Classical liberalism is a political ideology and a branch of liberalism which advocates civil liberties and limited government under the rule of law, with an emphasis on economic freedom It developed in the 19th century from Whiggery, but became more prominent in the 20th century due to public dissatisfaction with the effects of unchecked government power. Classical liberalism is based upon the belief that each individual should have the right to life, liberty and property, and that governments should be limited to protecting those rights through laws, rather than attempting to control or direct people’s activities.
1. The United States Constitution. The United States Constitution is the document that forms the legal framework of the country, and it is founded upon classical liberal principles. It limits the power of the government by establishing the separation of powers, providing checks and balances, and enumerating the rights of citizens. It also includes the Bill of Rights, which protects citizens from government intrusion by ensuring certain civil liberties, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and the right to bear arms.
2. Laissez Faire Economics. Laissez faire economics, which is based upon the principles of classical liberalism, advocates for minimal government interference in the economy, allowing market forces and consumer choice to regulate it. This is in contrast to more interventionist, state-directed approaches such as socialism and mercantilism, which are based upon the idea that governments should intervene in the economy to direct and regulate it.
3. The Magna Carta. The Magna Carta, which was a charter of rights signed in 1215 by King John of England, is an example of a document that enshrines classical liberal principles. It limited the power of the monarch and provided incentives for justice, fairness, and good governance. It also provided the framework for the development of the rule of law, which limits the power of the government by requiring that all citizens, including the monarch, are subject to it.
4. John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. John Stuart Mill’s book On Liberty is widely considered to be a major work of classical liberalism. It proposed an individual-centred approach to politics and argued that governments should be limited to protecting the rights and freedoms of individuals, rather than regulating their activities or beliefs. Mill argued that individuals should be allowed to make their own decisions, as long as these decisions do not harm others, and advocated for the protection of civil liberties and the freedom of expression.
5. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. This document, which was adopted by the French National Assembly in 1789, is an example of a document that enshrines classical liberal principles. It declared that all citizens are equal before the law and should be allowed to enjoy their inalienable rights, including the right to life, liberty, and property. It also stressed the importance of keeping government power in check and protecting citizens from its abuse.