Classical liberalism is a politically inclined philosophy that is committed to the ideal of limited government and liberty of persons including freedom of speech, religion, press, free markets and assembly. It was the most prominent political philosophy in the United States before the dawn of the 20th century; however, its development can be traced back to the 18th century. There are quite a number of intellectuals whose works influenced this philosophy like Thomas Hobbes, who argued that governments are in place for the protection of individuals from one another.
At times, the phrase classical liberalism is used broadly in reference to all forms of liberalism that were in place before the 20th century. The philosophy was an intellectual response to the industrial revolution and the problems that were associated to urbanization. Among the individual liberties that the philosophy guaranteed, it placed particular emphasis on property rights. It was based on a theory of human nature that viewed humans as being egoistic and driven by self-interest. According to classical liberals, the society is best constituted when it accords individuals the freedom to pursue their personal interests.
Classical liberals were of the belief that free international trade would contribute towards a peaceful and harmonious international order. The philosophy determined that people should be accorded the freedom to obtain work from the highest paying employers without any societal constraints. It also argued that in a free market, capital and labor would receive the greatest possible reward, while production would be organized efficiently in order to meet the demands of consumers. Classical liberals saw that poor urban conditions were inevitable, thus, were strongly against the redistribution of wealth or income.
Classical liberalism was in agreement with the writings of Adam Smith that, government had only three essential roles to play; offering protection against foreign invaders, protection of citizens against the wrongs perpetrated against them by other citizens, and building and maintaining public institutions and public services that could not be provided by the private sector. Classical liberals went further to extend protection of the nation to protection of overseas markets through the application of armed intervention. Protection of individuals against wrongs normally referred to protection of private property.
According to this philosophy, public works comprised of a standard weights and measures, stable currency, support of road, harbors, canals and railways, and postal among other means of communications that stirred urban and industrial development. The philosophy further argued that if peaceful, harmonious trade relationships were established by private companies and merchants without government intervention, there would be mutual interest and prosperity derived from commercial exchange instead of imperial territorial acquisition which was seen as the root cause of all wars.
Classical liberalism argue that world peace would be a real possibility if national governments would give room for the formation of interdependent global commercial relationships. The core beliefs of classical liberals included new ideas that were borrowed from both the older and new generation societal concepts.
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