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By George H. Smith

Liberal individualism, or "classical liberalism" because it is usually known as, refers to a political philosophy within which liberty performs the significant position. This booklet demonstrates a conceptual team spirit in the manifestations of classical liberalism by way of tracing the background of a number of interrelated and reinforcing topics. ideas reminiscent of order, justice, rights, and freedom have imparted harmony to this varied political ideology by way of integrating context and that means. in spite of the fact that, they've got additionally sparked clash, as classical liberals cut up on a few matters, reminiscent of valid exceptions to the "presumption of liberty," the that means of "the public good," ordinary rights as opposed to utilitarianism, the function of the country in schooling, and the rights of resistance and revolution. This ebook explores those conflicts and their implications for modern liberal and libertarian inspiration.

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Although they agreed that the presumption of liberty may be overridden in exceptional cases, it proved extraordinarily difficult to specify with precision the criteria that should be used to identify an “exceptional” case. In addition (as I noted in the last chapter), liberals were haunted by the problem of who should decide when rights should be sacrificed in the name of the public good. For example, later advocates of a republican form of government, however much they admired Locke, were deeply suspicious of the executive branch of government and so were troubled by Locke’s defense of prerogative powers.

This meant that free trade, though a natural right, was a presumptive right that could be overridden in some 45 46 47 48 Quoted in Noble E. , In Pursuit of Reason: The Life of Thomas Jefferson (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1987), 315. Ibid. , 1974), 640. Inalienable rights were linked to our ability to judge between right and wrong (commonly known as the “faculty of conscience”), so the violation of an inalienable right was regarded as an assault on our moral agency, which is an essential aspect of our individuality as human beings.

To say that a legislature, having been entrusted by the people with certain rights, should act “as the good the Society shall require” in order to protect those rights, leaves considerable discretion in the hands of the legislature. Locke’s rather vague remarks on this subject (such as his claim that “men give up all their Natural Power to the Society, which they enter into”74 ) have prompted some commentators to conclude that Locke wished to vest virtually unlimited powers in government to regulate property, to the point where he would not have objected to the schemes of redistribution found in modern welfare states.

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