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Contemporary Liberalism. POSC 150 Introduction to Political Theory Braunwarth. Classical Liberalism. Liberalism: Remove obstacles that block development of individuals In past, meant limiting government so can live, worship, compete in mkt, etc.

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contemporary liberalism

Contemporary Liberalism

POSC 150Introduction to Political Theory


classical liberalism
Classical Liberalism
  • Liberalism: Remove obstacles that block development of individuals
  • In past, meant limiting government so can live, worship, compete in mkt, etc.
  • Negative Liberty - Individual Free to do what they want
  • Absence of Restraint (Religious Conformity, Ascribed Status)
government as a positive force
Government as a Positive force
  • By 1800s largely accomplished
  • T.H. Green (1836-1882) Oxford Prof.
  • Time to recognize other obstacles to freedom and opportunity
  • Poverty, Illness, Prejudice, Ignorance
  • Positive Liberty - Individual has freedom of choices
  • Government should establish schools, hospitals, aid for need, regulate working conditions
economic concerns
Economic Concerns

Unrestricted/Free/Uncontrolled Markets:

  • lead to business cycles and economic instability
  • lead to monopolies
  • Create Externalities (pollution) that harm public welfare
  • Don’t provide Public Goods
  • Don’t account for those left out of market (young, old, disabled)
need to regulate the economy
Need to Regulate the Economy
  • Government should regulate the economy and protect people from its vagaries
  • Liberals regard economic competition as a good thing
  • Welfare State originally instituted to take the wind out of socialism
    • very non-liberal Otto von Bismark “Iron Chancellor” of Germany
    • Coincided with expansion of voting rights
human nature
Human Nature
  • No Fixed Human Nature
  • We all have the capacity for reason
  • Can make our own choices to fulfill goals
  • Social Pluralism: Society consists of different people working together and is important to have contact with others
  • Despite differences, we are intrinsically equal
liberalism in the 20th century
Liberalism in the 20th Century

Faith in Individual Competition shaken by Great Depression of 1930s

  • Many turned to Communism/Fascism
  • Response in U.S. was the Welfare State

Keynesian Economics

  • John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946)
  • Governments use tax and spend powers to slow or stimulate economy
  • Promises of Liberty and Equality still unfulfilled for many
  • Civil Rights Movement
  • Johnson’s “War on Poverty”
  • New Left - Government support economic interests and corporations while citizens reduced to consumers (Marcuse)
liberalism today
Liberalism Today
  • Still a Revolutionary Force in some parts of the world
  • Where do we find ascribed status, religious conformity, political absolutism?
  • Islamic Fundamentalists, former Communist Countries, Developing World
how far should liberalism go
How far should Liberalism Go?
  • Mills’ Harm Principle
  • “Victimless” Crimes: Prostitution, Pornography, Gambling, etc.?
  • Consenting Adults, but Exploitive
  • Outlaw Discrimination on basis of race, religion, gender, etc.
  • Affirmative Action to give special consideration to those who suffer discrimination?
  • What about financially disadvantaged?
communitarian critique
Communitarian Critique
  • Need to Balance Rights with Responsibilities
  • Common Good in addition to “Me First”
  • JFK’s “…ask what you can do for your country”
  • Clinton’s National Service Program
  • CSL projects on campus
is liberalism dead
Is Liberalism Dead?
  • 1980’s used as a derogatory slur
  • Perhaps not dead, but has been so successful, less places to go
  • Racism/Discrimination
  • Market Regulation
  • Starvation Poverty less of a problem
  • But free market still largely unable to deal with poverty