Chapter

Liberalism: Political and Economic

Russell Hardin

in Liberalism, Constitutionalism, and Democracy

Published in print November 1999 | ISBN: 9780198290841
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599415 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198290845.003.0002
 Liberalism: Political and Economic

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Despite the singular term liberalism, there are two relatively distinct historical branches—political and economic liberalisms—and a collection of variously titled modern branches. Political liberalism arose in the seventeenth century to counter universalistic religious views whose proponents were so ardent as to wish to impose those views by force, and in a sense therefore it was an invention to resolve a then current, awful problem. There have been many comparable social inventions, many of which have failed, as communism, egalitarianism, and perhaps socialism have all failed to date. In contrast, by the time Bernard Mandeville, Adam Smith, and others came to analyse economic liberalism, they were analysing characteristics of their own society, some of which had been developing over many centuries. Insofar as the early economic liberals had programmes, these were for reforms of political practice to end elements of state‐sponsored monopoly and protection and of political theory to give a moral (welfarist) justification for the supposedly immoral greed that drives markets to greater production; as he put it, public virtue comes from private vice.

Keywords: economic liberalism; egalitarianism; liberalisms; monopoly; political liberalism; religion; socialism; welfarism

Chapter.  16493 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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