Classical liberalism

Political ideology favoring civil liberties with emphasis on economic freedom / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Classical liberalism is a political tradition and a branch of liberalism that advocates free market and laissez-faire economics and civil liberties under the rule of law, with special emphasis on individual autonomy, limited government, economic freedom, political freedom and freedom of speech.[1] Classical liberalism, contrary to liberal branches like social liberalism, looks more negatively on social policies, taxation and the state involvement in the lives of individuals, and it advocates deregulation.[2]

Until the Great Depression and the rise of social liberalism, classical liberalism was called economic liberalism. Later, the term was applied as a retronym, to distinguish earlier 19th-century liberalism from social liberalism.[3] By modern standards, in the United States, simple liberalism often means social liberalism, but in Europe and Australia, simple liberalism often means classical liberalism.[4][5]

Classical liberalism gained full flowering in the early 18th century, building on ideas starting at least as far back as the 16th century, within the Iberian, British, and Central European contexts, and it was foundational to the American Revolution and "American Project" more broadly.[6][7][8] Notable liberal individuals whose ideas contributed to classical liberalism include John Locke,[9] Jean-Baptiste Say, Thomas Malthus, and David Ricardo. It drew on classical economics, especially the economic ideas as espoused by Adam Smith in Book One of The Wealth of Nations, and on a belief in natural law,[10] social progress,[11] and utilitarianism.[12] In contemporary times, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, Thomas Sowell, George Stigler and Larry Arnhart are seen as the most prominent advocates of classical liberalism.[13][14] However, other scholars have made reference to these contemporary thoughts as neoclassical liberalism, distinguishing them from 18th-century classical liberalism.[15][16]

In the context of American politics, "classical liberalism" may be described as "fiscally conservative" and "socially liberal".[17] Despite this, classical liberals tend to reject the right's higher tolerance for economic protectionism and the left's inclination for collective group rights due to classical liberalism's central principle of individualism.[18] Additionally, in the United States, classical liberalism is considered closely tied to, or synonymous with, American libertarianism.[19][20]

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