What is Liberalism?
Liberals believe that human beings are individuals who are endowed with reason.
What are the main values and beliefs of liberalism?
Liberalism as a systematic political creed, which is based on ideas and theories that had developed around three centuries ago although may have not existed before the nineteenth century. Although, these ideas advocated for reform and often supported revolution, conservatism stood in defence as a more embattled social order (Heywood, 2017, p. 24-25). Liberals believe that human beings are individuals who are endowed with reason (Heywood, 2017, p. 24.) this means that each individual in society has the right to freedom just as everyone else. Liberals believe that although they are entitled to this right they should be rewarded with their determination to work and their talents (Heywood, 2017, p. 26). Liberalism favours the importance of moral trust and the ideological stance of it has a distinctive set of values and beliefs the main ones include individualism, freedom reason justice and toleration (Heywood, 2017, p. 27). Egotistical liberalism encompasses beliefs of one’s self interests and self reliance (Heywood, 2017, p. 28)which classical liberals and the New Right have adopted to. Individual liberty (liberty and freedom being interchangeable) is for liberals the supreme political value and, in the main principle within ideologies of liberalism (Heywood, 2017, p. 28).
Classical liberals believe in negative freedom which is the notion of state being absent to prevent external constraints on the individual which ultimately allows them to have a proper freedom of choice. (Heywood, 2017, p. 27) most people believed that rights came from government. But following British philosopher John Locke, Jefferson argued people don’t just have the rights that the government has given to them and that they have rights apart from government, as part of their nature. Furthermore, people can both form governments and get rid of them (Heywood, 2017, p. 34). The only proper purpose of government is to protect these rights (Heywood, 2017, p. 34). Locke argued that, since the genuine role of government is to protect life, liberty and property, it has no right to interfere with the care of men and that toleration should be extended to all matters and moral questions should be left to the individual themselves (Heywood, 2017, p. 34).
Heywood, A 2017, Political Ideologies: An Introduction, 6th edition, Palgrave, London.