to give them stimulation and help them


In Mill’s writings he also discuses the idea of liberty and what limits

government and public opinion should have on interfering with a individuals


…the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised

over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to

prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral,

is not a sufficient warrant.9

Differences Between Locke and Mill

Although Locke and Mill both believe in government by and for the

governed there chief difference is in the idea of who the government is for.

Where Locke believes that the purpose of government is to protect property,

there for if you did not have property you didn’t have anything to protect and

shouldn’t have a voice in the government. Mill believes in an participatory

democracy in which everyone should have the right to vote as it is a way of

bettering society as a whole and making sure that everyone’s interests are

consulted. They also differ on the role the government should play in the lives

of the governed. Locke advocates a government which doesn’t have any power to

interfere in the lives of the governed out side of protecting their property.

Where Mill would like to see a government which attempts to better the lives

that it governs and protect them form the tyranny of the majority.

Adam Smith

In 1776 Adam Smith published a book titled The Wealth of Nations in

which he recorded his ideas on the way the money and the economy worked. He had

came to some important concussions about how the market worked which went hand

in hand with why the government shouldn’t interfere in its workings.

There are three main points in his idea of capitalism the first

was self interest…a drive to maximize income…by concluding

the best possible bargain on the marketplace into which everyone

ventured, either to sell his or her labor power or other

resources, or to purchase goods.10

Second competition would act as a regulator

For each man, out to do the best for himself with no thought of

others, is faced with a host of similarly motivated individuals

who are in exactly the same position. Each is only too eager to

take advantage of his competitor’s greed if it urges him to

raise his price above the level ?set? by the market.11

Thirdly the idea of supply and demand would automatically regulate what is

produced, the quantity produced, quality of goods, and increase efficiency in

the production process. ?…the changing desires of society lead producers to

increase production of wanted goods and to diminish the production of goods that

are no longer as highly desired.?12

John Maynard Keynes

While Keynes agreed with Adam Smith on the way the market place works he

noted that the wealth of an economy depends on the amount of money flowing and

the rate at which it flows. This means that the market place was prone to

certain types of macro economic illness. These illesses are

First, that an economy in depression might well stay there; there

was nothing inherent in the situation to pull it out. Second,

that prosperity depended on investment; for if savings were not

put to use, the dread spiral of contraction began. And third,

that investment was an undependable drive wheel for the economy

threated with satiety, and satiety spelled economic shrinkage.13

Keynes reasoned that

…if investment could not be directly stimulated, why then, at

least consumption could. For while investment was the capricious

element in the system, consumption provided the great floor of

economic activity…14

He looked to the government to maintain the macro economy. Saying that if

consumption could be controlled in a way to heat up the economy when it is

running cold and cool it down when it is running hot. This was to be done

through the policies of

…monetary control, mainly centered in the Federal Reserve banking

system. By easing or tightening the reserve requirements that all

banks had to maintain behind their deposits, the Federal Reserve

was able to encourage or discourage lending, the source of much

economic activity. In addition, by buying or selling government

bonds, the Federal Reserve was able to make the whole banking

system relatively flush with funds when these were needed, or

relatively short of funds when money seemed in excess supply.

…second was tax adjustment…By raising or lowering taxes,

particularly income taxes, the government could quickly increase

or diminish this broad flow of purchasing power.

…third was the federal budget…In inflationary times, a budget

surplus would sere to mop up part of the inflationary purchasing

flow. In depressed times, a budget deficit (covered by borrowing)

was a mechanism for generating a desired increase in that flow.15

Similarities common to liberals

Classical liberals held the believes that the government should be for

thoughts who were governed and held property. Inaddision that the governments

only role should be to protect peoples property and shouldn’t interfere in any

other part of peoples lives.

Contemporary liberals believe that the government should take a much

more active role in the lives of the governed both to better society and to

protect it form fluctuations of the business cycle.

All liberals believe that government should be held responsible to the

governed to serve there secular purposes. That capitalism is the corner stone

of the free market society and that the government should not directly interfere

in the micro economy. And lastly in individualism that we are all free,

rational, equal, act only according to our own consent, and have a right to

voluntary association.


In drawing this brief account of the liberal-democratic analysis of

equality to a concussion we are properly struck by the significant distance

which separates the contemporary, revisioist idea from that of its classical



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