Ideology and politics

Essay by Anonymous UserCollege, UndergraduateB, December 1996

download word file, 7 pages 3.5

The purpose of this paper is to treat the similarly and differences of liberalism. I

will use John Locke and Adam Smith to represent classical liberals. John Stuart Mill and

John Maynard Keynes will be used to show contemporary liberals.

John Locke

In John Locke's Second Treatise of Government he develops a theory of

government as a product of a social contract, which when broken justifies the creation of

a new government for the protection of life, liberty and property. He begins his argument

by developing a theory of the state of nature which is

...what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom

to order their actions and dispose of their possessions and persons as they

think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave or

depending upon the will of any other man.1

The state of nature includes the "

of nature to govern it, which obliges everyone;

and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it..."2 The state

of nature also includes inequality

...since gold and silver, being little useful to the life of a man in proportion

to food, raiment, and carriage, has its value only from the consent of men,

whereof labour yet makes, in great part, the measure, it is plain that men

have agreed to a disproportional and unequal possession of the earth.3

In Locke's state on nature there are also three distinct problems.

First there is no established settled known law. As each man consults his own law of

nature he receives a slightly different interpretation.

Secondly there no known and indifferent judge. Which creates the problem of trying to

decide which is the correct law of nature which will be followed in an impartial manor.

Thirdly there is insufficient force of execution. This is the problem of how to carry out

the decision of the law of nature on another when he has a different interpretation or

doesn't consult the law of nature.

Locke states that the three problems in the state of nature would be best solved by

coming together to form a new government to protect there property.

The great and chief end therefore, of men's coming into commonwealths,

and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their


And goes further into what this new government should be empowered to do

firstly...established, settled known law, received and allowed by common

consent to be the standard of right and wrong, and the common measure to

decide all controversies between them...secondly...there wants a known

and indifferent judge, with authority to determine all differences according to

the established law...thirdly...There often wants power to back and support

the sentence when right, and to give it due execution. They who by any

injustice offend, will seldom fail, where they are able, by force to make good

their injustice...5

In Locke's government men only give up the right to the above mentioned things,

to create the law for themselves, to judge the law for themselves, and to execute the law

for themselves. These are the only rights that the government has the right to interfere in

as it is the only reason that people entered into a commonwealth. Locke also explains the

new social contract that the new government should operate under. The first point of the

contract is that the people agree to form a body politic, in which the majority rule.

Second the body politic selects a government of the day. (elects people on a regular basis

to the government to legislate the law)

Locke laid out who should be allowed the right to vote, who shouldn't be allowed

to vote and gives his reason why.

...all men as members for the purposes of being ruled and only men of estate

as members for the prepossess of ruling. The right to rule (more accurately,

the right to control any government) is given to the men of estate only: it is

they who are given the decisive voice about taxation, without which no

government can subsist. On the other hand, the obligation to be bound by law

and subject to the lawful government is fixed on all men whether or not they

have property in the sense of estate, and indeed whether or not they have made

an express compact.6

Johns Stuart Mill

There is no difficulty in showing that the ideally best form of government is that

in which the sovereignty, or supreme controlling power in the last resort, is

vested in the entire aggregate of the community.7

It is with this statement that Mill begins his augment in The Ideally Best Polity

showing his believe in Locke's democracy but saying that all people could be best served

by the government if everyone could vote. As this is the only way the government learns

what it needs to know in order to govern. He comes to this concussion by saying that

participatory democracy is the best answer to the two questions that he poses as to what

makes a good government.

...namely how far it promotes the good management of the affairs of society

by means of the existing faculties, moral, intellectual, and active, of its various

members, and what effect in improving or deteriorating those faculties.8

Mill believes that it is necessary to expand the role of government not only to

protect the people from the government but to promote liberty by putting limits on what

can be expressed as public opinion against a minority, and to involve people in the

government so as to give them stimulation and help them develop.

In Mill's writings he also discuses the idea of liberty and what limits government

and public opinion should have on interfering with a individuals liberty.

...the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any

member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to

others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.9

Differences Between Locke and Mill

Although Locke and Mill both believe in government by and for the governed

there chief difference is in the idea of who the government is for. Where Locke believes

that the purpose of government is to protect property, there for if you did not have

property you didn't have anything to protect and shouldn't have a voice in the

government. Mill believes in an participatory democracy in which everyone should have

the right to vote as it is a way of bettering society as a whole and making sure that

everyone's interests are consulted. They also differ on the role the government should

play in the lives of the governed. Locke advocates a government which doesn't have any

power to interfere in the lives of the governed out side of protecting their property.

Where Mill would like to see a government which attempts to better the lives that it

governs and protect them form the tyranny of the majority.

Adam Smith

In 1776 Adam Smith published a book titled The Wealth of Nations in which he

recorded his ideas on the way the money and the economy worked. He had came to

some important concussions about how the market worked which went hand in hand with

why the government shouldn't interfere in its workings.

There are three main points in his idea of capitalism the first was self interest

...a drive to maximize concluding the best possible bargain on

the marketplace into which everyone ventured, either to sell his or her labor

power or other resources, or to purchase goods.10

Second competition would act as a regulator

For each man, out to do the best for himself with no thought of others, is

faced with a host of similarly motivated individuals who are in exactly the

same position. Each is only too eager to take advantage of his competitor's

greed if it urges him to raise his price above the level "set" by the market.11

Thirdly the idea of supply and demand would automatically regulate what is produced,

the quantity produced, quality of goods, and increase efficiency in the production

process. "...the changing desires of society lead producers to increase production of

wanted goods and to diminish the production of goods that are no longer as highly


John Maynard Keynes

While Keynes agreed with Adam Smith on the way the market place works he

noted that the wealth of an economy depends on the amount of money flowing and the

rate at which it flows. This means that the market place was prone to certain types of

macro economic illness. These illesses are

First, that an economy in depression might well stay there; there was nothing

inherent in the situation to pull it out. Second, that prosperity depended on

investment; for if savings were not put to use, the dread spiral of contraction

began. And third, that investment was an undependable drive wheel for the

economy threated with satiety, and satiety spelled economic shrinkage.13

Keynes reasoned that

...if investment could not be directly stimulated, why then, at least

consumption could. For while investment was the capricious element

in the system, consumption provided the great floor of economic activity...14

He looked to the government to maintain the macro economy. Saying that if

consumption could be controlled in a way to heat up the economy when it is running cold

and cool it down when it is running hot. This was to be done through the policies of

...monetary control, mainly centered in the Federal Reserve banking system.

By easing or tightening the reserve requirements that all banks had to maintain

behind their deposits, the Federal Reserve was able to encourage or

discourage lending, the source of much economic activity. In addition, by

buying or selling government bonds, the Federal Reserve was able to make

the whole banking system relatively flush with funds when these were needed,

or relatively short of funds when money seemed in excess supply.

...second was tax adjustment...By raising or lowering taxes, particularly

income taxes, the government could quickly increase or diminish this broad

flow of purchasing power.

...third was the federal budget...In inflationary times, a budget surplus would

sere to mop up part of the inflationary purchasing flow. In depressed times,

a budget deficit (covered by borrowing) was a mechanism for generating a

desired increase in that flow.15

Similarities common to liberals

Classical liberals held the believes that the government should be for thoughts

who were governed and held property. Inaddision that the governments only role should

be to protect peoples property and shouldn't interfere in any other part of peoples lives.

Contemporary liberals believe that the government should take a much more

active role in the lives of the governed both to better society and to protect it form

fluctuations of the business cycle.

All liberals believe that government should be held responsible to the governed to

serve there secular purposes. That capitalism is the corner stone of the free market

society and that the government should not directly interfere in the micro economy. And

lastly in individualism that we are all free, rational, equal, act only according to our own

consent, and have a right to voluntary association.


In drawing this brief account of the liberal-democratic analysis of equality to

a concussion we are properly struck by the significant distance which separates

the contemporary, revisioist idea from that of its classical predecessors.16