Classic Liberal vs. Modern Liberal
We find that although modern liberals use much of the same language as classical liberals when referring to fundamental principles, very different meanings are employed.
- Classic Liberal:
- John Locke
Equality: Argued against the thesis that some men were born into slavery or subjection to other men—that other men had a natural jurisdiction over them. They certainly were not suggesting that we pursue other kinds of equality that would be in violation of justice.
Individualism: held that all the acts of government are “to be directed to no other end, but the peace, safety, and public good of the people” (Locke), but “public good” was meant as opposed to the government acting in the government's good, and not as opposed to the individual.
Liberty: the absence of physical interference by others upon one's person and estate
- Modern Liberal:
- Equality: attempt to expand and pursue other kinds of equality—e.g., of wealth or income—or at least are in favor of eliminating “too much” inequality of income.
Individualism: Appeals are often made to the common good (or “public good”, or “public welfare”) as opposed to the good of the individual. The common good is seen as a higher claim that overrides the individual's claim to his life, liberty, or estate.
Liberty: “Positive” liberty is said to consist of possessing the (positive) capacity and means to do what you will. Thus a wealthy person has more “positive” liberty.