Strengths of Classical Liberalism

First strenghts, then limits of classical liberalism.

Classical liberalism I define as the political philosophy of rule of law, constitutional order & rights. Those rights, as the Declaration of Independence states are inalienable, endowed in us from the Creator. They are not voted on nor rescinded so long as the Constitutional Republic stands. Rights of free speech and information, private property, protest against unlawful seizure of property or torture of body/person by governmental forces, etc.

A tradition that calls forth a large civil society outside the direct control of the state.

The American (more widely the Anglo-American tradition) tradition’s biggest success has been that it succumbed to neither a far left nor far right government. Only England and its dependent colonies as well as the United States repelled fascism and soviet communism.

There are many reasons as to why that occurred (fortune being one), but that record is not accidental. The fact that the US Constitution for example has held as the law of the land for more than 200 years is a great achievement. For an opposing example see France which has had Five Republics and 2 Imperial Monarchies during the same time frame. Democratization–increasing the eligiblity of voting (women’s suffrage, civil rights, etc)–did not cause a populist uprising against liberal rule of law.

The other strength of the American classical liberal tradition has been religious pluralism. America including the genocide of indigenous religions arguably has the best record of non-violent religoius pluralism on the planet. In other words, that is how bad the history of religious violence is.

Only in the US do Christians (of multiple denominations), atheists, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, and Muslims live in peace. Ramana Maharshi of all people said that America was the dawn before the light of his own India.

The nexus of classical liberalism with markets has led to America being the primary innovator and producer of world’s goods for the last 50+ years. American influence in globalized economics has brought more people out of misery and poverty in the last few decades than all of human history combined. [On the other hand as detailed in the following post on limitations, greater disparities unparalleled in history also resulted].

Again, along with Britain, the classical tradition in the US absorbed a massive non-violent civil disobedience campaign for justice within its borders that was largely (though far from totally) successful.

Published in: on December 26, 2006 at 2:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

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