Modern Conservatism vs. Modern Liberalism

Compare and contrast modern conservatism and modern liberalism

The issue of individualism vs. collectivism is a fundamental issue in as far as the history of politics is concerned.  In this case, we would want to know if we are at liberty to pursue our own happiness as individuals, or whether society or state compels us to live our lives in a certain way. The difference between classical liberalism and neo liberals has to do with the intimate relationship between liberty and private property.

Classical liberalism started in the eighteenth century and it hinges on the premise that the hallmark of an economic system is private property, as it signifies individual liberty (Guide 8). In other words, everyone is free to live his or her own life, including, but not limited to, employing the capital and labor of one’s choice. To this extent, some classical libertarians contend that property is synonymous with liberty. For instance, a number of classical liberals have maintained that liberty rights constitute individual freedom and property.

Another argument that informs classical liberalism is that the most effective way to ensure that there is protection of liberty is through private property. What this means is that power diffusion due to a free market economy brought about by private property offers protection to the liberty of the subjects from possible intrusion by the state. The emergence of ‘New Liberalism’ now seeks to challenge classical liberalism, along with the intimate link between private property and personal liberty.

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The emergence of the new revisionist theory is due to a number of factors. To start with, the new liberalism emerged at a time when critics were question the ability of a free market to sustain a ‘prosperous equilibrium’ (Guide 11). The new liberals also enhanced their faith in the government’s ability to supervise economic life. Another compelling factor that led to the popularity of new liberalism was the realization by the new liberals that property rights created an unfair disparity of power. Consequently, the working class possessed less-than-equal liberty. Therefore, new liberalism integrates personal and civil liberties with private ownership.

Classical liberalism holds that the difference principle entails recognition of the reciprocity principle by the public. The arrangement of the difference principle should be in such a way that a given social group does not have an undue advantage over another.   There is a link between on the one hand, the analysis of society form an individualist point of view and on the other hand, liberalism (Guide 16). As the nineteenth century came to a close, the individualist view faced a lot of criticisms, and more so from idealist philosophers.

In the years that preceded World War Two and those that followed after the completion of the war, the idea of assessing humans from an individualist context emerged (Guide 17).  In the past three decades, there has been a renewed interest to analyses the society from a collectivist point of view (Guide 18).  In classical liberal theory, the intention of the government within a given community is to see to it that its citizens have access to basic property and liberty rights.  On the other hand, ‘new’ liberalism emphasizes on redistributive programs in a bid to attain social justice.

As noted earlier, classical liberalism emphasizes on liberty and individuality. The two components are now used as the focus of philosophical discussions in new liberalism. Classical liberalism gained popularity during the late eighteenth century, moving on to the early nineteenth century. It came about because the people were opposed to the oligarchic rule. This revolt gave birth to the 1688 “glorious revolution” (Guide 32).  The people used the revolution as an avenue to express their displeasure with the arbitrary action of the action on tax-payers, following the demand by Protestant churches to be granted confessional freedom.

In the case of new liberalism, the rising trading and industrial class helped to push the demand for individual freedom. The push for this freedom of action was mainly aimed at legislative restrictions, judicial action and common law that the government had instituted upon economic enterprise freedom.  In the case of classical and new liberalism, the action of the government and the desired freedom both contrasted each other.  This process of envisaging liberty still remains.

During the nineteenth century, the natural laws concept was incorporated into liberalism, possibly due to its dominant economic interest. Natural laws are thought to be economic in character. In contrast, political laws are artificial, seeing that they are man-made. As such, the intervention of the government in exchange and industry was seen as violation of both natural laws as well as the inherent individual liberty.

New liberalism recognizes that social conditions may distort, prevent, or even restrict the development of individuality. As such, those institutions that are concerned with the growth of individuals are very dear to new liberalists. New liberalism is mainly concerned in the development of favorable legal, economic, as well as political institutions, as opposed to mere abstract theory.

This is important, in order to aid in the removal of overt oppressions and abuses (Guide 33). The new liberalism fully acknowledges the fact that the content of freedom and the individual normally changes with time and as such, it inclines towards the notion of historic relativity.

The main political parties reflect on the conservatism and liberalism ideologies differently. For example, a conservative Republican is likely to describe President Obama as skilled politician in the sense that during the campaign period, he acted as a centrist. However, once he had gotten into office, he is now governing as a liberal.   He employs ruthless politics rules, as practiced in Chicago (Guide 51).

On the other hand, a liberal Democrat would describe President Obama as an overly intellectual and inspiring leader who finds it hard to fight for his positions and to make up his mind. In other words, he lacks a defined and concise mission. He compromises too easily, and has given the Republicans a leeway to dominate debate.

One cannot help but notice how diametrically opposed the two viewpoints are. In addition, these viewpoints are   completely predictable. In the mind of a political partisan, the other side appears brutally useful.  The two views also tend to distort reality.

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