.to What Extent Do Classical and Modern Liberals Follow Similar Principles in Their Ideology?

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  • Topic: Liberalism, Political philosophy, Classical liberalism
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  • Published : November 18, 2010
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Classical and Modern Liberals follow the same ideology, yet interpret it in a different way. Both seek to promote liberty in society and the economy. However, since the time of Gladstone (the mid 19th century), it’s clear that modern liberals have used the experiences of their forefathers to adapt their policies to fit modern society. An example of this would be the stances of both classic and modern liberals with regard to ‘Natural Rights’. Modern and Classic liberals both believe in the basic concept of ‘natural rights’ – the concept being that everyone is born with a set of rights that provide liberty – however, to see where they differ one must examine their views in more depth. Classical liberals support the idealistic idea of everyone being born equal and being able to exert their rights as they see fit. Modern liberals on the other hand take a more realistic view, that not everyone is born into wealth; some are born into severe poverty and therefore cannot exert their rights. They believe that there is a need for equality of opportunity and realise that the significance of circumstance is that it results in a ‘natural selection’ type society, where only the fittest survive. They try to counter this by advocating the welfare state, and ways of increasing personal liberty, a modern example being their campaigning to change the electoral system, making it more democratic (thus increasing freedom of speech). Another topic on which the two types of liberals clash is ‘the economy’. Although they both believe in the notion of free market capitalism, their views diverge on the extent to which this neo-liberalism should be enforced. Classical liberals again support the traditional standpoint of a completely laissez – faire approach to the economy. Conversely Modern liberals believe that the state should intervene on occasions, but importantly, only in the interests of the people (i.e. to halt the shortcomings of capitalism – inequality). They support a more...
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