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With that caution, let us attempt a brief summary. Yet they think the state should never execute someone, not even a vicious serial killer. Liberals tend to believe that marijuana consumption should be legal, even for recreational use. Yet they are quite content to have the government deny terminal cancer patients access to experimental drugs.

Conservatives tend to hold the opposite opinion. In elections, most liberals support restricting the role of financial capital money ; but they want no restrictions on real capital printing presses, radio and TV broadcast facilities or organizational capital labor union get-out-the-vote resources. Most conservatives are at least consistent in opposing almost any restriction other than mandatory disclosure. By and large, conservatives believe in punishment, liberals in rehabilitation. Conservatives believe in tough love; liberals are more likely to coddle.

Conservatives tend to favor school choice; liberals tend to oppose it. Many anti-war liberals support the military draft; many pro-war conservatives oppose conscription. Is there some theory that connects these diverse views and gives them coherence? But it is doubtful that a garden-variety liberal or conservative could produce such a theory.

Instead, how a person selects from the menu of policy options is more likely to be determined by where he went to school, where he lives and with whom he socializes. These choices reflect socialization, rather than abstract thought. There is, however, one difference between conservatives and liberals that is neither random nor chaotic. It is a difference that is systematic and predictable. Whereas conservatism and liberalism are both outgrowths of classical liberal thought, they differ in what they accept and reject of their intellectual roots.

Conservatism tends to accept the classical liberal commitment to economic liberty but rejects many of its applications to the noneconomic realm. Liberalism accepts the classical liberal commitment to civil liberties but largely rejects the idea of economic rights.

What is Classical Liberalism? - Learn Liberty

As libertarians are wont to say, liberals want government in the boardroom but not in the bedroom. Conservatives want the reverse. Much more is involved, however, than bedrooms and boardrooms. Most liberals — at least mainstream liberals — believe you should be able to say anything you like other than yelling fire in a crowded theater , no matter how much it offends and, for the most part, no matter how seditious.

They also believe you should be able to publish almost anything as a matter of right. But they reject the idea of economic rights. Similarly, in the liberal view of the world, the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker have no fundamental right to enter their chosen professions and sell their goods to the public. The medieval guilds that Adam Smith criticized were in this view not violating any fundamental rights when they restricted entry, controlled prices and output and imposed other monopolistic constraints. The same principle applies to modern special interest legislation.

Liberals are not advocates of special interest legislation per se. But they are apologists for it in the sense they believe that economic regulations should be decided by democratic political institutions, not by court-enforced rights to freedom of contract.


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So if butchers, bakers and candlestick makers succeed in obtaining special interest favors from government at the expense of everyone else, that is a legitimate exercise of political power. Most conservatives — at least mainstream conservatives — believe in economic rights. Individuals should be able to freely sell their labor to any buyer or enter almost any profession and sell goods and services to the market as a matter of freedom of exchange. Any restrictions on these rights are justified only if there is some overriding general welfare concern.

Conservatives are far more willing than liberals to restrict freedom of thought and expression, however. For example, some believe that anyone should be able to make a flag with wages and working conditions determined in a free labor market and anyone should be able to sell a flag fetching whatever price the market will bear , but they are quite willing to impose government controls on what can be done with the flag, including how it can be displayed, whether it can be worn, etc.

Is flag desecration obnoxious, reprehensible and unpatriotic? Of course. But the First Amendment was not written to protect the views of the majority. It was written to protect dissent. Many conservatives, given a free hand, would impose additional government restrictions on our noneconomic liberties. In the past, conservatives were quite willing to control the books and magazines we read, the movies we watch, etc. At the time of its founding, America was one of the few countries in the world that did not have a state religion.

This was no accident or oversight. The founders themselves were a religiously diverse group. The founders clearly did not intend to remove religion from the public square.

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Supreme Court has increasingly sided with the liberal view of rights over the conservative view. Throughout the 20th century, Court rulings strengthened substantive First Amendment rights, as well as procedural rights related to most noneconomic liberties. At the same time, the Court weakened indeed, eliminated constitutional protections for substantive economic rights.

As a result, you have today an almost unrestrained constitutional right to say whatever you want to say. In any attempt by government to limit your speech, the Court will start with the presumption that you are exercising your First Amendment rights and the burden of proof will be on government to show why there is a compelling public interest in restraining you. On the other hand, you have virtually no constitutionally protected rights to acquire and own property or engage in voluntary exchange.

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The distinction between economic and civil liberties actually has its roots in philosophy. It rests on an idea that goes all the way back to Plato. Whether the distinction is between consciousness and reality, mind and body, mental and physical, spiritual and material, etc. And following Plato, they have all believed that the world of thought is somehow more important, more moral, and more pure than the world of everyday affairs, and certainly more so than the world of commerce.

What follows from that distinction? Actually not very much. One could argue as liberals do that unimpeded thought and the benefits that flow from it are too important to be left to politicians to regulate the way they regulate commodities. Or one could argue as conservatives do that culture and mores and the ideas that nurture and support them are too important to be left to the vagaries of a laissez faire market for ideas. Just as there are externalities in the world of commerce, so there are externalities in the world of ideas.

Just as public goods exist in the economy, so there are public-good type ideas in the culture. For every argument against a laissez faire economy, there is an equally persuasive argument against laissez faire cultures, laissez faire mores and a completely free market for ideas. Or if the case for government intervention is stronger in one realm than in the other it is not clear where the stronger case lies.

This helps us understand why consistent classical liberalism makes no distinction between freedom of thought and freedom of commerce. Both are subsumed under the general notion that people have a right to pursue their own happiness in any realm. Any attempt to argue for differential rights fails on close examination.

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Classical liberalism and evolution

Yet these very same pundits would recoil in horror at the idea of a law which prevents people from being authors, playwrights and artists unless they can produce a minimum annual income. On what basis can one argue for economic freedom for musicians, painters and novelists while denying it to everyone else? There is no basis. There is an even more fundamental problem with applying Platonic distinctions to politics. Although in theory we can separate mind and body, spiritual and material, etc.


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Freedom of speech is a meaningless right without the economic right to acquire space, buy a megaphone and invite others to hear your message. Freedom of press is a meaningless right if one does not have the economic right to buy paper, ink and printing presses. Freedom of association is a meaningless right if one cannot own property or rent property or otherwise acquire the right to use the premises where a group can assemble.

Russian law requires that each candidate be endorsed at a meeting of at least citizens. Unable to acquire the economic right to exercise his political right, Kasparov was forced to withdraw from the race. Classical liberals were reformers. Throughout the 19th century, they reformed economic and civil institutions — abolishing slavery, extending the right to vote to blacks and eventually to women, expanding the protections of the Bill of Rights to state and local governments and creating a largely free market economy.

As the last century grew to a close it became obvious all over the world that economic collectivism did not work. So in the economic realm the great need was to privatize, deregulate, and empower individual citizens. The natural people to lead this reformation were conservatives, who profess belief in the goals. Yet conservatives lacked in the needed skills, having spent the better part of a century on defense. This may explain why so often needed reforms have been implemented in other countries by parties of the left.

Even in the United States, the effort to deregulate our most oppressive regulatory agencies began under President Jimmy Carter and had the support of such liberal stalwarts as Sen. Ted Kennedy. Not all liberals think alike. Nor do all conservatives. Two strands of these sociologies deserve special attention, particularly in light of the contrast with classical liberalism.

A variation of modern liberalism is popular among faculties at college campuses. Part I examines foundational matters, arguing that Darwinism and classical liberalism hold incompatible visions of morality, human nature, and individual autonomy. Part II turns to contemporary applications, contending that Darwinism and classical liberalism are at odds in their views of or implications about limited government, vital religion, economic freedom, and the traditional family.

This section also argues that, since its inception, Darwinism has attenuated core tenets and values of classical liberalism and Western civilization.

Darwinian Evolution and Classical Liberalism: Theories in Tension

Part III of the volume contains alternative views to those in the first two parts, adding critical diversity to the book. Respectively, these chapters hold that Darwinian evolution simply has little to say about classical liberalism; an evolutionary account of human volition is fully compatible with the individual choice presupposed in classical liberalism; and evolutionary naturalism, unlike religious alternatives, provides a strong foundation for freedom, morality, and the traditional family.

Stay current with EPS. In my view, there is a great need for Christian philosophers—especially those who are readers of Philosophia Christi —to 'expand their tents,' so to speak, by branching out into areas underemphasized by the recent renaissance in Christian philosophy.

Yes, the problem of evil ought to be examined with care, but so should the problems created by the application of harmful ideas upon citizens in the United States and elsewhere. I realize that my suggestion may sound like an unwelcome invitation for Christian philosophers to enter the culture wars. I also recognize that writing and publishing on applied areas does not typically carry the prestige of breaking new ground in metaphysics or epistemology.

I realize, too, that some Christian philosophers may find they have greater credibility with their secular colleagues insofar as they remain professionally aloof from anything that smacks of theologically-illuminated economics, politics, and the like. Rating details. All Languages. More filters. Sort order. Robertbellafiore rated it it was amazing Feb 25, Paul Vittay rated it really liked it Feb 22, John marked it as to-read Mar 20, Christopher Goins marked it as to-read Aug 22, Lee marked it as to-read Aug 30, Seth marked it as to-read Oct 14, Efi marked it as to-read Nov 16, Roddy marked it as to-read Oct 12, Donald Forster marked it as to-read Nov 11, Malachi marked it as to-read Apr 26, German Sanchez Collado marked it as to-read Jun 08, Pedro Jorge marked it as to-read Sep 03, Chisom Hector added it Oct 05, Ron marked it as to-read Oct 15, Jerry Davis marked it as to-read Nov 23, Fivewincs marked it as to-read Dec 15, Karl marked it as to-read Nov 06, Foreign Grid marked it as to-read Dec 23, Christopher Sparks marked it as to-read Feb 10, Kenneth Shipman is currently reading it Feb 14,