In a liberal democracy there are affairs that do not concern the state. Such affairs may range from the practice of religion to the creation of art and the raising of children by their parents. For liberals of the 18th and 19th centuries they also included most of the activities through which individuals engage in production and trade. Eloquent declarations affirming such rights were embodied in the British Bill of Rights , the U. Declaration of Independence and Constitution ratified , the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen , and the basic documents of countries throughout the world that later used these declarations as their models.
These documents and declarations asserted that freedom is more than the right to cast a vote in an occasional election; it is the fundamental right of people to live their own lives. If the political foundations of liberalism were laid in Great Britain, so too were its economic foundations.
By the 18th century parliamentary constraints were making it difficult for British monarchs to pursue the schemes of national aggrandizement favoured by most rulers on the Continent. These rulers fought for military supremacy, which required a strong economic base.
Because the prevailing mercantilist theory understood international trade as a zero-sum game—in which gain for one country meant loss for another—national governments intervened to determine prices, protect their industries from foreign competition, and avoid the sharing of economic information.
These practices soon came under liberal challenge.
In France a group of thinkers known as the physiocrats argued that the best way to cultivate wealth is to allow unrestrained economic competition. This laissez-faire doctrine found its most thorough and influential exposition in The Wealth of Nations , by the Scottish economist and philosopher Adam Smith.
Free trade benefits all parties, according to Smith, because competition leads to the production of more and better goods at lower prices. Leaving individuals free to pursue their self-interest in an exchange economy based upon a division of labour will necessarily enhance the welfare of the group as a whole. The self-seeking individual becomes harnessed to the public good because in an exchange economy he must serve others in order to serve himself. But it is only in a genuinely free market that this positive consequence is possible; any other arrangement, whether state control or monopoly, must lead to regimentation, exploitation, and economic stagnation.
Every economic system must determine not only what goods will be produced but also how those goods are to be apportioned, or distributed see distribution of wealth and income. In a market economy both of these tasks are accomplished through the price mechanism. The theoretically free choices of individual buyers and sellers determine how the resources of society— labour , goods, and capital—shall be employed. Theoretically, when the demand for a commodity is great, prices rise, making it profitable for producers to increase the supply; as supply approximates demand, prices tend to fall until producers divert productive resources to other uses see supply and demand.
In this way the system achieves the closest possible match between what is desired and what is produced. Moreover, in the distribution of the wealth thereby produced, the system is said to assure a reward in proportion to merit. The assumption is that in a freely competitive economy in which no one is barred from engaging in economic activity, the income received from such activity is a fair measure of its value to society.
Presupposed in the foregoing account is a conception of human beings as economic animals rationally and self-interestedly engaged in minimizing costs and maximizing gains. Since each person knows his own interests better than anyone else does, his interests could only be hindered, and never enhanced , by government interference in his economic activities. In The Spirit of the Laws , Montesquieu expounded the separation of powers in government and society. In government, Montesquieu encouraged division into the now standard legislative, judicial and executive branches; in society, he perceived a natural organization into king, the people and the aristocracy, with the latter playing a mediating role.
Montesquieu's work had a seminal impact on the American and French revolutionaries. Ironically, the least liberal element of his thought—his privileging of the aristocracy—was belied by both revolutions. Montesquieu's system came to fruition in America, a country with no aristocracy; in France, political maneuvering by the aristocracy led to the convocation of the Estates-General and popular revolt.
Thomas Gordon United Kingdom, ? Jean-Jacques Rousseau Switzerland, — Jean le Rond d'Alembert France, — Richard Price United Kingdom, — The National Gain proposed roughly same the ideas as Adam Smith 's Wealth of Nations , a decade earlier, including foundations of liberalism and capitalism and roughly the invisible hand. He demanded complete economic and individual freedom, including the freedom of religion although he was a priest , worker's rights to freely move and choose their professions and employers, the freedom of speech and trade and abolitions of all privileges and price and wage controls.
He was also a member of the Swedish four-estates parliament, elected three times as representative of the clergy in the northern and western parts of Finland. In this law Chydenius combined freedom of the press, and abolishment of the political censorship , with free access for the citizens to most government documents. Chydenius liberal system, where transparency reinforces press freedom, and the right for everyone to print the public document reinforces transparency, has been a fundamental constitutional principle in Sweden ever since, except for the years of royal autocracy — Chydenius model for press freedom and freedom of information was reestablished and strengthened in the Swedish Constitution In diluted form, and without the strong constitutional protection of the Swedish free press model, the principle of free access to public documents that originated in Chydenius law of , has in recent decades been spread from Sweden to the Freedom of Information Acts of many countries.
This way, Anders Chydenius, has become one of the older liberal thinkers that has most practical influence on politics and public administration of modern western societies. Adam Smith Great Britain, — , often considered the founder of modern economics , was a key figure in formulating and advancing economic doctrine of free trade and competition.
In his Wealth of Nations Adam Smith outlined the key idea that if the economy is basically left to its own devices, limited and finite resources will be put to ultimately their most efficient use through people acting purely in their self-interest. This concept has been quoted out of context by later economists as the invisible hand of the market.
Smith also advanced property rights and personal civil liberties , including stopping slavery, which today partly form the basic liberal ideology. He was also opposed to stock-holding companies, what today is called a "corporation", because he predicated the self-policing of the free market upon the free association of moral individuals. Anne Robert Jacques Turgot France, — He was a champion of inalienable individual rights and the separation of church and state. His ideas were repeated in many other liberal revolutions around the world, including the early French Revolution.
Editorial Reviews. Review. 'A refreshing and illuminating critical introduction to the real Freedom: Contemporary Liberal Perspectives (Key Concepts) - Kindle edition by Katrin Flikschuh. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device. Yet these differences do not show liberal freedom debates to be confused or incoherent. Polity Key Concepts in the Social Sciences Series.
Marquis de Condorcet France, — Jeremy Bentham United Kingdom, — An early advocate of utilitarianism , animal welfare and women's rights. He had many students all around the world, including John Stuart Mill and several political leaders.
Bentham demanded economic and individual freedom, including the separation of the state and church, freedom of expression, completely equal rights for women, the end of slavery and colonialism, uniform democracy, the abolition of physical punishment, also on children, the right for divorce, free prices, free trade and no restrictions on interest. Bentham was not a libertarian : he supported inheritance tax, restrictions on monopoly power, pensions, health insurance and other social security, but called for prudence and careful consideration in any such governmental intervention.
Antoine Destutt de Tracy — Benjamin Constant France, — Jean-Baptiste Say France, — Wilhelm von Humboldt Germany, — David Ricardo United Kingdom, — He was notable for developing the important economic concept of opportunity cost. Rifa'a al-Tahtawi Egypt, — Rifa'a al-Tahtawi also spelt Tahtawy was an Egyptian writer, teacher, translator, Egyptologist , renaissance intellectual and one of the early adapters to Islamic Modernism.
In , Tahtawi was part of the statewide effort to modernize the Egyptian infrastructure and education. They introduced his Egyptian audience to Enlightenment ideas such as secular authority and political rights and liberty; his ideas regarding how a modern civilized society ought to be and what constituted by extension a civilized or "good Egyptian"; and his ideas on public interest and public good. The Dutch statesman Johan Rudolf Thorbecke Netherlands, — was the main theorist of Dutch liberalism in the nineteenth century, outlining a more democratic alternative to the absolute monarchy, the constitutional monarchy.
The constitution of was mainly his work. His main theoretical article specifically labeled as 'liberal' was 'Over het hedendaagsche staatsburgerschap' On Modern Citizenship from He became prime minister in , thus starting numerous fundamental reforms in Dutch politics. Harriet Martineau United Kingdom, — Ralph Waldo Emerson United States, — was an American philosopher who argued that the basic principles of government were mutable, and that government is required only insofar as people are not self-governing.
We are not dealing with a novel issue. More Study notes. It permeates the Constitution, the Federalist Papers and many other documents produced by the people who created the American system of government. As a consequence, liberalism is on a collision course with religious fundamentalists of all faiths. Although in theory we can separate mind and body, spiritual and material, etc. That is, nothing in their thinking is forward looking. Veblen's central argument was that individuals require sufficient non-economic time to become educated citizens.
Proponent of Democracy, and of the idea that a democratic people must have a democratic ethics. Alexis de Tocqueville France, — William Lloyd Garrison United States, — Friedrich Schiller Germany, — John Stuart Mill United Kingdom, — is one of the first champions of modern "liberalism. Strongly influenced by Bentham's utilitarianism , he disagrees with Kant's intuitive notion of right and formulates the "highest normative principle" of morals as: Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.
Some consider Mill as the founder of Social liberalism. Although Mill was mainly for free markets , he accepted interventions in the economy, such as a tax on alcohol, if there were sufficient utilitarian grounds. Mill was also a champion of women's rights. Juan Bautista Alberdi Argentina, — Henry David Thoreau — Jacob Burckhardt Switzerland, — State as derived from cultural and economic life. Herbert Spencer United Kingdom, — , philosopher, psychologist, and sociologist, advanced what he called the " Law of equal liberty " and argued against liberal theory promoting more activist government, which he dubbed "a new form of Toryism.
For Spencer, voluntary cooperation was the hallmark of the most vibrant form of society, accommodating the widest diversity of members and the greatest diversity of goals.
Spencer's evolutionary approach has been characterized as an extension of Adam Smith 's "invisible hand" explanation of economic order; his extensive work on sympathy in psychology as well as the foundation of ethics, particularly in The Data of Ethics explicitly carried on Smith's approach in The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Spencer is frequently characterized as a leading Social Darwinist. He was the innovator of several fields: he wrote one of the earliest examples of an Ottoman play, he encouraged the trend of translating poetry from French into Turkish, he simplified the script used for writing the Ottoman Turkish language , and he was one of the first of the Ottoman writers to write specifically for the broader public.
Thomas Hill Green United Kingdom, — Auberon Herbert United Kingdom, — William Graham Sumner United States, — He served as the first president of the American Sociological Association. Ward was a fierce and unrelenting critic of the laissez-faire policies advocated by Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner.
Ward's major works can be found here: . Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. United States, — was a jurist and writer. He wrote the influential book on legal theory The Common Law , which traced the creation of individual rights from familial rights common under Roman and Feudal law, and presented the "objective" theory of judicial interpretation.