Liberal Democracy: The Philosophy of Individual Rights, Rule of Law & Limited Government

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Source:Wikipedia– Thomas Jefferson: The Father of Liberal Democracy.

“Today the most liberal regimes in the world, those of the advanced Western countries, are typically referred to either as liberal democracies or, more often, simply as democracies. This reflects one of the most striking ways in which twentieth-century liberalism differs from the older liberalism that emerged in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Today, wherever one finds liberalism (understood as constitutional and limited government, the rule of law, and the protection of individual rights), it is almost invariably coupled with democracy (understood as the selection of government officials by universal suffrage). The converse proposition, however, has in recent decades been becoming less and less true. With the downfall since 1975 of scores of authoritarian regimes and their replacement by more or less freely elected governments, there are now many regimes that can plausibly be called democratic but not liberal. As a result, the relationship between liberalism and democracy has once again become a subject of intense intellectual and policy debate.”

From The Journal of Democracy

“The early liberals, then, worked to free individuals from two forms of social constraint—religious conformity and aristocratic privilege—that had been maintained and enforced through the powers of government. The aim of the early liberals was thus to limit the power of government over the individual while holding it accountable to the governed. As Locke and others argued, this required a system of government based on majority rule—that is, one in which government executes the expressed will of a majority of the electorate. The chief institutional device for attaining this goal was the periodic election of legislators by popular vote and of a chief executive by popular vote or the vote of a legislative assembly.

The third part of the solution followed from liberalism’s basic commitment to the freedom and integrity of the individual, which the limitation of power is, after all, meant to preserve. From the liberal perspective, the individual is not only a citizen who shares a social contract with his fellows but also a person with rights upon which the state may not encroach if majoritarianism is to be meaningful. A majority verdict can come about only if individuals are free to some extent to exchange their views. This involves, beyond the right to speak and write freely, the freedom to associate and organize and, above all, freedom from fear of reprisal. But the individual also has rights apart from his role as citizen. These rights secure his personal safety and hence his protection from arbitrary arrest and punishment. Beyond these rights are those that preserve large areas of privacy. In a liberal democracy there are affairs that do not concern the state. Such affairs may range from the practice of religion to the creation of art and the raising of children by their parents. For liberals of the 18th and 19th centuries they also included most of the activities through which individuals engage in production and trade. Eloquent declarations affirming such rights were embodied in the British Bill of Rights (1689), the U.S. Declaration of Independence (1776) and Constitution (ratified 1788), the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789), and the basic documents of countries throughout the world that later used these declarations as their models. These documents and declarations asserted that freedom is more than the right to cast a vote in an occasional election; it is the fundamental right of people to live their own lives.

From Britannica

“Liberal democracy, also referred to as Western democracy, is the combination of a liberal political ideology that operates under an indirect democratic form of government. It is characterised by elections between multiple distinct political parties, a separation of powers into different branches of government, the rule of law in everyday life as part of an open society, a market economy with private property, and the equal protection of human rights, civil rights, civil liberties and political freedoms for all people. To define the system in practice, liberal democracies often draw upon a constitution, either codified (such as in the United States)[1] or uncodified (such as in the United Kingdom), to delineate the powers of government and enshrine the social contract. After a period of expansion in the second half of the 20th century, liberal democracy became a prevalent political system in the world.”

From Wikipedia

Today’s pop culture and mainstream media definition of Liberal, is someone who is essentially an antiestablishment, revolutionary, hipster or hippie, who hates everything about America and what we’re supposed to stand for and wants to tear down the system and the man and replace it with some type of socialist state. Perhaps not even a democratic socialist state.

Today’s Liberals, at least according to be pop culture and the so-called mainstream media, are supposed to be antichoice, (except when it comes to sexuality and women’s reproductive rights) and pro-state, meaning big, centralized government.

Today’s Liberals supposedly (at least according to pop culture and the mainstream media) are supposed to people who believe that capitalism and economic freedom is dangerous and racist, individual wealth is selfish, personal freedom is dangerous, and free speech (unless it’s speech that they agree with) is bigoted. Today’s Liberals are supposedly believe that men (at least Caucasian men) are pigs and bigots and that women should rule the rule, at least rule over men.

So I just gave you most of the bogus (to be too kind) stereotypes of what Liberals are supposed to be and what liberalism is supposed to be about. And if American leftists weren’t scared to death of the s-words (meaning socialist and socialism) as well as the c-words (meaning communist and communism) most American leftists would probably self-identify as Socialists or even Communists and then have the brains and balls to explain to people why they’re Socialists and Communists. Instead of running away like they’re running out of a burning house of their own politics and political philosophy.

Liberals aren’t even Center-Left, let alone left or leftist or democratic leftists. In Europe and Australia, Liberals are considered to be Center-Right. The Center-Right political parties in Europe in many cases call themselves Liberals, like in Germany. And down in Australia, the Center-Right party there is called the Liberal Party. The Center-Left party there is called the Labour Party.

There are Liberals who believe in progress and that government can contribute and help people in need help themselves. People like John F. Kennedy was a Progressive Liberal. But Progressive Liberal is not another way of saying leftist or Socialist, but a Liberal who believes in progress. Not a big, centralized, overpowering, national superstate.

Liberalism (or classical liberalism, if you prefer) comes from liberal democracy which is a philosophy and form of government based on the defense of the individual and our individual rights. It’s not about big government and collectivism, but a philosophy based around individual freedom and promoting our individual freedom. Which yes, sound very conservative compared with socialism. But what political philosophy isn’t to the right of socialism?

About Erik Schneider

Full-time blogger on a multiple ray of topics and subjects, because of multiple interests.
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