Differences and Similarities of Liberalism

Topics: Political philosophy, Liberalism, Two Treatises of Government Pages: 7 (1950 words) Published: October 8, 1999
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 property.

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...
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