What is a Liberal?

Protecting the Parts of the Whole

Liberalism – 18th and 19th Centuries

People are rational (reason), equal (no classes). Progress is inevitable (optomistic). Reform, not revolution. The government is active but has limits. John Locke, John Stuart Mill declared the government is to prevent people from harming one another.

Marxists feel that liberalism is despicable, crass, materialistic.

Canadian  liberals are not as class conscious: all human beings are at one naturally, use natural reason to realize our unity, stresses the individual rather than the group; the highest level of good is freedom, cultural, moral, and economic freedom. There is a restriction to prevent a freedom from infringing another person’s freedom, more important than economic system.
Businesses do exploit workers but can be convinced to stop that.
Canadian liberalism is optomistic for peaceful change, laws of supply and demand usually work, respect custom and tradition (sometimes in the way of progress), with a circumspect limit of government (Locke). Legislate against trade unions of it interferes with freedom. People with property need more protection. There are rights the government cannot interfere with.

Reform Liberalism

Reform is necessary, prone to experiment, not much restraint to loyalty to tradition. Identifies that there is excessive concentration of wealth so government must protect the weak from the strong. The Canadian reform liberal is an active interventionist.

Free Market Liberalism, Adam Smith.

Individuals of society achieve potential best if left alone, are progressive, achieve self-interest, don’t hurt others. The state stays out of political activity in that case.

Utopian Liberalism

Society is perfectable, and enlightened. We are driven to pursue our own self-interest and won’t harm other people. If we behave badly, it is because of the environment.

Democratic Liberalism

The majority rules yet the minorities have rights. The majority must be held in check to avoid their subjugating the minority. Procedures and devices are put in place to protect minorities. Majorities are not sensitive to minorities. The Chartre of Rights and Freedoms protect minorities. Majorities are not normally aware of oppression and some minorities are not aware they are oppressed.

Attributes of liberalism:

1.not fearful of change/innovation, evolutionary change
2.less attracted to tradition
3.freedom for individual, equality,
4.international in outlook,

Mill and Locke were individualistic. Modern liberals have modified individualism to group life. A collectivistic streak in Canada exists. Stress on the group began with English settlers, with United Empire Loyalists (liberals) fighting and fleeing the American Revolution. Canada’s foundation was based on a people who fled revolutionary change and were loyal to traditional institutions, monarchy, church. Yet, they arrived from the States with notions of local democracy and were instrumental in having municipalities established in Canada. However, that right is not entrenched the last time I checked but is an off-loading of duties from the provinces. The province giveth and the province can taketh away.

Fear of government lessened, a bureaucracy formed to do daily business and the dawning awareness that government can actually intervene on the public’s behalf was born. Although less supportive of rapid change than Americans, medicare, welfare and government penetration into the economy helped maintain a group identity to Canadians.

Protecting the Parts of the Whole

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