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Core values of the liberal tradition

The core values of the liberal tradition are based on the belief that individual freedom is paramount in political and social considerations, and that government power should be limited so as to interfere as minimally as possible in that freedom. The trend which this thought took emphasized the freedom of the rich, or those with property, so that "individual freedom" came to mean the freedom of the individual to make money and to protect his property from governmental and other threats. As such, liberalism can be seen as both a political and an economic perspective. It does want to ensure political, social and economic conditions which guarantee the individual the freedom to reach his fullest potential, but that fullest potential is often seen in economic terms. The state, or government, was seen as an inhibiting obstacle to the full expression of economic activities, and the liberal tradition wants that obstacle removed or at least limited as much as possible.

Jeremy Bentham was a utilitarian who believed that the role of government was to provide an environment in which the greatest number of people could enjoy the greatest amount of happiness. This approach suggested a democratic government which was elected by the people with their own happiness in mind. Thomas Malthus was also a liberal, but his economic argument against raising wages (because it would hurt the workers and drive them into poverty) seems to offer a conflict to Bentham's liberalism. Benjamin Constant, also in contrast to Bentham, argued against democracy because it gave political power to the uneducated and poor. Frederic Bastiat is another liberal who, like Malthus and Constant, emphasize the economic side over the political, stressing the argument that what is best is an economic system which allows the cream (the rich and powerful) to rise to the top.

The expanding suffrage in France and Great Britain of the 19th century indicates that democracy is becomi...

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Core values of the liberal tradition. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:41, March 18, 2019, from