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Liberal ideas date back to medieval times when people were overwhelmed by a variety of restraints. People longed for freedom or, at least, some amount of liberty. Therefore, the major postulate of liberals has always been quite the same. Liberals has always claimed that individual freedom is the basic right of all people.
Human society evolved and numerous socioeconomic factors affected development of liberal ideology and contributed to its spread. Notably, contemporary liberals have often been seen as a faction within a larger context of Liberalism due to peculiarities of their beliefs.
To What Extent Liberals Are the Same?
It is necessary to note that liberals remain faithful to the core values. Thus, they proclaim individual freedom to be the most important. For instance, Ball and Dagger (2002, p.47) note that contemporary liberals promote “individual liberty by trying to guarantee equality of opportunity within a tolerant society”. Liberals tend to proclaim the importance of equal rights for all citizens.
These ideas are rooted in the medieval times when people had no freedom at all and were overwhelmed by numerous conventions. Another core value of liberalism is free competition. They believe competition to be an inherent part of a liberal society.
They argue that competition is an important factor leading to progress (Ball & Dagger, 2002). Finally, liberals agree that people tend to pursue their own goals. However, only these major principles are shared by liberals.
To What Extent Are They Different?
In the twenty-first century, liberals share similar core values that were developed centuries ago. However, contemporary liberals do not agree with some of the means to reach the major goals. Thus, liberalism promotes emphasis on individual liberty (Ball & Dagger, 2002, p. 46). This does not only concern private lives and personal choices.
This extends to the development of the entire society. However, liberals of the twenty-first century believe that the state should guide people. Liberals of the nineteenth century claimed that competition was progress and any intervention was to be regarded as introduction of restraints (Ball & Dagger, 2002, p. 70).
However, the Great Depression, that became one of the major turmoil of the twentieth century (apart from the two world wars, of course), made people understand that unrestricted competition could lead to devastating results. People tended to seek for regulations and guidance form the state.
Admittedly, this distorted the idea of liberty and free individual choices. Nonetheless, liberals of the twentieth century (as well as liberals of the twenty-first century) claimed that this was not a restriction, but a guidance to ensure equal opportunities for all. Therefore, contemporary liberals choose free will and liberty which is guided and directed for the good of all.
To sum up, it is possible to state that contemporary liberals have remained faithful to the core postulates of the ideology. They still promote ideas of individual liberty and freedom. They also agree that competition may positively affect development of the society.
Nonetheless, they tend to proclaim the necessity of the state guidance and regulation as this can ensure equal opportunities for all people. In simple terms, it is possible to note that contemporary liberals have acquired a bit different views on the means to achieve individual freedom. This transformation of beliefs can be explained by certain changes in the western society which took place centuries and decades ago.
Ball, T. & Dagger, R. (2002). Political ideologies and the democratic ideal. New York, NY: Longman.