Classical Liberalism in the Philosophies of Locke and Brucke

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What is classical liberalism? This is an ideology and a branch of liberalism which advocates for civil liberties under the rule of law with emphasis on economic freedom. John Locke was an English philosopher, who first unified these ideas as a distinct ideology. This inherently places him as the father of classical liberalism. Locke outlines the premises of this ideology in the following ways: political power, property, and civil liberty. John Locke did not stand for government in a conventional sense. In the second treatise of government Locke believed that, “all government in the world was a product of force and violence.” (page 2) this meant that all political power only served in their own self interest of control and responded to acts of harm in a society. He rather suggests that government should only step in when it comes to protecting a community’s property rights, safety and security, and the overall public good. This means government is set in place to create and execute rational laws and punishments and the community must stand by these decisions. Secondly, Locke reflects on the idea of having the right to own property and the choice to do whatever you please with it during the pursuit of self interest and economic freedoms. Although this must be in reason with natural rights, meaning that an individual should only have the right to take what one needs. This also meant that a person can do whatever one wants if they abide by natural laws and stayed out of harming others. This is where the need for political power comes into play in order to step in to protect the community and manage scarce resources in the common good for everybody.

Next, Locke places ideas on natural liberty, this states that all individuals have freedom from any political authority or communal power under the rule of the law of nature. He is one of the foremost advocates of freedom of belief and influenced liberalism widely. The existence of liberty in society was under legislative power and was formed by the details of the commonwealth. Executive power must act to protect an individual’s civil liberties in society. These ideas ultimately place John Locke as the father of classical liberalism due to his great influence on this ideology through the right to own property, limited political power, and his stance on civil liberties.

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Edmund Burke reflects extensively on his opinion regarding the revolution in France, in the reflections on the revolution in France 1790, and especially the leaders who united the society. During this reflection three key ideas are presented through inheritance and succession, moderation and restraint, and religion. Burke believed that the worth of a country and institutions is directly related to the value of inheritance and succession. As early as section one, Burke outlines monarchy as an important symbol of tradition. Kings are monarchs by this premises and maintaining these traditions is a crucial key to maintaining over all balance in society. He emphasised the dangers of mass rule of commoners and feared that the revolution was destroying French society due to the lack of respect that was lost by a combination of slaughtering French monarchy and over-ruling France by people with little honour and experience. This was especially evident in French military at the time, when soldiers completely neglected orders by their superiors due to the loss of inheritance and succession.

Next, Burke has strong criticisms over the lack of moderation and restraint presented by revolutionary leaders. Burke claims that true political power belongs to individuals who have inherited honour by their people, rather than people who benefit on their downfall. In section five, Burke proposes that moderation could have entered gradual reform as early as 1789 rather than an over taking of government. This relates to section thirteen, when Burke argues that is self restraint that endangers society, or rather lack of this, which reflects to earlier in the book when he claims that over-throwing power is unlikely to come without the use of force. If the French revolutionary leaders use moderation in the act of reform than many lives could have potentially been spared.

Lastly, kind and respected government involves some part of religion in Burkes vision of political power. He goes as far as describing all individuals in society and the world as religious beings. He states that religion as a commanding force that goes hand and hand with political power and specific sections of government. Burke claims in section three, that certain individuals have mixed radical ideas of religion with politics creating unpredictable politics that posed a threat to the rest of society. At this time the national assembly of France enforced the confiscation of church property, which Burke extremely disagreed with. Burke believes that the revolutionary leaders did this harm to their society out of destruction of religion and personal gain financially. In concluding Burke remarks the revolution in a very negatively light based on three distinct reasons: faith, birth right and sequence or succession, and lastly self control and restraint.

These texts are very much still relevant in todays society. John Locke’s ideas on property, civil liberties, natural rights and the role of government all founded certain statements in in the United States Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. These ideas from Locke also influenced enlightenment thinkers and played a hand in the overall creation of liberalism. John Locke, as I stated earlier, is one of the foremost advocates of freedom of belief. He advocated for most fundamental human rights that a society use on a regular basis in todays society. Edmund Burke is the father of modern British conservatism and is seen as a liberal conservative. Burke believed that property was necessary to human essence and this remains fundamentally true today. Burke influenced heavily on pro colonization especially of America and without these ideas we would not have countries as the exist today. He was also super against revolutions as we know from his reflection in 1790. Revolutions as we know have extremely negative impacts humanity wise and financially. This is still very much the case as individuals can be extremely harmed during malicious take overs. Overall, enlightenment thinkers of this time widely influenced todays culture and without these ideas we may still be living in a state of tyranny and anarchy.

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