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Consequences and Benefits of Liberalism

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 3076 words Published: 5th Mar 2019

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Liberalism as a political idea has become far too complicated. It appears there is as much liberalism as there are liberals. Some of which are: libertarianism, classical liberalism, bleeding heart liberalism, economic liberalism, political liberalism, social liberalism, high liberalism, objectivism, anarcho-capitalism, and most popularly neo-liberalism. It is safe to say that these numerous views on Liberalism amount to an opaque understanding of liberalism, which needs to be sorted out instantly. The controversial question is ‘’ what exactly is liberalism and what are the best ways to achieve maximum utility in the economy as well as the society via liberalism?”

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Due to the inconclusive nature of this term, various economists have their distinct views on liberalism, ranging from absolute freedom to, liberalism with use of force, to feminism and liberalism, liberalism and its response to corporate political spending, liberalism and public reason and so on. Milton Friedman assesses political liberal thought from the 17th century to today. He explains that over the past 350 years, liberalism has been responsible for the progressive change that has taken place in the United States and England. Friedman believes that the success of liberalism is based on the initial idea of liberalism itself, and observes, that this ideology is committed to progress and has as its goal, the improvement in the preference of people both politically and economically. Regardless of this, liberalism has been criticised by the conservative agenda, which is of the opinion that there is an excess impact of government in liberalism, which contradicts the initial idea of the term itself. Friedman is of the belief that the government engages in reckless spending, high taxation and monopolizing world power. However, liberalism holds that while government has power, the power should be limited; therefore the government has the duty to respect the liberty of individuals, tolerate religious groups, making modern democracy and outgrowth of liberalism. Liberalism is based on the idea of democracy; therefore its principles should be based factors that promote minimal government intervention on economic issues and maximum voice of the people. Some of these issues related to liberalism are as follows; the determination to get past nationalism. Liberalism should prioritize free movement of labour as well as capital. Basically, this view is against the existence of boarders, therefore it calls for advanced countries, to make major investments in 3rd world countries in order to elevate them to the point where emigration becomes optional as opposed to an act of survival. The bottom line of this view is the belief that the entire world should be a single economic zone. When this happens human potential can be fully maximized, hence labour’s ability to reach its maximum value.

Secondly, education should be easily attainable, and should have no actual beginning and an end, hence the abolishment of an authoritarian structure of the traditional university. Education should not prepare individuals to serve others, but should acquire a global sense of joy and pleasure, a movement of play and adventure it has lost. Finally, the money economy must end in order for there to be diverse lifestyle. Neoliberalism is the theme of the current economy we live in; therefore exploitation is simply seen as a means to an end. Friedman’s view enables us to see reasons why liberalism should change the view of the economy and how it measures progress.  According to Friedman’s view, based on the initial idea of liberalism, separating human action from money and removing the need to accumulate money as a function of physical survival, new forms of human relationship, will come into being that we can hardly anticipate yet. Art will at last become democratized and liberating, because its compromise with money will not be a factor.

Contrary to Milton Friedman’s view on liberalism and the ideal form it’s supposed to take, Liberalism is not as straightforward as it sounds. Greener, another economist is of believe that, liberalism and force are immensely related. He points out the fact that regardless of what we believe liberalism to be, the issue of military action may appear to be a contradiction. According to Greener, in the 1980’s, some authors have tried to show the relationship between liberalism and democracy, stating that liberalism promotes peaceful relations. There is a strong belief that liberalism is the nucleus of democracy. Regardless of these relations, greener believes that people are brainwashed and believe that there is only one view of liberalism; hence we have become programmed to do what the leaders of economy want, without even knowing it. Greener believes that there are actually various liberal approaches based on the priority that is given to the values that are held. He is strongly of the opinion that liberal approaches differ because of the emphasis placed on different values. Some of the values that are part of the liberalism are tolerance and consent versus progress and civility, or values of cosmopolitanism versus communitarianism. Liberalism and the use of force could be justified on the grounds that’s there are different values, such as self-defence, or the creation of liberal entities. Liberals highlight the necessity of military forces in order to protect liberal societies and states.  This is a paradox in itself but greener lays emphasis on the importance of rights, rule of law, individualism, tolerance and consent. The idea of the comprehensiveness of liberalism, based on concept of progress and a resolute view of development and civility, provides a major site of altercation in speculating about the use of force when apposed against ideals of tolerance and consent. The second part of the article examines this key site of debate and explores the tension between cosmopolitan and communitarian views point out the various instances  the deployment of militaries can be justified by which of those liberal terms. Finally, with some reflections about the urgent need for those of us in the international relations field to be able to articulate just what kinds of liberal values are being pursued in the global arena so that we may better assess future actions undertaken in the name of “liberal values.”

An interesting question to ask is, is feminist political liberalism possible? Hartley. C and Watson lay emphasis on the relationship between feminism and liberalism. The ideal idea behind liberalism is to promote equality, but feminism recognizes in the liberal capitalist system that there is still gender inequality. The fact is the liberal principles include democracy, tolerance and equality for all citizens. Besides that, liberalism holds many different comprehensive doctrines as reasonable. The position taken is that political liberalism can be feminist, as far as particular political conceptions of justice can have feminist content’’, but also because the core commitments of political liberalism is geared only to secure genuine substantive equality for all, including women’’(p122). Feminism was simply the application of liberal principles to women. Women were seen as having fundamentally the same nature and interests as men and thereby entitled to the same rights. Thorough feminists in the 1970’s strongly opposed the liberal assimilation of women’s claims; based on the belief that liberal conception of person did not signify women’s nature.  They insisted that although   the liberal individual was based on impersonal notion and coherence, women’s moral life was entrenched in her body and emotions.  Higgins, T.E supports this point by enlightening us on how liberalism has limited has limited the usefulness for promoting feminism. She lays emphasis on this point by stating that liberalism does not really define an agenda that guarantees women’s rights and improvements in women’s condition in society. Higgins basically sees liberalism as holding many of the contradictions that prevents it from being a theory that could stand strongly in favour of feminism. Higgins claims that liberalism holds that there are commitments to equal citizenship in the public as well as in private realms, hence creating the corresponding conflict, due to the lack of agreement as to where the boundary is, between public and private. Higgins claims that for a theory to be considered liberal there has to be some agreement as to a robust boundary defining these two. Basically this just means that, for something to be liberal it has to respect the liberty of choice and people must be considered as having equal worth as choosers. Unfortunately, she is of the belief that liberalism disregards boundaries and fails women in the private area.

Seeing that women’s difference develop into an illiberal nature in contrast to liberal man, the identical issues are raised as those that occur in the cultural case, although as well as   the mere fact that men and women would seem to have to live together in the private realm if the race is to be satisfactorily continued. Women are not treated as a self-reproducing cultural group. Nevertheless, illiberal women could be distinctively represented in the public sphere. This would turn into a compromise between the representatives of conflicting values. One could argue that woman be viewed as a weaker group whose members need an element of preferential treatment in order to attain equality on all grounds, but this view is heavily frowned on, due to the mere fact that it contradicts the idea of liberalism, which is treat everyone equally.

Liberalism can also been viewed from the point of view of public reason. Macedo.S criticizes the society, showing many areas in which liberalism has shown shortcomings. He criticizes the fact that many liberal societies condone war through their war like foreign policies. He is also goes further to criticize the way in which the society accepts the unequal treatment of African Americans, the poor as well as the disabled and the way it marginalizes and excludes people. In addition to that, he sees society as mobilizing people to work on their behalf. Other areas of criticism that have been raised include sexual permissiveness, the lack of commitment in marriage and the divorce that has become commonplace, as well as the practice of abortion. As Macedo explains, He believes the society ‘’should be like Jesus’ ‘and not be as focused on materialism, consumerism and self- concern as they are. The materialistic nature, catalysed by the hunger for profit maximization, has led to gross exploitation of individuals, increasing the gap between the poor and the rich. This neoliberal effect contradicts the value and practices that liberalism supports.

Liberalism seems to be inevitable in the global economy we live in and has significant impact on every economy. The European economy is the one of the most dominant and Pheiffer.C review of resilient liberalism in Europe’s political economy enlightens us on how liberalism appears to have lost its dominance in society with capitalism being the means of moving ahead of progress. But it appears that’s liberalism had to make some changes, and as Pheiffer maintains, liberalism shows that it was resilient and emerged as neo-liberalism, and supported competitive markets, with global free trade, and capital mobility, with a state that is no longer in charge and wanting to help everyone, but rather a state that Is there to provide support the growth of business.  Liberalism that had existed for so many years came under attack but still maintained most of its principles, although it’s constantly moving towards the idea of smaller government intervention. Liberalism has transformed into neo-liberalism and has compromised its principles in light of what it sees as progress.

Laying emphasis on minimal government intervention and the increased transformation of liberalism to neo-liberalism, Isaacs, D.M, in his review of liberalism’s response to corporate political spending, talks about how liberalism is ‘’the intellectual movement that emphasizes freedom as the ultimate goal and the individual as the ultimate entity in society, pertaining to a free man’’ This basically means, in a society where there is liberalism, , there is minimal effort to limit and restrain individuals. Isaac’s claims that regardless of the fact that liberalism is about freedom as well as progress, corporate political spending is inconsistent with liberalism because it undermines government’s ability to fulfil its proper role; weakens the checks and balances that the separation of political and economic power places on political authority, and reduces the ability of individuals to counter special interests (Isaacs, p12). Ironically, he enlightens us on a major similarity between liberalism and conservatism, showing how liberalism embraces some of the thinking of conservatism. Both liberals and conservationist believe in substantial economic growth, hence their gross support of neo-liberalism.  Both parties are of belief that neo-liberalism is the sole aim for economic growth, seeing no alternate factor. Due to their rigid views on neo-liberalism they fail to see any cons of this system, regardless of the fact that neo-liberalism is potentially responsible for obliterating various economies.

Referring to the initial question, on what liberalism actually is, over the years, it has been able to transform itself. Due to the inevitable adaptation of globalization and its popularity in the world we live in today, the most dominant form of liberalism is neo-liberalism.  Personally, I have a neo-liberal perspective globalization, hence my support of profit maximization. I believe we earn what we work for, and it serves as an incentive to maximize efficiency. On the other hand, profit is not always maximized in a corporate socially responsible way, making exploitation the order of the day in neo-liberal system.

Like everything in life, there is always a way to make the best of every situation. Neo-liberalism is undoubtedly inevitable; considering the adoption of globalization therefore we have to adopt ways to incorporate the neo-liberal view into an efficient economic and social system.

Neoliberalism comes with some major issues as mentioned all through the essay, some of which are the increase in gap between rich and poor, increase in unemployment rate and after effects from globalization. However, these issues can be solved with one basic solution; the Government should partially take care of the market in the best way it can. To start of, the government should prioritize the welfare system so that less privileged individuals can get enough financial support to live a safe life. If the world is only dependent on laws of neo-liberalism, less privileged individuals find it impossible to earn any chance to  thrive nor enhance their economic conditions, however, they will get the opportunity to broaden their family budgets and go achieve their goals, when the government provides financial back-up to them. Personally, I am of the belief that it’s nation’s duty to support members of the society and inspire them to reveal their potentials for nation and themselves. Afterwards the legislative council should consider providing jobs for people. Some of the nations are aiding unemployed people by offering living expenses and find the jobs for them.  Due to this, there has been a significant reduction in the unemployment rate in those countries.  Finally, it will be helpful if the nation controls how much the country should be globalized. Globalization, due to its profit-making motive, has the potential to promote cultural neglect. Therefore, it’ll be vital for the government to supervise the balance between folk cultures and new cultures that both globalization and neo-liberalism have created. 

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What is liberalism? I ask again. Some say it is the maximum level of freedom, others say it’s a façade for exploitation. Truth is, it is simply what we make it. Major economist like Milton Friedman has enlightened us on the positive consequences of liberalism; such as economic growth. While others such as Macedo and Hartely, highlight the weaknesses of liberalisms, emphasizing on how it has the potential to brain-wash individuals, due to the placebo effect that liberalism is the ultimate solution to all economic and societal issues; as well as its hidden discrimination against females respectively. After intense evaluation of liberalism, it is safe to say that the viral spread of globalization has made it inevitable, so as mentioned earlier; the best way to fully utilize this system is through the corporation of the government as well as the private sector in the right proportions.


Friedman, M.B.(2015). In praise of liberalism: An assessment of liberal political thought from the 17th century to today. Review of contemporary philosophy, 14,11-36.

Greener, B.K.(2011). Liberalism and the use of force: Core themes and conceptual tensions. Alternatives: Global, Local, political,36(3)

Hartley.C.& Watson(2010). Is a feminist political liberalism possible? Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy, 5(1), 121-142

Higgins, T.E.(2010). Feminism as liberalism: A tribute to the work of Martha Nussbaum Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, 19(1).

Isaacs, D.M.(2014). An unexpected frond: Liberalism’s response to corporate political spending. Suffolk University Law Review, 47(2),1-30

Macedo, S. (2012). Hauerwas, Liberalism, and Public Reasons: Terms of engagement? Law and Contemporary Problems, 75(4)

Pheiffer, C.F.(2013). Review of resilient liberalism in Europe’s political economy. The journal of philosophical Economics. 7(1),1-5

diZerega, G.(2011). Spontaneous order and liberalism’s complex relation to democracy. Independent review,16(2)


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