Liberalism

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Political doctrine traceable to John Locke (1632-1704), one of its most important theorists. Locke writes: “The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but to have only the law of Nature for his rule... Freedom is not... ‘ liberty for every one to do what he lists, to live as he pleases, and not to be tied to any laws...’ In accordance with this, Locke establishes two rights: one, the right to one’s liberty, and the other, the right to penalize anyone who tries to injure one in violation of natural law. He goes on to explain that work is the origin of property. How far does the right to property extend? To the point where one can “enjoy” the use of it. The symbiosis between economic l. and Social Darwinism has been an important step in the justification of the concentration of economic and political power in the hands of those who are “fittest in the struggle for survival.” These few have been gifted by the laws of nature in comparison with the many who have not been so favored. And, logically, since it is important to respect “natural” laws, the perpetuation of inequalities between human beings is almost a moral obligation. As can be seen, l. in its radical posture constitutes a clear example of anti-humanism. Notwithstanding these limitations, during certain periods of history numerous advances in the struggle against the remnants of feudalism, clericalism, and monarchical absolutism can be credited to l. L. has had numerous advocates, the most notable being: Adam Smith, Alexis de Tocqueville, John Stuart Mill, K. Popper, L. Von Mises, F. A. Hayek and, most recently, J. Rawls and R. Nozick (*Neo-liberalism).