Talk:Classical liberalism

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Bias - Joeedh (talk) 05:15, 18 April 2012 (UTC)[edit]

This article violates the neutral point of view in a number of ways, some of which I list here.

American 19th buisiness depressions[edit]

This quote makes a clear judgement:

Despite the common recurrence of depressions, classical liberalism remained the orthodox belief among American businessmen until the Great Depression.

The causes of the 19th century American business depressions are disputed by historians, but are usually blamed on a fragmented financial system and the lack of a central bank, not economic ideology.

My impression is that the lack of a central bank was due to economic ideology.Rick Norwood (talk) 11:57, 18 April 2012 (UTC)
Your impression? So, I suppose it had nothing to do with 19th century populism and Andrew Jackson's distrust of money power? If classical liberal theory was as anti-central-banking as you claim, why didn't any of the other classical liberal powers (like Britain) abolish there central banks? Joeedh (talk) 00:10, 19 April 2012 (UTC)
I agree with Joeedh. The business cycle is not something inherent to Classic Liberal ideology. As he points out, although the cause is disputed, the majority of trade cycle fluctuations are due to central banking currency debasement and interest rate manipulation. Existence of a central bank is neither part of Classic Liberal ideology, nor is it an end state one would arrive at by following that ideology to its logical conclusion. (Kckranger) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:02, 2 February 2014 (UTC)
As just explained two postings up, there was no central bank in 19th century America. TFD (talk) 20:23, 2 February 2014 (UTC)
Andrew Jackson's administration, which was the first to adopt classical liberal economic theory, abolished the central bank and encouraged fragmentation. But the text does not say that classical liberalism was the cause of recesssions. Modern liberalism differed from classical liberalism in its response to recession. To varying degrees welfare programs help those hardest hit, while spending is aimed to stimulate the economy.TFD (talk) 13:55, 18 April 2012 (UTC)
No, modern liberalism uses central banks to smooth out the business cycle. Paul Krugman himself calls our current mess "highly unusual" and that vulgar Keynesian solutions "work now, but not in normal times." By no means does modern liberalism embrace discretionary countercyclical fiscal policy. The global neoliberal movement wasn't significantly damaged by the Great Recession, despite the high hopes of leftists for a return to traditional social democracy. Joeedh (talk) 00:10, 19 April 2012 (UTC)
I do not understand your comments. Following classical liberal policies, Jackson abolished the central bank. Whether or not that was a good thing is not commented on in this article. TFD (talk) 00:28, 19 April 2012 (UTC)
4D's argument is supported explictly by Susan Hoffmann (2001). Politics and Banking: Ideas, Public Policy, and the Creation of Financial Institutions. JHU Press. p. 16.  Rjensen (talk) 00:37, 19 April 2012 (UTC)

Irish Potato Famine[edit]

A rigid belief in laissez-faire also guided government response in 1846–1849 to the Great Famine in Ireland, during which an estimated 1.5 million people died

Ethnic prejudice, not laissez-faire, blocked government assistance during the Irish Potato Famine. A prime minister early into the crisis did start public works projects, but was ousted from power and replaced by a prime minister who hated Irishmen. The political rhetoric were couched in terms of laissez-faire, but ethnic prejudice was the larger factor.

From Wikipedia's own article:

Sir Charles Trevelyan, who was in charge of the administration of Government relief to the victims of the Irish Famine, limited the Government's actual relief because he thought "the judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson".

(By the way, you can see the source cited for this sentence here).

Motives are very hard to sort out, and in most cases we have to go with statements because that is all we have. Some people who praise laissez-faire invoke God to explain poverty and wealth, but their reason for wanting laissez-faire economics is, like all human motives, complicated. I do note that the section on the Irish has been rewritten recently. Is it improved? Rick Norwood (talk) 12:01, 18 April 2012 (UTC)
The famine article also says that "Sir James Graham, who had served as Home Secretary in Sir Robert Peel's late government, wrote to Peel that, in his opinion, "the real extent and magnitude of the Irish difficulty are underestimated by the Government, and cannot be met by measures within the strict rule of economical science."" Bigotry and prejudice probably played a role too, but then that could be said about any policy on welfare. And Trevelyan was not in charge of setting the policy but, as a civil servant, responsible for carrying it out. TFD (talk) 14:32, 18 April 2012 (UTC)
You're rationalizing. How can you possibly deny that ethnic prejudice was the dominant faction, after this: "the judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson." Political will matters a great deal, and if the people in charge of administering aid oppose it, and are simply going through the motions, that aid will be ineffective. That's as true today as it was then, by the way. Joeedh (talk) 00:10, 19 April 2012 (UTC)
The same thing is said about neoliberals today. They cut welfare payments because they do not wish to encourage dependency. Welfare is a hand-up not a hand-out. Are they trying to help the poor or to hurt them? Are they racist because most poor people are minorities? TFD (talk) 00:41, 19 April 2012 (UTC)
That's offensive. Most of my relatives are white trash who've abused welfare programs at one point or another (my parents are "chain-breakers" who escaped that culture). There are plenty of places in America (and the world) where welfare recipients are the same race as the local majority. I don't understand this attitude that bad parts of town or poor people are always black. Joeedh (talk) 18:36, 19 April 2012 (UTC)
This edit appears add a view of the famine which is not supported by the sources used.[3][4] The first source (On fairness, p. 344) is used to support the statement, "After Great Famine struck Ireland in 1845, the Corn Laws were finally repealed in 1846...." This implies repeal of the Corn Laws was intended to relieve the famine, while the source says Peel was concerned about the famine extending into England. The next sentence says, "repeal of the Corn Laws came too late to stop the Irish famine, partly because it was done in stages over three years." The source says, "Although repeal was achieved in the summer of 1846, it was too little and too late to have any impact on food shortages in Ireland" (A Death- Dealing famine, p. 59). While repeal of the Corn Laws may or may not have alleviated the famine, it was "too little". The source says on p. 58, "By the spring of 1846, it was becoming increasingly evident in Peel's speeches that the repeal of the Corn Laws was unlikely to benefit the economy of Ireland either in the short or long term". TFD (talk) 17:45, 20 April 2012 (UTC)
First sentence implies that famine in Ireland was one of the main reason why repeal of the Corn Laws was contemplated. Of course there was a concern that famine will also spread to England but that only straightens the sentence that you removed.
In your second argument, you are mixing "famine" and "economy" - two different things. Second sentence that you removed doesn't talk about economy. Also, if you are quoting from the source please quote all relevant material. Sentence that you quoted: "Although repeal was achieved in the summer of 1846, it was too little and too late to have any impact on food shortages in Ireland" is followed by: "Furthermore, the Corn Laws were dismantled in stages over a period of three years." -- Vision Thing -- 19:19, 21 April 2012 (UTC)
In other words, immediate repeal of the Corn Laws would have had little or no effect on the famine. (Bear in mind that as Ireland was a major exporter of grains to Great Britain during the famine, repeal of the Corn Laws would have led to lower incomes.) was If you want to add your spin to the story please find a source.
Christine Kinealy, the writer whose book you use as a source explains the connection between the famine and the Corn Laws in her article "Peel, Rotten Potatoes and Providence: The repeal of the Corn Laws and the Irish Famine".[5] There is nothing in her article to indicate that repeal of the Corn Laws would have done anything to alleviate the famine and also note that all duties on imports of foreign grains were suspended before the famine reached its zenith.
TFD (talk) 22:24, 21 April 2012 (UTC)
How have you reached a conclusion that "immediate repeal of the Corn Laws would have had little or no effect on the famine"? No source says that.
Article "Peel, Rotten Potatoes and Providence: The repeal of the Corn Laws and the Irish Famine" starts with sentence: "The repeal of The Corn Laws in 1846 has tended to be linked inextricably with the onset of the potato famine in Ireland in 1845." While she states that relationship is "complex", according to her this is how connection is usually seen.
For example, Stephen J. Lee writes in his "Aspects of British Political History, 1815-1914" that "The timing of the repeal was dictated by the Irish crisis. [...] Peel was convinced that starvation would occur on a massive scale if urgent action were not taken. But relief could not be provided while the Corn Laws kept the price of bread artificial high." [6] -- Vision Thing -- 21:57, 22 April 2012 (UTC)

Please explain, or rewrite, the following sentence: "It was expected that private enterprise and free trade, rather than government intervention, would alleviate the famine." Expected by whom? Were these expectations realistic? Rick Norwood (talk) 13:37, 22 April 2012 (UTC)

I put in that this was the expectation of the chancellor. The implication in the source, and also in the writing of Kinnealy, who is considered to be an authority on the famine, is that the expectations were unreasonable, but there are no defenders today of the government's approach. TFD (talk) 15:45, 22 April 2012 (UTC)
VT, Kinealy was talking about popular opinion. She goes on, "the traditional notion that the need for famine relief in Ireland was a trigger for repeal may be seen as a convenient political myth. In reality, the attempt to link repeal to the need for famine relief was an example of political opportunism and administrative pragmatism rather than a practical proposal intended to alleviate suffering in Ireland." There is no source that immediate repeal of the Corn Laws would have had an effect. However my edits did not say it would not have had an effect. I suppose the fact that the price of grain reached its lowest level sinee 1780 in 1847, the year before the peak of the famine, and that subsidized grain was available at a penny a pound, would mean that the immediate repeal of the corn laws would not have resulted in lower prices in the short term. In any case, you have put a spin on the sources which is OR and in fact not supported by any other sources. No one today defends the actions of the British government during the famine. TFD (talk) 22:47, 22 April 2012 (UTC)
It's not popular opinion, it's consensus opinion. According to Britannica, "The failure of the Irish potato crop in 1845 persuaded Peel to support the repeal of all Corn Laws, which was achieved in 1846." [7] Also, in your reply you completely ignored source that says "the Corn Laws kept the price of bread artificial high." -- Vision Thing -- 08:57, 23 April 2012 (UTC)
The secondary sources you provided both say that Peel was committed to ending the Corn Laws and the famine provided an excuse, although Kinealy says Peel stopped using it because no one believed repeal would relieve the famine. Your new source about bread says, "If expensive bread forced the English into more reliance on potatoes, thought Peel, the situation would be grave."[8] Note that Ireland is not in England, already relied on potatoes, and the main grains used for food were oats and maize. Ironically this source too says (on the same page), "Peel... was gradually persuaded of the sense of these arguments [repeal of the Corn Laws].... Then in 1845 came news that the potato blight... had struck Ireland."
Here are two more sources that discuss the famine, the Corn Laws and economics.[9][10] The consensus appears to be that the famine was used as a pretext to repeal the Corn Laws, that repeal of the laws would have had little or no effect on suffering, and that the effects of the famine were increased by government's failure to take adequate action. They also say that Malthusian and extreme religious beliefs, which were also elements of classical liberalism, contributed to the inaction, because the famine was seen as either natural or God's will.
TFD (talk) 15:57, 23 April 2012 (UTC)
"Elements of classical liberalism"? I wasn't aware classical liberalism was so organized it had its own religious canon. Do you think Adam Smith would have approved of dead Irishmen as God's very own will? People use religion to justify ideology all the time (political Islamism and the recent "Jesus is a socialist/a free-marketeer" memes come to mind). That doesn't mean a Muslim who, say, believes jihad is an eternal war against one's own foolish pride is necessarily tarred by those who believe jihad is a divine imperative to kill infidels. Joeedh (talk) 02:21, 24 April 2012 (UTC)
I do not believe that Smith would have seen the famine as God's will. However, 19th century liberalism combined various elements, including Malthusian pessimism and religious nonconformism. If you can find sources that describe it differently, then please provide them. TFD (talk) 05:16, 24 April 2012 (UTC)
TFD, I don't know about what you are talking about. Source that you keep deleting, "Aspects of British Political History, 1815-1914", says that "The timing of the repeal was dictated by the Irish crisis. [...] Peel was convinced that starvation would occur on a massive scale if urgent action were not taken. But relief could not be provided while the Corn Laws kept the price of bread artificial high." [11]
As for consensus, Wikipedia policy says that "Reliably published tertiary sources can be helpful in providing broad summaries of topics that involve many primary and secondary sources, especially when those sources contradict each other." That is why I provided Britannica quote, since there are sources that contradict each other Britannica, reliably published tertiary source, shows us what is general consensus. -- Vision Thing -- 11:51, 24 April 2012 (UTC)
Your source says the famine provided a pretext for the repeal, not that it was Peel's motivation for repeal. Even if EB says otherwise, we do not use facts in tertiary sources when they are in conflict with the consensus in secondary sources. That Peel did not think relief could be provided if the corn prices were high is presented as his opinion, not as a fact. Peel intended to buy corn and distribute it to the Irish, hardly a free market solution. But Peel resigned, relief was reduced and tariffs were effectively eliminated. TFD (talk) 17:24, 24 April 2012 (UTC)
We use tertiary sources to determine what is the consensus in secondary sources. -- Vision Thing -- 11:28, 27 April 2012 (UTC)

TFD: This edit war is not getting anywhere. Please explain why you find the compromise I suggested unacceptable. Rick Norwood (talk) 12:12, 24 April 2012 (UTC)

Here is a comparison between my re-written version and the compromise version. The source on bread was speaking about the price of bread in England, not Ireland. There was no expectation that Irish famine victims would start eating bread, which is made using wheat and would require the establishment of bakeries, employment and training of bakers, and distribution systems. The grains consumed in Ireland were oats and maize which would be prepared in individual homes. Also, no source says that repeal of the corn laws would have had any impact on the famine. Tariffs were effectively eliminated by 1847, two years ahead of schedule, and prices dropped to their lowest level since 1780. The source says "too little too late", and does not support the view that immediate repeal would have had any effect. The people affected were subsistence farmers and therefore had little means to buy reduced price grain. What income they had depended on working for landlords who exported grains and meat to England. Lower grain prices would lead to lower wages or termination of employment. if we want to say that elimination of the Corn Laws would have had an effect, then we need a source for that. But even libertarian writers do not say that. TFD (talk) 16:18, 24 April 2012 (UTC)
Here is the disputed sentence: "The famine was used by the Peel administration as justification for repeal of the protectionist Corn Laws, but had little benefit for Ireland, which exported grains and meat, and provided an argument against government action to alleviate the hunger." Note that it does not say that the repeal of the Corn Laws would help the starving Irish, it says that the Peel administration used that as justification for the repeal. And it says (and you agree) that it had little benefit for Ireland. I'd be happier if the last clause named the group that argued against the repeal.
You clearly know more about this subject than I, but my reading suggests that the Peel administration said, in effect, "Pity the poor Irish, repeal the Corn Laws." and the other side said, "Irish are the scum of the Earth, don't repeal the Corn Laws." That repeal of the Corn Laws had nothing to do with the plight of the Irish is just politics as usual.
What we really need is something more focused on the way Classical Liberalism was viewed at the time. Rick Norwood (talk) 12:57, 25 April 2012 (UTC)
The Irish through British Eyes: Perceptions of Ireland in the Famine Era,[12] says, "The current consensus of politicial historians is that Peel did in fact primarily use the potato blight as an excuse for repeal of the Corn Laws." The leading opponents of repeal, Disraeli and Bentinck denied the crisis existed. When the repeal was introduced in early 1846 the famine had not yet begun.(pp. 63, 69) [The "Irish are scum" crowd did not oppose repeal of the corn laws".] "The Fall of Peel" in Disraeli's biography says, "even if bread had been made as cheap as it could be by the complete removal of import duties on grain, it would still have been far beyond their purchasing power. [Peel's] principal remedy was to open the ports to duty-free foreign and colonial grain.... The mass of the Irish peasantry lived so far below the bread level that the relatively slight fall in the price, which might be expected to follow, could not have made bread a substitute for potatoes."[13]
i agree here should be something in the article about how classical liberalism was perceived.
TFD (talk) 16:31, 25 April 2012 (UTC)

Your quote certainly seems to confirm the first part of the disputed sentence. But the issue still seems to me to be confused. Did Peel favor Classical Liberal economics, and use the famine as a political club to get what he really wanted, repeal of tariffs? Did Disraeli deny that Irish were starving, or claim that, per Malthus, somebody had to starve, so why not the Irish? The only reason for this subject to be in this article at all is how it relates to Classical Liberalism, therefore we need to know which players advocated Classical Liberal economics and which favored protectionist economics. Did either side favor direct food aid to Ireland, which would be the antithesis of Classical Liberal economics? What role did Christianity play in the debate over Classical Liberalism? We need a good paragraph here, or none at all, and it seems to me that you, TFD, are in the best position to write one, maybe in collaboration with Vision Thing. Rick Norwood (talk) 13:26, 26 April 2012 (UTC)

TFD, first of all, "primarily" means just that – primarily. According to your source: "There is no evidence, however, to support the contention that Peel did not believe in the reality of the crisis". From what I can tell from all the sources, Peel believed that repeal of the Corn Laws would be good for Ireland. According to The Routledge Companion To Britain In The Nineteenth Century it was the failure of the Irish potato crop in 1845 and the outbreak of widespread famine in Ireland that persuaded Peel and Parliament of the need to repeal the Corn Laws. [14]
Also, your source says: Protectionists denied Irish distress in the campaign to maintain the status quo. so it is clear that protectionists would do even less for Irish people. -- Vision Thing -- 11:37, 27 April 2012 (UTC)

It seems to me that the two of you, TFD and Vision_Thing, are very close to agreement. You agree that Peel wanted to repeal the Corn Laws. You agree that the repeal didn't do much for the Irish. The big question is, where does Classical Liberalism come into the picture? Neither of TFDs sources use the phrase. Does Routledge?

I am not a historian, but the more I read on this subject, the more interesting it is. Apparently the Conservatives supported protectionist tariffs, because they favored the rich land-owners, while liberals opposed them. Peel broke with his party, and his government fell, because of his support for repeal. Apparently, though he cited the Potato Famine as his reason, his real reason was fear of violent revolution if the Conservatives did not make some concessions (From the Corn Laws to Free Trade, Schonhardt-Bailey). Rick Norwood (talk) 12:40, 27 April 2012 (UTC) Rick Norwood (talk) 12:25, 27 April 2012 (UTC)

Whether Peel had decided to repeal the corn laws before the famine, which is the consensus of historians, or was persuaded by the famine, which is said in some tertiary sources, is irrelevant to the short mention in the article. (Curiously, Routledge says he was persuaded by the crop damage in 1845, although the famine did not begin until the severe crop failure of 1846.) Rick Norwood's latest source also supports that view. He certainly used it as justification for repeal of the corn laws. The issue is whether this represented an adequate response. All the sources I have seen say it did not. (I agree that the two sources I provided that Peel intended to repeal the Corn Laws before the famine do not mention classical liberalism.) The passage is not about the Corn Laws it is about the famine. Sources say that the only way the famine could have been minimized would have been the extension of government relief. In fact, Peel's Conservative government began to do this, with the support of the "protectionists", but the new Liberal government ended these efforts. Modern governments, even the most free-market ones, do provide assistance to their own citizens during natural disasters, as happened in the U.S. in response to 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and mining disasters.
Richardson refers to "the second [phase of contending liberalisms] over the economic and social implications of liberal values ("classical" versus "social" liberalism")" in the introduction to his article (p. 17), but calls the section "Second Phase: Laissez-faire vs. Social Liberalism" (p. 32). The subsection is called "Political Economy", which is defined as "laissez-faire economic policy"(op. 32). About the famine he says, "In England itself the effect of the ideology was always tempered by politcal crosscurrents.... Ireland experienced the effects of the doctrine in its purest form" (p. 34). This supports inclusion of the comment, "A rigid belief in laissez-faire guided the government response" in the Politcal Economy section of the article.
The other source I used, Russell's biography says, "Tragically, the famine took place at a time when laissez-farie and Malthusian population theories were predominant. The classical economists argued that the government should not intervene in the economy, since it did more harm than good." (p. 158) Again it appears relevant to the article.
TFD (talk) 16:13, 27 April 2012 (UTC)

Both of these quotes are on topic. Maybe the Corn Laws, though superficially they sound like something Classical Liberalism would get involved with, are a red herring. Maybe the Classical Liberal repsonse to the Irish Famine is the real reason to have a paragraph on this subject. Rick Norwood (talk) 15:18, 28 April 2012 (UTC)

The Corn Laws are already mentioned twice in the article under "History" and "Political Economy". While the famine may have triggered the debate that lead to final repeal, they were effectively suspended for Ireland before the famine began. I believe we should mention the famine because it is often presented as an example of the effects of a doctrinaire approach to a natural disaster. No sources have been provided that present an alternative interpretation. TFD (talk) 17:52, 28 April 2012 (UTC)

Sounds good to me. Will you write it or shall I? Rick Norwood (talk) 12:34, 29 April 2012 (UTC)

Why don't you write it. TFD (talk) 13:48, 29 April 2012 (UTC)
I think that if we are going to address issue of Irish famine there should be some discussion why that happened. Main reason why Irish people were suffering is that they were a colony of England. If someone has a slave and lets him to die from hunger, you can't say that is a consequence of his classical liberal ideology or let it be. It seems that prevailing view in England at that time was that Irish were a lower class of people and that there was a strong anti-Catholic bias, so the ideology was at most just a cover for actions of the government.
Richardson is not a historian or expert in liberalism. According to his book description [15], he wrote his book as a polemic, with intention to present "wide-ranging critique of current endeavours to construct a world order based on neoliberal ideology", so it is hardly a neutral source. In my opinion it shouldn't be used at all. -- Vision Thing -- 10:56, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
It is an acadmic book. The author is a professor emeritus in international relations, the book was published by Lynne Rienner Publishers, an independent scholarly and textbook publishing firm that publishes in the fields of international studies and comparative politics in relation to the world. The chapter in the book previously appeared in an earlier academic book by Richardson and was published in the peer-reviewed European Journal of International Relations (1997). A Google Scholar search returns 214 hits[16] and the article has been used as part of university political science courses. The passage is sourced to Anthony Arblaster's Rise and Decline of Western Liberalism (Anthony Arblaster, Wiley-Blackwell, 1987). You are confusing reliability with neutrality. Sources must be reliable, we must be neutral.
Ireland was not a colony of England, but under the Acts of Union 1800 was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Catholics had been granted full civil rights under the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829, which is mentioned in the article as one of the successes of classical liberalism. Although Home Rule was not yet an issue, it would be championed by classical liberals.
The other sources presented provide the same conclusions. If they are wrong then you need a source that says so.
TFD (talk) 14:35, 30 April 2012 (UTC)

Classical Liberalism is a belief system. The importance of the famine in Ireland is not what caused it, as far as this article is concerned. Presumably a potato blight caused it. But rather the importance here is how a belief in Classical Liberalism influenced the behavior of politicians at the time. We need examples of politicians who expressed Classical Liberal beliefs and who based their recommendations about the famine on those beliefs.

I'll try writing it up, at TFD's request, but I really think he would be able to do a better job. If Vision_Thing would like to help, that would be appreciated.

Rick Norwood (talk) 20:55, 30 April 2012 (UTC)

I wrote two versions.[17][18] I prefer the first because we already mention that the Economist campaigned for free trade and already discuss the Corn Laws. I would rather you wrote the section. TFD (talk) 21:41, 30 April 2012 (UTC)

Ok, taking parts for both of your versions, and the quotes above, here is a first draft of a suggested paragraph. I'll work on putting the references in order next. You, TFD, will need to fill in the info on Russell's biography. Comments? Suggestions?:

Despite the pragmatism of classical economists, their views were expressed in dogmatic terms by such popular writers as Jane Marcet and Harriet Martineau.[1] The strongest defender of laissez-faire was The Economist founded by James Wilson in 1843. The Economist criticized Ricardo for his lack of support for free trade and expressed hostility to welfare, believing that the lower orders were responsible for their economic circumstances. The Economist took the position that regulation of factory hours was harmful to workers and also strongly opposed state support for education, health, the provision of water, and granting of patents and copyrights. The Economist also campaigned against the Corn Laws that protected landlords in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland against competition from less expensive foreign imports of cereal products.
In 1845, the Irish potato crop was destroyed by a blight, and there was widespred famine. At first strict laissez-faire principles governed government policy toward Ireland[2]. Malthusian population theories dominated. The Conservatives fought to keep tarriffs and prices high, classical economists refused to consider any form of direct aid[3]. Prejudice against the Irish also played a part[4].
Conservative Prime Minister Robert Peel broke with his party and agreed to the repeal of the Corn Laws, using the famine as an excuse, but in fact the repeal did nothing to help the Irish. Absentee landlords continued to export food from Ireland while the Irish starved, and the little relief Peel offered was scaled back by Lord John Russell.[5].[6]. As far as British politics went, the split between protectionist and free-trade factions could not be mended, and the Conservative government fell.
  1. ^ Cite error: The named reference Richardson.2C_p._33 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  2. ^ name="Richardson, p. 33-34"/ About the famine he says, "In England itself the effect of the ideology was always tempered by politcal crosscurrents.... Ireland experienced the effects of the doctrine in its purest form"
  3. ^ Paul Scherer, Lord John Russell: A Biography, [1], "Tragically, the famine took place at a time when laissez-farie and Malthusian population theories were predominant. The classical economists argued that the government should not intervene in the economy, since it did more harm than good." (p. 158)
  4. ^ Sir Charles Trevelyan, who was in charge of the administration of Government relief to the victims of the Irish Famine, limited the Government's actual relief because he thought "the judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson"., here)
  5. ^ Christine Kinealy. A Death-Dealing Famine:The Great Hunger in Ireland, p. 59, Pluto Press, 1997. ISBN 9780745310749.
  6. ^ Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey, From the Corn Laws to Free Trade, The MIT Press, 2006, ISBN-13: 978-0262195430.
Nobody has commented on this version, and I hesitate to add it to the article without comments, one way or the other. Also, TFD, please provide the reference for your "Russell's biography". Rick Norwood (talk) 12:03, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
Here is a link to the Russell biography. Here is a link to an academic paper, "Classical Economics and the Great Irish Famine".
I have trouble with the last two paragraphs of your re-write. Peel actually began relief policies but they were scaled back by Russell. The relief began before the onset of the famine. Also it implies that repeal of the Corn Laws was an attempt to alleviate the famine, and would have been effective and implicitly criticizes the Conservatives for opposing it. I cannot find any source that argues in support of the British government's approach.
TFD (talk) 13:56, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

I've done a rewrite of the last two paragraphs. See if this is closer to the mark. Rick Norwood (talk) 19:43, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

I don't think this edit, above, has been added to the main text. Do we need to do some housekeeping to get the article up to date with existing changes? Please correct me if I am wrong. Accord 3702 (talk) 03:28, 10 August 2013 (UTC)

There have been many changes to the article since this 2012 discussion, but I don't think the particular changes discussed above were ever made. Rick Norwood (talk) 12:21, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
It was re-written. It currently says, "repeal of the Corn Laws came too late to stop Irish famine, partly because it was done in stages over three years." The sources say that repeal of the Corn Laws would have had no effect on the famine, but the comment "too little too late" is read to imply that it would have. Ironically repeal of the corn laws harmed Irish peasants whose main source of income during the famine was corn. TFD (talk) 15:46, 10 August 2013 (UTC)

Emphasis on Anti-Charity Anti-Welfare Faction[edit]

I find the emphasis on Social Darwinism (an intellectual disease hardly limited to classical liberalism) also disturbing. The article seems to use it as a bludgeon against libertarians. I agree that modern libertarianism is problematic (to put it mildly), but that isn't relevant to this article.

This is Wikipedia; rewrites are always an option. If you decide to do a major rewrite of this article, I recommend doing a little at a time, and waiting for comments before going on to the next bit. Rick Norwood (talk) 12:03, 18 April 2012 (UTC)
This article is not about libertarianism. TFD (talk) 15:07, 18 April 2012 (UTC)
It should not be, but in my opinion it is. Joeedh (talk) 00:10, 19 April 2012 (UTC)

In The Making of Modern Economics (M. E. Sharpe, 2009), Mark Skousen, who is a libertarian, says that 19th century liberalism came under the influence of Malthus and Ricardo, whom he believes misinterpreted Adam Smith, and this error was only corrected with the advent of neo-classical liberalism in the 1870s.[19] There is no difference in interpretation between them and the sources used for the article. TFD (talk) 17:54, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

Natural Law / Rights[edit]

I agree that this article suffers bias. It is also internally contradictory. For example, in relation to natural law it states:

'Classical liberalism is built on ideas that had already arisen by the end of the 18th century, ... stressing the belief in free market and natural law,[5] utilitarianism,[6] and progress.[7]'

and later states:

'Classical liberals saw utility as the foundation for public policies. This broke both with conservative "tradition" and Lockean "natural rights", which were seen as irrational.'

Bentham memorably referred to natural rights as 'nonsense upon stilts', and was no believer in natural law more generally. This points to the real problem with the article: for every proposition it makes about 'Classical liberals' important, even critical, exceptions can be found. Sometimes this produces apparent contradictions, as above. More often, competing liberal arguments are simply ignored.

The article needs to be:

a) more specific about the ideas held by and developed by individual political philosophers;
b) very careful when declaring common positions such as are introduced by the phrase 'Classical liberals believed ...';
c) clearer about the evolution of liberal ideas;
d) very careful when outlining the parts of the various doctrines that were actually implemented;
e) mindful that academic interpretations of individual philosophers still vary to this day.

At the moment any casual reader must come from the article thinking the philosophy cruel and unsympathetic (eg. 'they believed population growth would outstrip food production; and they considered that to be desirable, as starvation would help limit population growth'), and yet sympathy is one of the foundational ideas of utilitarianism, and starvation of the poor is absolutely not a part of the 'greatest happiness' principle. Accord 3702 (talk) 00:10, 8 August 2013 (UTC)

This is a controversial article, and needs attention by informed individuals who are not so passionate in their beliefs that they allow their passion to cloud their objectivity. Any improvements you can make are welcome. Part of the problem is that different classical liberals have said different things at different times. Rick Norwood (talk) 00:56, 8 August 2013 (UTC)
I corrected the sentence in the lead,[20] using Hudelson as a source.[21] The source used for "natural law"[22] did not support the text. As Hudelson points out, natural law and utilitarianism are contradictory, but both influenced classical liberalism. Nowhere does the article say the ideology was "cruel and unsympathetic" - that is your interpretation of what Malthus said. I agree it may not have been the "greatest happiness" theory, but it was part of "the greatest happiness for the greatest number." So a state that has a higher per capita income even if it has high income disparity has the greatest happiness for the greatest number.
The controversy comes from libertarians who fail to recognize that the Austrian school rejected classical liberalism even though they believe they are closer to them than other liberals. Note that Menger's marginal revolution is a rejection of Ricardo's labor theory of value.
TFD (talk) 03:29, 8 August 2013 (UTC)
Re TFD: Thank you for correcting the natural law reference. Unfortunately I am still not sure that the casual reader would understand the substantial evolution of attitude towards natural rights when comparing Locke with Bentham. Bentham ridiculed natural rights, but argued in favour of legal rights. This shift followed both the American War of Independence (considered entirely unnecessary from a utilitarian perspective - don't stand on natural rights, look at happiness instead) and the French Revolution (a blood-soaked disaster from the dominant utilitarian perspective).
In relation to the starvation issue, the sentence I quoted from the article provides no differentiation between Malthus's ideas and the ideas of other classical liberals. Instead it merely suggests that classical liberals 'adopted' these ideas. The sentence might better read: 'Malthus believed population growth would outstrip food production; and he considered that to be desirable, as starvation would help limit population growth'. The article might then go on to discuss to what degree these propositions (there are several of them in the sentence) were accepted by other key classical liberals. This goes to my more general point, I think reinforced by Rick Norwood's subsequent comment above, that the article should not confuse the theories of individual liberals with whatever theories classical liberals might have had in common. It is worth noting that John Stuart Mill and Francis Place did not believe Malthus's cure necessary or desirable. Apart from such a sentiment appearing nowhere in their writing, in the 1820s they were arrested for handing out contraceptives to help overcome unwanted pregnancy. They, and their colleagues, also fought for policies they believed would lower the price of food and increase its production. Their little clique was substantially responsible for the public works that resulted in life-saving sanitation in cities. However, let's not get bogged down in this example. The quoted sentence is just one in an article full of slippages. The next sentence too, 'They opposed any income or wealth redistribution, which they believed would be dissipated by the lowest orders.' is equally open to criticism for being too generalised and not taking into account utilitarian constitutional design and legal reforms. I think it fair to restate that 'any casual reader must come from the article thinking the philosophy cruel and unsympathetic'. Different, more humane, and more nuanced perspectives are readily available directly from the writings and political agitations of those generally labelled classical liberals. I hope to attend to the article in the future, but right now I am too busy to do anything but note these few items. Accord 3702 (talk) 06:23, 8 August 2013 (UTC)
If you disagree with the depiction, then you should provide sources that describe it differently. Certainly utilitarianism could lead to a different course of action, so could the labor theory of value. And JS Mill would take liberalism in a different direction. But the article is about classical liberalism, not writers like Marx, Mill and the Austrian school that came to be its opponents. Again, it is up to readers whether they think it is cruel. They believed that government should provide no assistance to the unfortunate other than workhouses. You may think that was cruel but that was actually their policy. TFD (talk) 07:18, 8 August 2013 (UTC)
Indeed I do hope to provide sources that will describe it differently. Certainly the writings of Bentham published by the Bentham Project at UCL and and writings about Bentham by Philip Schofield and others associated with the project, counteract the depiction in this article. But, of course, references from these and other works require working into a narrative, and that takes time which I currently don't have.
I think the sentence 'They believed that government should provide no assistance to the unfortunate other than workhouses.' gives quite a different complexion to the issue than 'they believed population growth would outstrip food production; and they considered that to be desirable, as starvation would help limit population growth'. When the workhouse policy is coupled with others of their policies, the whole appears far less cruel (if cruel at all) than the original 'starvation' sentence suggests.
I accept the task to provide some possible amendments, and will run them by you in this 'talk' area to see if you (and anyone else interested) agree with them and would like to add to or amend them. Naturally, I will provide full references. This could make for an interesting discussion and between us we should be able to develop this page a little, retaining, perhaps, contrasting views, which, after all, are legion in this contentious topic. I would expect to have much more time in a month or two. Accord 3702 (talk) 00:34, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
The article is about classical liberalism, not Bentham, and what is important is how his views were used or misused. You need to provide sources on classical liberalism. Workhouses btw were a replacement for outside relief - if that had not existed they probably would not have set up workhouses. TFD (talk) 01:36, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
The article is unclear about what is classical liberalism. From the article we can compile a list of attributes of classical liberalism. For example, according to the article, classical liberals adopted Thomas Malthus's population theory and 'they saw poor urban conditions as inevitable, as they believed population growth would outstrip food production; and they considered that to be desirable, as starvation would help limit population growth. They opposed any income or wealth redistribution, which they believed would be dissipated by the lowest orders'. J.S. Mill did not subscribe to this set of beliefs, but he is labelled a classical liberal economist in the article: '...classical liberal economists, such as J.S. Mill...'?
I agree with your comment 'what is important is how [Bentham's] views were used or misused. You need to provide sources on classical liberalism', though I see no reason why Bentham's works or commentators upon his works cannot also be used where appropriate. I suspect Bentham falls into the same category as Mill - a classical liberal theorist whose ideas differed in meaningful ways from Malthus and others. This might be said for all those referred to in the article - that they all differed from each other in meaningful ways. As I have suggested earlier, the article lacks nuance and clarity. It probably also needs to be clearer about the evolution of the ideas, too.
I will analyse the article, report my findings, and suggest repairs. Should there be a dispute we can submit it appropriately.
I would need evidence re 'if that had not existed they probably would not have set up workhouses'. Accord 3702 (talk) 02:32, 10 August 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────The view that Malthus coined the term "dismal science" because of Mill's anti-slavery views is fringe. Oddly enough the main article on Malthus on the same website says, "His apocalyptic vision and his widely accepted subsistence theory of wages (wages will drop to the minimum required to sustain a worker because high wages induce population growth) helped stigmatize economics as the "dismal science." I have therefore changed and moved the quote. Mill is best seen as a transitional figure between classical and social liberalism.

Regarding the reporting of influences, by comparison, an article about the Christian Right might say that they draw on the Bible and theologians such as Calvin. But we would not use sources for Jesus, Paul and Calvin that did not mention the Christian Right. If some of these source say that they misread their influences, then we can put that in too, subject to weight, because readers would be more interested in what the Christian Right believed, rather than what their influences actually said, which is rightly covered in other articles. The article already does point out some of the differences between influences and what the original writers said.

Regarding workhouses, one could argue that by reducing entitlements and making them harder to obtain, rather than abolishing them, that governments are showing their support of those programs. The article does say that classical liberals accepted some state intervention. Even the most doctrinaire politicians allow some compromise.

TFD (talk) 19:06, 10 August 2013 (UTC)

Frederick Bastiat[edit]

RE: TFD below: The Continental school of Classic Liberalism is regarded among scholars as the purest representation. Ideologically the themes were the same however French classic liberals applied them more broadly & consistently. Bastiat is as key a representation of this school of thought as Thomas Jefferson who you have engaged in an edit war to censure from the opening paragraph. Lesser, but also notable Classic Liberals from the French school of thought who belong mentioned in the article include Turgot & Cantillon. I am going to look at where to appropriately include them later. user:kckranger —Preceding undated comment added 16:09, 18 December 2013 (UTC)

Say, who was French, and his contribution are discussed in the article. So is Hayek's view about the difference between French and English classical liberalism. TFD (talk) 10:51, 19 December 2013 (UTC)

I question the inclusion of Frederick Bastiat in the lead. He wrote long after classical liberalism had developed and is not mentioned elsewhere in the article. It is probably more accurate to say that he was a major influence on Austrian economics. The source, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, says "he was the preeminent advocate of [classical] liberal thinking in France during a crucial stage of history."[23] Yet there is nothing in the article about French liberalism. I will remove his name from the lead. If someone wants to add a section on French classical liberalism to the article, then we can mention his significance. TFD (talk) 18:00, 18 April 2012 (UTC)

I agree. Bastiat was a minor intellectual figure and a very popular writer best known for witty short essays. Politicians read him, but few economists. As for original ideas, perhaps you could point to his use of counterfactual assumptions ("what would have happened if this subsidy had not existed is XYZ and that is better than what did happen ABC") He seems to take most of his ideas directly from Adam Smith. Béraud and Etner (1993) say he never founded a school and his ideas were rejected by the leading economists of his time. [Revue d'Economie Politique, 1993, Vol. 103 Issue 2, pp 287-304] Rjensen (talk) 18:20, 18 April 2012 (UTC)

Carlyle's "dismal science" remark[edit]

The article says: "The pessimistic nature of these theories led to Carlyle calling economics the dismal science and it provided a basis of criticism of capitalism by its opponents".

This is actually false. The actual reason why Carlyle called economics "the dismal science" is that most economists of his time strongly opposed slavery:

I'm assuming that Mills (the reference used for the claim) simply imagined a reason for why Carlyle would have called it "dismal", rather than actually reading Carlyle. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Upsidown (talkcontribs) 06:53, 29 May 2012 (UTC)

If true, this should be in the article. I always thought economics was called the "dismal science" because econ 101 teachers were boring. Rick Norwood (talk) 13:21, 29 May 2012 (UTC)
That is David M. Levy's personal reading of Carlyle, but does not appear to have influenced the mainstream view. Note that the source used was written after Levy's book was published. As Levy acknowledges, "almost everyone knows that it was given this description by Thomas Carlyle, who was inspired to coin the phrase by T. R. Malthus's gloomy prediction...." Can you provide any sources that show that Levy's views have gained any acceptance? TFD (talk) 17:05, 29 May 2012 (UTC)
I'm not sure I understand this usage of "mainstream view". You mean, "the mainstream view of what Carlyle meant"? Surely there is a fact of the matter about why Carlyle used the phrase, independent of whether many people suppose something else erroneously. Austinecon (talk) 17:17, 29 May 2012 (UTC)
The overwhelming majority of economists who have read Carlyle's essay have come to the same conclusion. While it may be that they are all wrong and Levy is right, we need to present the mainstream interpretation, per WP:WEIGHT. Here is a link to Carlyle's essay. Carlyle does not say "I call it the dismal science because it opposes slavery" and in any case classical liberals were divided on slavery. He does say that under the principles of classical economics, the West Indies would have to experience famine before pre-emancipation levels of production would return. TFD (talk) 17:53, 29 May 2012 (UTC)
The references cited so far don't seem to be giving evidence of economists reading and giving an interpretation of Carlyle. Even the Mill reference just says, essentially, "19th century economics was depressing, and therefore it really deserves the moniker of 'dismal science,'" which is somewhat different. (You're right, the hypothetical quote you give does not appear in the Carlyle essay. But even setting aside the title, the paragraph where he first uses the phrase "dismal science" does refer to support for Black emancipation but does not refer to the iron law of wages or Malthusian population theory.) Do we have other references that suggest this is how Carlyle is in fact read by the overwhelming majority? If there are, they might be better citations.Austinecon (talk) 21:17, 29 May 2012 (UTC)
See for example Diane Coyle's The Soulful Science: What Economists Really Do and Why It Matters, Princeton University Press, 2010, p.42. "[Malthus' "Essay on the principle of population"] earned economics the description the "dismal science" from historian Thomas Carlyle."[24] I notice that the source you originally provided was from the Library of Economics and Liberty. Sources like that tend to present an alternative view to the mainstream. While these views may in fact be correct and the mainstream views wrong, Wikipedia policy requires that we assign greater weight to mainstream views. Levy appears to be arguing the libertarian view that slavery was a remnant of feudalism and not part of capitalism. Carlyle is a convenient scapegoat for the system which was supported by Jefferson and Jackson. TFD (talk) 03:06, 30 May 2012 (UTC)
Not my link. (Though much of Econlib seems to be fairly standard stuff. Not that it doesn't sometimes have a POV (though which POV will vary), but I wouldn't call it generically heterodox in the profession.) Do we have a cite that deals with the Carlyle text directly, or (in the interest of being mainstream) doesn't refer to modern economics as "autistic economics" at the same link?Austinecon (talk) 05:26, 30 May 2012 (UTC)
The source(s) provided are adequate to support the text. If you want to persue this further, I suggest you take it to a noticeboard. But it seems a waste of time to promote an unusual and unnoticed reading of Carlyle that contradicts mainstream consensus. Having read Carlyle's article, I am puzzled by Levy's conclusions. TFD (talk) 06:51, 30 May 2012 (UTC)
If you read Carlyle's article, you will see that it is solely about the foolishness of opposing slavery, and that it does not even mention Say, Ricardo, or Smith, as the Wikipedia article currently and falsely implies. He says that supply and demand don't work in the slavery context, because former slaves are too lazy to work on their own given that pumpkins are so plentiful in the West Indies. (Yes, he really was that racist.) In any event, the fact that "mainstream" people have sugarcoated Carlyle's views does not excuse the incorporation of obvious falsehoods into Wikipedia articles. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:31, 30 May 2012 (UTC)
Policy requires us to use the mainstream interpretation regardless of whether or not it is wrong. If you disagree with that approach, then you need to persuade Wikipedia to change its policies. TFD (talk) 17:09, 30 May 2012 (UTC)
I will open a dispute resolution noticeboard. We are challenging your view that the current interpretation is either correct or "mainstream," meaning it is accepted by most experts. Also, I believe TFD is slightly misrepresenting Wikipedia's policy: just because a lot of people, even most, believe something does not mean it is what should be on Wikipedia if it cannot be sourced as the consensus view of experts. ZG (talk) 20:59, 30 May 2012 (UTC)
The actual source of the quote being referenced is a better cite than someone's opinion about the quote. Really, this whole section looks like someone simply decided to restate one particular book's opinion on the matter, rather then seeking a variety of mainstream views. I suppose that's one of the reasons the article's POV is questioned above. (talk) 19:16, 30 May 2012 (UTC)
There's no evidence of a "mainstream interpretation" other than Mills' one-sided critique of economics as a profession. Moreover, the "mainstream" is often wrong -- if the "mainstream" falsely attributes a quotation to Mark Twain (as is often the case), it is a completely stupid rule to say that the "mainstream" and FALSE opinion should be what is represented as the truth on Wikipedia. So please, stop pushing stupidity. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:36, 30 May 2012 (UTC)
If you wish to challenge policy then present your arguments there. Your source says it is a mainstream view and he wrote the article to show that the mainstream view is wrong. When he succeeds, let me know. TFD (talk) 21:11, 30 May 2012 (UTC)
As I read the Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question (a few years ago), Carlyle considers economics "dismal" not because it's pessimistic (does the essay touch on Malthus at all?) nor simply because it's an argument against slavery (that would imply that Carlyle considered slavery good in itself rather than for its benefits), but because by reducing everything to numbers it blinds its practitioners to the intangible spiritual benefits of a cherished institution (such as his topic at hand, slavery) — a view akin to that of the joke "An economist is one who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing." —Tamfang (talk) 21:43, 30 May 2012 (UTC)

Our article dismal science sucks and needs love. Fifelfoo (talk) 07:39, 30 May 2012 (UTC)

Dispute Resolution Noticeboard[edit]

This article is being discussed at Wikipedia:Dispute resolution noticeboard#Classical Liberalism. --Guy Macon (talk) 03:44, 31 May 2012 (UTC)

In the course of the edit war, the paragraph has greatly diverged from the cited sources. For example, the paragraph cites Richardson for the claim that "Utility...became the central ethical value of all liberalism." What Richardson says is, "It is occasionally quesioned whether utilitarianism should be included within liberalism."
In light of what was said at the Dispute resolution noticeboard, I suggest the following replacement for the disputed paragraph:
"Most modern liberals cite utilitarianism as a rationale for the public policies they recommend[1]. This broke both with conservative "tradition" and Lockean "natural rights", which utilitarians argued were irrational. Although utilitarianism inspired wide-ranging reforms, it was also used as a justification for laissez-faire economics, which entered the public discourse not in the moderate form expressed by classical economists, but in a dogmatic version that cited Thomas Malthus to agrue that population expansion rendered all attempts to help the poor ineffectual. According to this dogmatic version of laissez-faire, the only possible economic approach was for the government to refrain from trying to solve social problems. The Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 was defended on "scientific or economic principals" while the authors of the Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601 were seen as not having had the benefit of reading Malthus.[2]. This view led Thomas Carlyle to write "the Social Science ... which finds the secret of this universe in 'supply-and-demand,' and reduces the duty of human governors to that of letting men alone, is ... a dreary, desolate, and indeed quite abject and distressing one; what we might call, by way of eminence, the dismal science."[3] [4] Rick Norwood (talk) 19:19, 31 May 2012 (UTC)
Thank you for attempting a compromise. As I understand it, you are recommending a direct quote from a primary source, allowing the reader to decide how it should be interpreted. I do not find that beneficial however because it entails selecting what part of the available primary sources to use, which is choosing an interpretation. I also think that WP:WEIGHT precludes us from even considering the views of tiny minorities when there is a mainstream consensus. We would not say for example in a section in an article about giraffes explaining their evolution, that some biologists believe that they were actually created in their present form 6,000 years ago, although we might mention that some biologists question evolution in an article about evolution. TFD (talk) 19:34, 8 June 2012 (UTC)

Your analogy seems strained. Carlyle said what he said, and what he said is relevant to this article. The fact that what he said has often been misinterpreted is at best a footnote, and not relevant to this article. Rick Norwood (talk) 11:53, 9 June 2012 (UTC)

Bodily integrity[edit]

An editor added "bodily integrity" to the first sentence of Classical liberalism#Overview so it would read "Classical liberalism places a particular emphasis on the sovereignty of the individual, with private property and bodily integrity".[25] This seems unneccessary, because sovereignty of the individual is defined is defined as "the concept of property in one's own person, expressed as the moral or natural right of a person to have bodily integrity". Classical liberalism did not emphasize bodily integrity any more than it emphasizes private property. Rather it emphasized the individual's right to bodily integrity and the individual's right to private property. Also it has not been established that the term "bodily integrity" is widely used and therefore there is no reason to include it. TFD (talk) 19:22, 8 June 2012 (UTC)

I concur. Rick Norwood (talk) 11:53, 9 June 2012 (UTC)

shorten the lede?[edit]

DemitreusFrontwest (talk · contribs) shortened this to

I reverted partly because of a grammar problem – the apparent antecedent to it is liberalism, so "a political ideology in which liberalism advocates..."? — and partly because it's not obvious to me that adding liberalism is worth dropping limited government, constitutionalism and due process. —Tamfang (talk) 22:46, 21 August 2012 (UTC)

I disagree with the change and thank you for reverting. We are supposed to report what sources say about subjects. TFD (talk) 05:36, 22 August 2012 (UTC)

Any objection to beginning with "Classical liberalism is...."? —Tamfang (talk) 05:47, 22 August 2012 (UTC)

Isn't that how it began before? TFD (talk) 05:57, 22 August 2012 (UTC)
Was the word liberalism linked before? —Tamfang (talk) 07:58, 22 August 2012 (UTC)

I do think the first sentence could be shorter. I'm going to make an attempt to say the same thing in fewer words. Rick Norwood (talk) 12:53, 22 August 2012 (UTC)

We need to resolve this issue of philosophy and geography.[edit]

Looking at the history of article I think there’s an immediate need to understand what this article is. Classical liberalism is political philosophy derived from economic science. While its history is important this is not an article on geography. It is an article on ideology. I hope this clarifies some of the issues raised.

E.G. The inclusion of historical figures. I can see in the above history an issue came up about Bastiat and people proposed to resolve it by creating a separate heading called "French classical liberalism". This is completely unnecessary. Frédéric Bastiat was a significant figure in classical economics and French politics (he sat on the left of the French parliament, which is where we get our terms left and right today) so there could be an argument made for the inclusion of a section on French politics. Here we could include the French revolution, the Jacobins etc. But Frédéric Bastiat is primarily important to classical liberalism because he developed economic science and this is not relative to France. We could likewise include Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot (French), Adam Smith (Scottish), Carl Menger (Austrian) and Murray Rothbard (American) for their roles in developing economic science as a logical praxeological discipline independent of the political history of any particular geography. But of course none of these men were politically neutral. None of them worked in a vacuum. They were influenced by each other and there is a historical narrative to the development of the classical liberal philosophy (which encompasses both economic and political philosophy). It isn't a valid reason to remove any of these figures because of geographic reasons. Period.

Another issue coming from this confusion about geography and philosophy that I noticed was the Irish potato famine. Any of you familiar with Ralph Raico the eminent classical liberal historian may know the consensus classical liberal analysis of the famine. The reason Ireland was devastated while other countries survived was due to their issues with industrialisation. The bug that wiped out potatoes actually hit many European countries but it was only so destructive in Ireland because they were still in the stages of an agricultural revolution. Development had been retarded in Ireland by a tyrannical English state which refused to recognise the property rights of Irish citizens. Because people were reluctant to work in what amounted to serfdom for land barons Ireland didn't develop capitalism at the same speed as England's industrial revolution. When the potato bug hit they didn't have an economy able to cope. (This is a crucial incident in the history of classical liberalism but I’d like to emphasis again: this is not a geographical issue. It is a philosophical and economic one. It is relevant as historical background to a philosophy which is international.

From looking at the history of this page I can see a couple of the same editors from the "liberalism" article routinely censoring peoples contributions. I assumed that this was because the users simply were more knowledgeable about social liberalism and were reluctant to allow classical liberal ideas but now this seems more like censorship. I would appreciate it if Rick Norwood and The Four Deuces responded to this so we can resolve this clearly political issue and get down to improving Wikipedia. Jake Rothbardanswer (talk) 18:09, 8 October 2012 (UTC)

Here is a list of references which should be relevant for anyone making future contributions:

  • Denson, John V. "A Century of War". Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2006. ISBN 1-933550-06-6
  • Denson, John V. "The Costs of War: Americas Pyric Victories". New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1996. ISBN 0-7658-0487-5
  • Denson, John V. "Reassessing the Presidency: The Rise of the Executive State and the Decline of Freedom". Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2001. ISBN: 0-945466-29-3
  • Raico, Ralph. "Great Wars and Great Leaders". Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2010. ISBN 978-1-61016-096-4
  • Raico, Ralph. "Classical Liberalism and the Austrian School". Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2012. ISBN 978-1-61016-003-2
  • Turgot, Anne Robert Jacques. "The Turgot Collection" Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2011. ISBN 978-1-933550-94-7
  • Bastiat, Claude Frédéric. "The Bastiat Collection: Second Edition". Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2007. ISBN 978-1-61016-200-5
  • de La Boétie, Étienne. "The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude" Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 1975. ISBN 978-1-61016-123-7
  • Menger, Carl. "Investigation into the Method of the Social Sciences with Special Reference to economics" New York: New York University Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8147-5396-5
  • Von Böhm-Bawerk, Eugen. "Control or Economic Law" Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2010. ISBN 978-1-933550-71-8
  • Von Mises, Ludwig. "Liberalism: The Classical Tradition". Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005. ISBN 0-86597-586-8
  • Von Mises, Ludwig. "Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, The Scholar's Edition". Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 1998. ISBN 0-945466-24-2
  • Von Mises, Ludwig. "Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War". Spring Mills, PA: Libertarian Press, 1985. ISBN 0-910884-15-3
  • Von Mises, Ludwig. "Economic Freedom and Interventionism". Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006. ISBN-10: 0865976732
  • Von Mises, Ludwig. "The Anti-Capitalist Mentality". Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006. ISBN 0-86597-671-6
  • Von Mises, Ludwig. "Theory and History". Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005. ISBN 0-86597-569-8
  • Von Mises, Ludwig. "Planned Chaos: An Excerpt from Socialism". Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 1981. ISBN 978-1-933550-60-2
  • Nock, Albert Jay. "Our Enemy the State". Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers, 1950. ISBN-10: 0873190238
  • Rothbard, Murray N. "The Ethics of Liberty". New York: New York University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8147-7559-4
  • Rothbard, Murray N. "Conceived in Liberty". Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2000. ISBN 0-945466-26-9
  • Rothbard, Murray N. "Left, Right and the Prospects for Liberty". Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2010. ISBN: 978-1-933550-78-7
  • Rothbard, Murray N. "Man, Economy, and State" Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute,2004. ISBN 0-945466-30-7
  • Rothbard, Murray N. "For a New liberty". Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute. 2006. ISBN 0-945466-47-1
  • Rothbard, Murray N. "Economic Thought Before Adam Smith". Massachusetts: Edward Elgar Publishing, 1995. ISBN 0-945466-48-X
  • Robbins, Lionel. "The Great Depression". Freeport, New York: Books for Libraries Press. ISBN 0-8369-5711-3
  • Tausigg, F.W. "The Tariff History of the United States" New York: The Knickerbocker Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1-61016-132-9
  • Lane, Rose Wilder. "The Discovery of Freedom: Man's Struggle Against Authority" New York: The John Day Press, 1943. ISBN 978-0930073008
  • Summer, William Graham. "What Social Classes Owe Each Other" Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers, 1974. ISBN 978-0870041662
  • Chodorov, Frank. "One is a Crowd: Reflections of an Individualist" New York: The Devin-Adair Company, 1952. ISBN 0-913966-73-8
  • Chodorov, Frank. "The Rise & Fall of Society: An Essay on the Economic Forces That Underline Social Institutions" New York: The Devin-Adair Company, 1959. ISBN 978-1-62129-021-6
  • Paul, Ron. "Freedom Under Siege: The U.S. Constitution After 200 Years" Lake Jackson, Texas: The Foundation for Rational Economics and Education, 1987. ISBN 978-0874770315 — Preceding unsigned comment added by Rothbardanswer (talkcontribs) 18:13, 8 October 2012 (UTC)

Jake Rothbardanswer (talk) 18:35, 8 October 2012 (UTC)

The question is one of weight. It is understandable, if you are writing a Ph.D. thesis on von Mises, that he looms large in your view. But few major economists take von Mises seriously. See, for example, Milton Friedman's criticisms of von Mises. As an example of his relative unimportance, von Mises is not listed at all in the Concise Columbia Encyclopedia, which does list Milton Friedman. I picked three books at random from my bookshelf: Contending Liberalisms in World Poilitics, An intellectual History of Liberalism, and, for balance, The Conservatives. None list von Mises in the index. Two of the three list Friedman. Rick Norwood (talk) 19:47, 8 October 2012 (UTC)
  1. Choosing sources because they are published by the LMI violates the policy of neutrality. Note that preference is given to recent work published by academic publishers. Many of the sources lifted above are old. Summer's article was published in 1884. Ron Paul is not an expert.
  2. Articles are about topics, in this case orthodox 19th liberalism. The Austrian School rejected this orthodoxy, in particular the views of Adam Smith, Malthus and Ricardo. No one today adheres to this ideology. See for example, Mark Skousen's article, "Classical Economists, Good or Bad? Their Theories Weren't Always on Target, but Their Solutions Were Usually Correct".[26]
  3. Bastiat had little influence on 19th century liberalism, even in France. He is best remembered for his witty essays.
  4. You should not accuse other editors of censorship, which assumes bad faith. Certainly there are many articles where Austrian economics, and perhaps you could write an article about the Austrian analysis of 19th century liberalism.
  5. We had a long discussion about the Irish famine, and while one or two libertarians presented an alternative to the mainstream view, there appears to be nothing supporting this vies published in academic writing. You might want to write one.

TFD (talk) 19:57, 8 October 2012 (UTC)

Jake (Rothbardanswer), please write more concise and shorter messages. Me, and other editors, can't join the discussion like this. --MeUser42 (talk) 21:19, 8 October 2012 (UTC)

Core principles and overview section need to merged and trimmed[edit]

There's not supposed to be an overview section, the lead functions as an overview. Right now, both the Core principles and overview section serve more or less the same function. They should be merged and trimmed, with appropriate parts spun off and some incorporated into the lead. Thoughts? LK (talk) 03:38, 9 October 2012 (UTC)

The overview section appears to be confused and not addressing the topic. I will therefore remove it. If there is any part you find to be relevant, please restore in the relevant section. TFD (talk) 05:30, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
Good job. I would have done the same, but I was not sure if there was any history with the editing of this article that I was not familiar with. LK (talk) 06:33, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
That was a destructive move, deletion of a lot of information. I've merged the two sections instead, as suggested. Most of it appears to be well sourced so I suggest just going through it and deleting that which isn't sourced instead of carelessly wiping it all out. The "Core principles" which wasn't deleted appears to be less sourced, so I don't know why one was deleted and other not instead of just merging. Big Large Monster (talk) 12:44, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
Other than Hayek's distinction between English and French classical liberalism, most of this section is a collection of random facts that are mentioned or could be mentioned in other parts of the article. The claim that classical liberals necessarily believed in inalienable rights is incorrect, Bentham called it "nonsense on sticks". The section confuses influences on classical liberalism and liberalism influenced by classical liberalism with core classical liberalism. TFD (talk) 16:38, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
Inalienable rights is incorrect or unsourced? "Incorrect" is not relevant for Wikipedia purposes. Big Large Monster (talk) 00:36, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
The source is an 1819 letter by Thomas Jefferson, who was an early American statesman. He does not mention liberalism in the letter and using this primary source in the article without any explanation from a secondary source of how it relates to the article is original research. TFD (talk) 02:36, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
I agree. Big Large Monster (talk) 02:37, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Why do we have the two sections 'Core principles' and 'overview' again? They perform the same function and are redundant. Was there a large revert that I missed? LK (talk) 05:53, 29 October 2012 (UTC)

I agree and will again remove the overview section. TFD (talk) 07:38, 29 October 2012 (UTC)


I certainly agree with you about the importance of civility, MeUser42. I've edited my earlier comment accordingly. Rick Norwood (talk) 11:59, 9 October 2012 (UTC)

Recent edits[edit]

See also links should only be provided where topics are not discussed in the article. So for example there is no need to add "laissez-faire" because it is already mentioned 14 times in the article and should already have a link, as was done here. (See WP:LINK.) Also, text should not be added to the article that is not supported by the sources, as in these edits:[27][28]. Please follow Wikipedia policy of verifiability and neutrality. TFD (talk) 02:21, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

What social liberals believe.[edit]

The best evidence for claims about what social liberals believe would be statements of their beliefs by social liberals, not statements by the Cato Institute, which is hostile to social liberalism, about what the Cato Institute says social liberals believe. Rick Norwood (talk) 14:37, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

I do not see that the text, whichever version is used, is supported by the sources. David Kelley, who is an objectivist, wrote about classical liberals in the past tense, and does not say that they had any views on modern liberalism at all. The next source, the Edinburgh Companion to Contemporary Liberalism, p. 55, is about Kant. I believe btw that if we choose to use partisan sources such as books from the CATO Institute, we need to mention the writer inline. I don't see however that "group rights" are an essential part of social liberalism, and no source has been presented that makes this claim. Suggest deletion of this passage. TFD (talk) 15:45, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

Free markets[edit]

I see no reason to change "free markets" to "economic freedom". The first source, Hudelson, says "free markets", the second says neither. The third source, Bronfenbrenner's 1955 essay, "The Two Concepts of Economic Freedom", added by Rothbardanswer, says that communists, socialists, and traditional and modern liberals all support economic freedom.[29] I suppose the difference would be that traditional liberals support free markets. TFD (talk) 20:36, 12 October 2012 (UTC)

Free markets and economic freedom are not the same, and laizzes-faire capitalism is different from either. Economic freedom means that individuals have a right to be secure in their property, and to engage in economic transactions with other individuals, within the bounds of law. Free markets has to do with tarriffs. The main thrust of Adam Smith is that tarriffs, which were the primary source of government revenue in the early days of the United States, are counterproductive. Laissez-fair capitalism opposes tariffs, but also opposes taxes and government regulation, which Adam Smith supported. Rick Norwood (talk) 13:08, 13 October 2012 (UTC)
These are very analogous terms, but I too see no reason to change. --MeUser42 (talk) 13:15, 13 October 2012 (UTC)
The Wikipedia article which uses Bronfenbrenner's article as a source, identifies two definitions of economic freedom: "free markets" and private property, and "freedom from want", the first one being associated with libertarianism. We avoid ambiguity by avoiding the term. Also, it seems anachronistic - did Smith, Malthus and Ricardo probably never used the term. TFD (talk) 13:54, 13 October 2012 (UTC)

Edit war[edit]

Looks like we've got another edit war on our hands, with two very different versions of the page swapping back and forth. These things consume a huge amount of time and energy, and usually go on until somebody gets tired, and the final version is not necessarily the best, just the one by whoever had the most spare time on their hands. It would be nice if people would work through major edits slowly, cooperating with other editors instead of insisting on either one version or the other. Rick Norwood (talk) 20:47, 13 October 2012 (UTC)

Unless there's something I'm missing, the edit seems to be a good contribution. --MeUser42 (talk) 22:48, 13 October 2012 (UTC)

It may be. But it is also a large contribution, difficult to examine line by line, which is what is necessary to decide whether it is a good contribution or not. Further, the edit war makes it a waste of time to work line by line, because any attempt at improving either version will likely be reverted by one side or the other. I'm not objecting to this particular edit, or favoring either version, but objecting to edit wars in general. There are better ways to edit Wikipedia. Rick Norwood (talk) 11:42, 14 October 2012 (UTC)

I also note your recent edit, MeUser42, which claims that to mention the sourced fact that "classical liberalism" leads to frequent depressions and recessions, the famous boom-and-bust cycle, is "POV pushing". When you remove sourced content that is not in accord with your POV, is that "pushing" the other POV, or just adding information? Rick Norwood (talk) 11:47, 14 October 2012 (UTC)

No, it is not. You need to differentiate between facts that are found in sources, and source-authors opinions, which are also found in sources. --MeUser42 (talk) 14:55, 14 October 2012 (UTC)
I think the point of the quote was merely that classical liberals advocated that government should do nothing to fight recessions, which is also what Austrians believe. However, as the Austrian economist Rothbard pointed out (Philosophers of Capitalism, p. 151), that government should do something is the "orthodox" view, shared by both Keynsians and monetarists.[30] BTW on the same page Rothbard blames government for causing recessions. That would include all the classical liberal administrations from Andrew Jackson to Calvin Coolidge. TFD (talk) 20:34, 14 October 2012 (UTC)

Economic freedom[edit]

An editor has changed the lead, removing some attributes of classical liberalism and changing free markets, which was sourced, to economic freedom, sourced to Martin Bronfenbrenner's 1955 essay, "Two Concepts of Freedom".[31] As the name infers, liberals support economic freedom while "traditional liberals" understand this to mean free markets.[32] It seems the change makes the lead less clear. TFD (talk) 17:00, 30 October 2012 (UTC)

We need to move beyond slogans. In this day and age everyone favors freedom of speech and freedom of the press (except the Islamists, who just killed a popular singer for "mocking" Islam). The difference between "classical liberals" and "liberals" is that classical liberals believe that the government cannot and should not do anything about problems such as unemployment, the boom and bust cycle, depression, and inflation; the market can take care of all these problems, and that attempts by the government to alieviate the suffering these things cause actually make them worse. The slogan "free trade" can mean anything from "no tariffs", the original meaning, to "banks can do anything they want", the current meaning. This article should just make clear that "classical liberals" accept inequality based on the fact that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, while "social liberals" think government should do something to put a floor under the declining income of the working class. Rick Norwood (talk) 17:42, 30 October 2012 (UTC)
That is because free trade and other liberal principles have become well-established, especially in the U.S. So instead of arguing whether or not free trade is a good thing, we question whether specific policies are consistent with the principle. TFD (talk) 15:24, 31 October 2012 (UTC)
Classical liberals do not believe that the poor would get poorer under laissez-faire, but richer (along with the rich getting richer as well). That's the whole point of their (e.g. Adam Smith) advocacy of free market economics. Big Large Monster (talk) 12:28, 2 November 2012 (UTC)

I understand that. But when, in fact, the poor get poorer, classical liberals do not think the government should do anything about it. As for Adam Smith, what the phrase "free markets" means today is very different from what it meant in Adam Smith's day. Rick Norwood (talk) 15:17, 2 November 2012 (UTC)

Free markets means the same thing today. It means government does not intervene to try to manipulate prices, supply or demand. That's left to market forces only. Big Large Monster (talk) 17:03, 2 November 2012 (UTC)
Also it's not quite true that classical liberals are in favor of the government doing nothing if the poor are getting poorer. They would call for moving toward freer markets to remedy that. But as for calling for the government to take money from the rich to give to the poor, you're right they don't want that. Big Large Monster (talk) 17:11, 2 November 2012 (UTC)
I take that back. There are a few exceptions of classical liberals that support welfare, like Hayek. Big Large Monster (talk) 17:24, 2 November 2012 (UTC)

I guess today "free markets" means different things to different people. Adam Smith lived in an age of authoritarian governments, and kings would often try to set wages and prices and use high tarriffs to raise revenue. That was obviously a bad thing, and if that is what you mean by free markets, everybody agrees with you. If, on the other hand, you mean by free markets no regulation of the money supply, no regulation of banking, no regulation of monopolies, no regulation of insider trading, then essentially no well-informed economists agree with that. Rick Norwood (talk) 17:38, 2 November 2012 (UTC)

Lots of people are against free markets as I've defined it. Many people support minimum wage laws, subsides, government-backed monopolies, protective tariffs (e.g. against China), mandating individuals buy health insurance (regulation of demand), and so on. Speaking of monopolies, for Adam Smith, monopoly referred to law-backed monopoly. There's no indication that he believed monopolies arise out of unregulated market forces. And Smith never expressed approval for the money supply being regulated by government but by the market. Most classical liberals are in favor of a gold standard. Big Large Monster (talk) 22:08, 3 November 2012 (UTC)
At least 80% of all econonomists understand that the gold standard leads to unstable markets, as more or less gold is discovered. I doubt that even among classical liberals "most" still cling to a gold standard. In any case, what Adam Smith believed, while it was the best economic wisdom of the 18th Century, is hardly relevant today. In the 18th century, most people owned small farms. Also, I note that "classical liberals" cherry pick Adam Smith. They like his emphasis on free markets, seldom mention his belief in a graduated income tax rate. Rick Norwood (talk) 23:27, 3 November 2012 (UTC)
80% of economists aren't classical liberals. But nearly all those who are are for a gold standard. And a "gold standard" is just a generic term to include other metals such as silver as well (as well as any other commodity). So the amount of gold in the world is not relevant. And a graduated income tax has nothing to do with free markets. That's not in opposition to classical liberalism. Tax policy tailored to manipulate markets, such as favoring one industry over the other, is what classical liberals would be against. We're talking about free "markets." Interference with natural market signals prevent the "invisible hand" from functioning, is their view. Big Large Monster (talk) 23:45, 3 November 2012 (UTC)

I apologize, I got into discussing the subject of this article, when we should be discussing the article itself. Rick Norwood (talk) 23:55, 3 November 2012 (UTC)

We need to distinguish between the subject of the article and neoclassical liberalism, e.g., Hayek, which claimed to be the heirs to the classical tradition and developed circa 1871 with the marginal revolution and became influential in Western countries about 100 years later. TFD (talk) 00:18, 4 November 2012 (UTC)
I think the introduction of the article already does that. Big Large Monster (talk) 00:45, 4 November 2012 (UTC)
Can you explain why you restored this passage? It says nothing about classical liberalism. It is talking about liberalism in general and does not even mention the points in the article.[33] Most of the passage appears to be original research with an attempt to find passages that may support what was written. TFD (talk) 01:37, 4 November 2012 (UTC)
I restored it because I assumed good faith that the citation was proper and there was no discussion or comment here that it was checked for verification before deletion. But you're right. It appears to be wading into both classical and modern and not explicitly distinguishing. Big Large Monster (talk) 02:52, 4 November 2012 (UTC)

The term "economic freedom", as you can see in the wiki article on it, is used with a variety of different meanings. Some even use it to refer to a concept similar to "freedom from want", which is one of the cornerstones of the welfare state. Terms like "laissez-faire" and "free market", on the other hand, are always used to refer to an economic policy in which the state strictly enforces property rights and does not intervene in the economy beyond that. Thus, they are clearer and less ambiguous. We should strive to remove ambiguity from articles whenever possible. User1961914 (talk) 12:51, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

I'd also like to add that Adam Smith did NOT advocate laissez-faire economics, and so that term may not be appropriate after his name. That term never appeared in his books, and he certainly would have known of it, and the theory behind it. He was in favor of banking regulations, for example, because taking away a small amount of liberty from bankers promoted a large amount of liberty among everyone else, by preventing banking crises. From Wealth Of Nations: “To restrain private people, it may be said, from receiving in payment the promissory notes of a banker, for any sum whether great or small, when they themselves are willing to receive them; or, to restrain a banker from issuing such notes, when all his neighbours are willing to accept of them, is a manifest violation of that natural liberty which it is the proper business of law, not to infringe, but to support. “Such regulations may, no doubt, be considered as in some respects a violation of natural liberty. But those exertions of the natural liberty of a few individuals, which might endanger the security of the whole society, are, and ought to be, restrained by the laws of all governments; of the most free, as well as of the most despotical. The obligation of building party walls, in order to prevent the communication of fire, is a violation of natural liberty, exactly of the same kind with the regulations of the banking trade which are here proposed.”

The term "invisible hand" is maybe the most quoted-out-of-context phrase in all of the humanities. He wasn't talking about markets when he used that term- which was only once. MBVECO (talk) 17:09, 15 April 2013 (UTC)MBVECO

The article does not say Smith advocated laissez-faire. Also, the article is about classical liberalism, and therefore presents ideas they found in Smith and other writers. TFD (talk) 17:30, 15 April 2013 (UTC)

See also[edit]

There is a dispute about whether there should be a "See also" section. The relevant manual of style guideline says, "The links in the "See also" section should be relevant, should reflect the links that would be present in a comprehensive article on the topic, and should be limited to a reasonable number. As a general rule the "See also" section should not repeat links which appear in the article's body or its navigation boxes. Thus, many high-quality, comprehensive articles do not have a "See also" section." Here is a link to the list. Many of the links are already provided in the article and I question whether the others are necessary. TFD (talk)

The lead[edit]

A recent edit to the lead[34] appears to be biased. It says, "Liberalism is a political philosophy which classically drew on economic science developed by the Spanish scholastics... as well as the political philosophies of Thomas Aquinas, John Locke...." This is sourced to p. 58 of Liberalism and Republicanism in the Historical Imagination.[35] However the source does not mention scholastics or Aquinas. The edit also says that "social liberalism... developed around the progressive era", sourced to Contending Liberalisms in World Politics, p. 52.[36] In fact the source dates the origins of social liberalism earlier than the progressive era (pp. 37, 38). TFD (talk) 14:40, 9 December 2012 (UTC)

Thomas Jefferson advocated limited government, had reservations about standing armies, believed the common yeoman and farmer was/should be the backbone of government and commerce, etc. Seems his political and ideological aspirations contributed to 'Classical Liberalism' as much as anyone else and as such should be mentioned along with Locke, et al. -- Gwillhickers (talk) 02:28, 6 February 2013 (UTC)

Jefferson was an important figure in both classical and social liberalism, but he did not originate these ideas. He adapted Locke's ideas, and so he should be mentioned as a follower of Locke rather than along with Locke.Rick Norwood (talk) 16:02, 6 February 2013 (UTC)

Jefferson's relation to liberalism is an interesting and complex topic best discussed in Liberalism in the United States. He did not invent the concept of limited government, it was developed by Locke. His views on yeomen farmers do not seem more conservative than liberal and in any case not very practicle. TFD (talk) 17:21, 6 February 2013 (UTC)

Hayek's typology of beliefs[edit]

Does anyone know if Hayek's typology of beliefs, which is entirely sourced to his Constitution of Liberty, has received any attention from writers? TFD (talk) 13:41, 25 March 2013 (UTC)

I bet or knows. CarolMooreDC🗽 15:28, 25 March 2013 (UTC)


Please remove Pierre Trudeau, Lester Pearson, FDR, and whoever else some moron added. Thanks. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:24, 20 April 2013 (UTC)


The user's recent edit made the article a) less analytic/truthful and b) more ideological in several aspects:

  • the sections on Meaning of the term and Neo-classical and libertarian redefinition of the term were deleted in order to give a reader a wrong impression that the term in recent decades has not been high-jacked by libertaran ideologists, who
  • re-defined it by selectively ommitting from Adam Smith writings everything that was not in accord with their ideology,
  • such as Adam Smith noticing that not only labour's group rights are pursued at the expense of individual rights, but also the big corporations' rights are even more being pursued at the expense of Inequality of bargaining power. He wrote:[5]
A landlord, a farmer, a master manufacturer, a merchant, though they did not employ a single workman, could generally live a year or two upon the stocks which they have already acquired. Many workmen could not subsist a week, few could subsist a month, and scarce any a year without employment. In the long run the workman may be as necessary to his master as his master is to him; but the necessity is not so immediate.

I warn the editor not to try to impose his ideological selective ommisions here anymore or I will have to revert them all. --DancingPhilosopher (talk) 11:18, 28 April 2013 (UTC)

  1. ^ Richardson, "utilitarianism is usually seen as the dominant ethical theory in twentieth-century liberal societies", p. 31
  2. ^ Richardson, p. 33
  3. ^ Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question, Carlyle, p. 531
  4. ^ [2], Levy, David M., and Sandy J. Peart
  5. ^ Smith, A. (1776): Wealth of Nations, Book I, ch. 8

Dubious reference - John Mills "A critical history of economics"[edit]

Fully SEVENTEEN statements from this article cite one of a dozen pages from this reference "Mills, John. A critical history of economics. Basingstoke, Hampshire UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002 ISBN 0-333-97130-2" . When I look that book up in Amazon, its sales rank is over 11 million - meaning almost nobody ever buys it - and it has only ONE text review - one that gives two stars for historical inaccuracy! The book has no written reviews at all on Barnes&Noble or Google Books. The author claims to be "widely published in economics" but appears to be the head of a TV home shopping network ( this one: ) rather than any sort of academic expert. In short, that source seems dubious and far too heavily weighted. --Blogjack (talk) 05:58, 20 May 2013 (UTC)

Just looked into it. Agree that this book is not a reliable source particularly good source about the history of economics, or politics, or liberalism. Suggest using any of the dozens of textbooks available on the subject instead. LK (talk) 06:14, 20 May 2013 (UTC)
Palgrave Macmillan is an academic publisher and therefore reliable for facts. The book is widely used as a textbook in China. Although Mills runs a business, he is also on the executive committee of the Economic Research Council and secretary of the Labour Economic Policy Group. He has written many books on economics for mainstream publishers, including one co-authored with Bryan Gould, Labour's spokesman for trade and industry.[37] TFD (talk) 07:17, 20 May 2013 (UTC)
OK, I overstated the case. The book probably qualifies as a reliable source. But I still hold that there are better sources about history of economics. For instance, History of Economic Thought: A Critical Perspective, by E.K. Hunt and Mark Lautzenheiser,[38] is a standard textbook, and has been more frequently cited much by other scholars. (see google scholar search [39] vs [40]) LK (talk) 09:19, 20 May 2013 (UTC)

In any academic area, most textbooks say more or less the same thing. (In fact, one big complaint among academics is that every textbook publisher wants a new textbook to be as close to identical to the best-selling textbook as copyright laws permit.) The overuse of one textbook over against some other is only a problem if the textbook presents views not held in common with the consensus. Is that the case with Mills? Can you give an example of a particular statement referenced by Mills that is exceptionable? Rick Norwood (talk) 11:42, 20 May 2013 (UTC)

His book is used as the main source for "Intellectual sources", except for the section on Locke. Another textbook by Hunt is used as the main source for "Evolution of core beliefs" and Locke. Books by Richardson and John Gray are also extensively used. I have not noticed any differences in the sources. TFD (talk) 12:14, 20 May 2013 (UTC)


Why is the whole article apart from the introduction written in the past tense? Surely the ideological beliefs should be discussed in the present tense as there are still individuals and groups who support these ideas. At the moment the article reads as if this is a purely historical topic. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:24, 5 August 2013 (UTC)

You have a point. Do you want to try a rewrite? Rick Norwood (talk) 18:43, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
No one today defends all the tenets of classical liberalism that existed in the early 1800s. The labor theory of value for example has been replaced among neo-classical liberals by the market theory of value. Similarly Malthus population theories. TFD (talk) 19:05, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
OK, in that case maybe the short neoclassical liberalism section should be expanded? Or possibly even an article on neoclassical liberalism could be created? I don't know enough about the topic to do anything other than minor edits, I'm just putting suggestions forward because I'm interested in reading more about this topic and I'm quite surprised that there is only a couple of sentences on wikipedia at all. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:29, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
Those are both good suggestions. Whether or not articles are expanded or created however depends on whether volunteers want to do so. When I first worked on this article, and social liberalism, there was very little source material available. Any books that had sections on liberal history mostly drew from two books, DeRuggiero's 1927 and Arblaster's 1987 histories. I will see if I can find any new sources. TFD (talk) 18:30, 16 August 2013 (UTC)

O'Neil or Oneal[edit]

A recent edit changed a name from O'Neil to Oneal. Is this correct? Rick Norwood (talk) 19:56, 13 August 2013 (UTC)

Yes, apparently.[41] TFD (talk) 20:00, 13 August 2013 (UTC)

Founding Fathers[edit]

An editor has added to the lead, "Almost all of the American Founding Fathers were classic liberals including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Samuel Adams, Thomas Paine and others." It is sourced to a paper from the National Center for Policy Analysis.[42]

RE: TFD below. Firstly, I will go return with journaled or textbook sources then however not all are readily available for click through to internet users. Secondly, as to your remark about whether the statement is true I'm a bit unsure how to respond without sounding short with you as it is common knowledge. In fact, the Declaration of Independence is routinely taught as a statement of beliefs of the Classic Liberal ideology as a whole. Thirdly, Hamilton is not included in the list. Fourthly, Paine is the second most cited American Classic Liberal after Jeffferson due to his natural rights theory. User:kckranger

Since classical liberalism was primarily based on texts written between 1776 and 1798, it is anachronistic to say that the founding fathers were classical liberals. Furthermore, the influence of Locke on them has been questioned, so that modern scholarship divides them into liberals, such as Hamilton, and civic republicans. While libertarians may ignore Hamilton, the fact remains that he was the architect of U.S. economic policy until 1800. Classical liberalism really only triumphed in the U.S. with the election of Jackson.
Assuming they were classical liberals, it would still be questionable to include them in the lead, since the lead is supposed to summarize the article. The lead mentions Smith, Locke, Say, Malthus and Ricardo and each has a paragraph explaining their contribution. You would also have to include other liberal revolutions, such as the English revolutions of the 1600s the French revolution and the liberal revolutions of 1830 and 1848.
TFD (talk) 10:47, 19 December 2013 (UTC)
The preponderance of historians of this era will tell you that Classic Liberal ideology was a dominant factor in the American War for Independence. This predominant opinion is, among historians, known technically as the “soft” or “country” position. The far minority belief is called the "hard" or "court" position that the Founding Fathers acted pragmatically, driven by practical matters alone.
That Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Washington & Paine were Classic Liberals isn't even a matter of debate. In fact any treatise written in our time about Classic Liberalism will cite Jefferson & the Declaration of Independence as a central example of the ideology. Forrest McDonald's famous “We the People” presents clear cases for why Classic Liberal ideology was the dominant factor in the American War for Independence. The same position is mirrored by countless historians, some examples being Bernard Bailyn, Gordon Wood, and J.G.A. Pocock. Wood, for instance, directly called the American War for Independence a "radical event influenced by 18th century Enlightenment politics." Another source is Carl Richard’s “The Founders and the Classics.”
Is there any further objective reason you'd block such an important reference from the opening paragraphs of the description?
Bailyn, Pocock and Wood divide the Founding Fathers into liberals, such as Hamilton, and civic republicans. They identify the "country" position with civic republicanism and the "court" position with liberalism. Richard accepts the liberal/civic republican dichotomy, but says it was not as clear as the others believed and that Christianity was a major influence. McDonald's book is dated, it was published in 1958, but it does not mention liberalism at all. TFD (talk) 03:47, 21 December 2013 (UTC)
You have that backwards as far as the "country" & "court" positions are concerned. For a good example of court / hard position - that the Founding Fathers were driven merely by pragmatics - the most famous treatise is Charles Beard's “An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution.” Joyce Appleby is another. It is the "court" position that argues the Founders were not Classic Liberals & routinely cites as examples Hamilton & Jay. That is also why Founders like Hamilton & Jay are not included in the above list you engaged in the edit war with me over. The position that asserts the founders were Classic Liberals and driven primarily by ideology is the "country" or soft position.
Also Hamilton was not a liberal, he was very far from it in all respects but especially his mercantilist positions. It was Founders like Madison & Jefferson who were free traders that represent Classic Liberal ideology. For example consider that without looking it up it would be impossible to know if it was Adam Smith or Thomas Jefferson who said "The exercise of a free trade with all parts of the world [is] possessed by [a people] as of natural right."

I do not think this is important enough to include in the lead. The source is poor anyway. It is questionable too whether the statement is true. Hamilton's national policy, Jefferson's agrarianism and Paine's plans for a welfare state put them outside classical liberalism, and of course classical liberalism had not yet developed into a consistent ideology.

TFD (talk) 19:32, 17 December 2013 (UTC)

I agree with reversion of this questionable and contentious statement. Rick Norwood (talk) 23:10, 17 December 2013 (UTC)

One method of trying to gain support for an idea is to attribute it to the Founding Fathers, or to "almost all" of the Founding Fathers. But the Founding Fathers were a diverse and opinionated group, and just about the only thing "almost all" agreed about was independence from England. Just as the Founding Fathers had many beliefs, Classical Liberalism has many meanings. So, to say that "almost all" of the Founding Fathers were Classical Liberals does not serve to impart information, but rather to argue in favor of a particular point of view. Rick Norwood (talk) 21:49, 21 December 2013 (UTC)

kckranger, none of your sources claim that the founding fathers were classical liberals. Appleby for example says that liberalism did not become dominant in the U.S. until the early 19th century, which btw is consistent with what this article says. She also says that early 19th century liberals ahistorically read their own views into those of the founding fathers, which is consistent with what Rick Norwood says. TFD (talk) 22:25, 21 December 2013 (UTC)

PS - the correct answer is Jefferson, because Smith did not believe property was a "natural right", but was a right acquired from the government. TFD (talk) 02:03, 22 December 2013 (UTC)

Ageor's edit[edit]

Thanks for an excellent edit, Ageor. Rick Norwood (talk) 13:15, 27 December 2013 (UTC)

Hobbes & Locke[edit]

This article seems to have been subject to some... unusual... edits. Classic Liberalism was founded specifically on Locke's teachings and was a categorical rejection of Hobbes. The article was altered to state the precise opposite of the truth in this regard. I have undone the vandalism, and am making this note for future discussion on the topic.

KCKRanger (talk) 16:00, 15 March 2014 (UTC)

Article has been subject to a second vandalism, I have posted a remark to user TFD (talk) to cease an edit war on this topic and present any evidence as to why the opening paragraph should be altered to make it inconsistent with the rest of the article as it relates to striking Locke, the central figure in Classic Liberalism, and replacing his reference with one to Hobbes. While Hobbes was an Enlightenment era philosopher, he was not a Classic Liberal. Hobbes is best known for applying his conception of the social contract to show that an absolute sovereign was the only solution to the violence present in the state of nature. Not liberal in the least. KCKRanger (talk) 16:15, 15 March 2014 (UTC)
I have moved this discussion thread to the bottom of the page where it should have been posted originally. Other editors will not see it if it is posted to the top.
Please see WP:VANDAL#How not to respond to vandalism: "Avoid the word "vandal". In particular, this word should not be used to refer to any contributor in good standing, or to any edits that might have been made in good faith. This is because if the edits were made in good faith, they are not vandalism. Assume good faith yourself—instead of calling the person who made the edits a "vandal", discuss your concerns with them. Comment on the content and substance of the edits, instead of making personal comments." Falsely accusing other editors of vandalism is a personal attack.
The article does not say that Hobbes was a classical liberal merely that he was an influence. If you disagree with how the sources used for this article explain classical liberalism, then you need to provide sources, rather than inserting your own unsourced opinion.
TFD (talk) 21:42, 15 March 2014 (UTC)
The text you have repeatedly struck from the introduction is central to overall article and discussed at length elsewhere. It is therefore appropriate that 1 sentence relating to it exists in the introduction. Hobbes is not central to the body of the article and is barely mentioned elsewhere. That distinction aside the statements in relation to Hobbes & Locke are in no way mutually exclusive and nothing about the presence of one necessitates censorship of the other. The dubious statement you have repeatedly inserted over the central reference to Locke reads as follows:
"One example of classic liberalism's beliefs regarding the role of government is found in Thomas Hobbes's theory that government was created by individuals to protect themselves from one another."
Hobbes statements in that regard are not representative to Classic Liberal ideology, therefore the statement is factually untrue. I suggest you edit it to simply state Hobbes' position from a neutral point of view and remove the incorrect attribution to Classic Liberalism. Now, onto the text you have continually struck as follows:
"One example of classic liberalism's beliefs regarding the role of government is found in John Locke's belief that government was created to protect certain individual rights."
With the addition of sources to that statement once I revert it the new statement will read as follows:
One example of classic liberalism's beliefs regarding the role of government is found in John Locke's belief that government was created to protect certain individual rights.[1]. This is reflected best by Locke himself in the Second Treatise on Government when Locke remarks in Section 57 that, " the end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom."[2] KCKRanger (talk) 17:27, 15 March 2014 (UTC)


  1. ^ Smith, George H. (2013). The System of Liberty: Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. p. 138. ISBN 978-1-107-00507-5. 
  2. ^ Locke, John. "Second Treatise on Government". 
Of course Hobbes is mentioned in the body of the article and you should know that because your edit removed the paragraph about his contribution. You should not just quote Locke without some source that explains how his statement related to classical liberalism. In your example, he is referring to "The law, that was to govern Adam." It has nothing to do with the establishment of government. According to Locke, there was no government when there was only one person in the world, it was established later. And Locke's natural rights theory is not central to liberalism. TFD (talk) 23:50, 15 March 2014 (UTC)

It is not helpful, kckranger, to refer to another Wikipedian's edits as "vandalism". Assume good faith. I note that Locke is mentioned 20 times in the article, Hobbes is mentioned 3 times. While, Locke disagreed with Hobbes on many points, they were not diametrically opposite, and it would be odd if any modern ideas about government did not descend from the ideas of both. Taking kckranger's edits one at a time: he removed the reference to economic liberalism from the lead. According to the Wikipedia article economic liberalism "Economic liberalism is the ideological belief in organizing the economy on individualist lines, meaning that the greatest possible number of economic decisions are made by individuals and not by collective institutions or organizations." Sure sounds like a core belief of the people who self-identify as classical liberals. Next, kckranger changes the link from American conservatism to American conservatism. This distinction has been discussed here many times. The original meaning of "conservatism" was support of monarchy and established religion. While some American conservatives support an established religion, it is not as important to American conservatism as is was historically in Europe, and in any case is a part of American conservatism that classical liberals reject. Therefore the link to "American conservatism" is correct. Which brings us to Locke and Hobbes. Carefully rereading the lead, it seems clear that kckranger is correct about the lead contradicting itself. I'll see if I can do something about that. I've tried to summarize the body of the article without the confusion I found in the lead as it stood.Rick Norwood (talk) 13:08, 16 March 2014 (UTC)

Social liberalism[edit]

I understand the importance of the recent addition, but question its accuracy. It might be better to say that classical liberalism divided into neoclassical and social liberal strands. But social liberalism and socialism are distinct and in the UK social liberalism is represented by "Yellow Book" Liberal Democrats. And the U.S. Democrats are really half way between neoclassical and social liberalism and have never expressed an ideology. TFD (talk) 18:12, 20 March 2014 (UTC)

Agreed. It would make much more sense to describe this as either a split between social and economic liberalism or social liberalism and neoliberalism (sometimes called neoclassical). I understand that the "neoclassical" is supposed to include an earlier generation of economic liberals, but I've expressed my doubts about using the term below and on the libertarianism talk page. It's poorly sourced and most of the few existing 20th century sources seem to use it as a synonym for neoliberalism. Either way, the top part of this article is a huge mess. fi (talk) 04:17, 18 April 2014 (UTC)
Agreed. I came to the talk page for the exact same comment. Saying "classical liberalism developed into neo-classical liberalism" is misleading. Sure neo-classical liberalism exists and may have developed from classical liberalism, but classical liberalism is alive and well in libertarian thought. Libertarianism is much bigger than either "Right-Liberarianism"/Neo-classical liberalism or even just social liberalism so why have the article emphasize just one strand. IMO the paragraph should either be deleted or a reference to the development of modern libertarianism from classical liberalism should be mentioned. The article also has the problem of not recognizing the differences of the meaning of liberalism in the U.S. versus Europe. Rjedgar (talk) 13:54, 22 September 2015 (UTC)

Shoreranger's edit.[edit]

Good edit, Shoreranger. Rick Norwood (talk) 21:50, 21 March 2014 (UTC)

Only seeing this now - Thanks! Shoreranger (talk) 20:54, 7 July 2014 (UTC)

"it is also a liberal current opposed to Neoliberalism"?[edit]

This is last sentence of the lead. The grammatical and punctuation errors at the end of the lead aside, I'm a little confused by this statement. First, neoliberalism very proudly stakes a claim as a kind of return to classical liberal ideals and many in this camp fancy themselves as today's classical liberals. This has been disputed by a number of scholars; I'll copy-paste some sources from my recent post on the libertarianism talk page to illustrate:

  • World Literature Today (Volume 76, Issue 2 ed.). University of Michigan. 2002. p. 33. But it is precisely these institutional controls that are being undermined, with dedicated determination, in the social policies of the past twenty years, misnamed "neoliberal": They are hardly "new" and would shock the founders of classical liberalism. 
  • Barsamian, David; Naiman, ed. by Arthur (1998). The common good (1. print. ed.). Monroe, ME: Odonian Press. p. 6. ISBN 1878825089. The idea that great wealth and democracy can't exist side by side runs right up through the Enlightenment and classical liberalism, including major figures like de Tocqueville, Adam Smith, Jefferson and others. It was more or less assumed. 
  • Barsamian, David (1996). Class Warfare (1. print. ed.). Monroe, Me.: Common Courage Press. p. 21. ISBN 1567510930. This is true of classical liberalism in general. The founders of classical liberalism, people like Adam Smith and Wilhelm von Humboldt, who is one of the great exponents of classical liberalism, and who inspired John Stuart Mill -- they were what we would call libertarian socialists, at least that ïs the way I read them. For example, Humboldt, like Smith, says, Consider a craftsman who builds some beautiful thing. Humboldt says if he does it under external coercion, like pay, for wages, we may admire what he does but we despise what he is. On the other hand, if he does it out of his own free, creative expression of himself, under free will, not under external coercion of wage labor, then we also admire what he is because he's a human being. He said any decent socioeconomic system will be based on the assumption that people have the freedom to inquire and create -- since that's the fundamental nature of humans -- in free association with others, but certainly not under the kinds of external constraints that came to be called capitalism. 

And there's lots more, which seems to support the statement above. However, the claim does exist that groups like CATO, in advocating contemporary "small government" laissez-faire capitalism, are promoting John Locke, Adam Smith, David Ricardo and others when they promote the likes of, say, Ludwig von Mises or Friedrich Hayek. Should it be dismissed so casually? Some clarity here would be helpful. fi (talk) 03:54, 18 April 2014 (UTC)

Furthermore, the section "meaning of the term" goes on to describe the "neo-classical liberalism" as the 19th-come-20th century continuation of the classical liberal tradition. It's a fairly obscure term (the WP links to "neo classical liberalism" come right back to this very article!), but several of the (very few) references to "neo-classical liberalism" in 20th century publications describe it as a synonym for "neoliberalism." Since "classical liberalism" obviously can't both be and be opposed to neoliberalism, something is wrong here. fi (talk) 04:03, 18 April 2014 (UTC)

No need for your extensive research. Since the statement is unsourced it does not belong and I will remove it. TFD (talk) 06:55, 18 April 2014 (UTC)

See also section[edit]

I tend to agree with removing the "See also section." "See also section" says, "As a general rule, the "See also" section should not repeat links that appear in the article's body or its navigation boxes." Three of the topics are already linked in the article, while the fourth (constitutional liberalism) is a neologism coined by Fareed Zakaria.[43] TFD (talk) 18:38, 6 July 2014 (UTC)

NPOV of "In its most extreme form, it advocated Social Darwinism."[edit]

This line "In its most extreme form, it advocated Social Darwinism." Doesn't seem like it is a WP:NPOV. First this whole paragraph seems to not be about the subject of the article. The title of the section is "Meaning of the term" which one would think would talk about the meaning of the term "Classical liberalism", but then it goes on to say "classical liberalism developed into neo-classical liberalism" and talks about neo-classical liberalism. Now at that point it is no longer talking about the meaning of the term "classical liberalism" but about what derived from it. And then it starts talking about the "most extreme form" of it, which at best is talking about a fringe part of a derivative of Classical liberalism and using that try to attack Classical liberalism as just Social Darwinism. I mean imagine if someone said conservatism as "in the most extreme form of it (insert stuff about the westboro baptist church does)" or in explaining liberalism goes into "in the most extreme form (insert stuff about eco terrorism)" clearly these things would not be NPOV, as they are by definition "the most extreme form". --Obsidi (talk) 00:17, 1 November 2014 (UTC)

The text was originally in the lead, until an editor put in the heading "Meaning of the term." I have moved the header down so that it only includes the previous section of the lead that explains the meaning of the term.
Social Darwinism was a prominent feature of major neo-classical writers, such as Herbert Spencer and contributors to The Economist. I do not think the eco-terrorists or Westboro Church examples are appropriate, since it is not clear that either are part of liberalism or conservatism or that what distinguishes them is their extreme liberalism or conservatism. One could say that eco-terrorists are at the extreme end of environmentalism and the Westboro Church at the extreme end of U.S. Protestant fundamentalism. Whether or not one would mention them in those articles would depend on their significance within those topics.
TFD (talk) 01:10, 1 November 2014 (UTC)

Social Darwinism[edit]

An IP has twice removed reference to social darwinism, the second time saying, ""Social" Darwinism is using the weasel word referring to socialism, including socialist Charles Darwin."[44] Social Darwinism was certainly not a form of socialism and I can find no sources on what Darwin's personal politics were, and he certainly never advocated Social Darwinism. TFD (talk) 03:27, 29 November 2014 (UTC)

@The Four Deuces: With the statement on Social Darwinism having been removed and restored several times, it has proven itself to be quite controversial to various editors, and yet it isn't even sourced. It seems fringe to me (relative to mainstream classical liberalism): "Reliable sources must be cited that affirm the relationship of the marginal idea to the mainstream idea in a serious and substantial manner." This needs cited or subject to removal like it has been several times. Also, is the lead the best position for this statement anyways? I bring this up entirely in good faith, you seem more well versed in the subject than I am. Abierma3 (talk) 06:59, 27 June 2015 (UTC)

This topic has gotten fragmented, so I'm going to quote TFD's earlier reply from below:

Mayne writes, "The more extreme neo-classical liberals advocated social Darwinism, whereby the 'survival of the fittest' should apply to social and economic life as well as wildlife." (p. 124)[49] It is a non-controversial statement in a non-controversial textbook. The term has nothing to do with socialism or eugenics or atheism, as some editors think. TFD (talk) 15:03, 25 March 2015 (UTC)

Certainly to the extent that Classical liberals support laissez-faire economics, they support the survival of the economically fit, and oppose government aid for the economically unfit.

Rick Norwood (talk) 13:06, 27 June 2015 (UTC)

Thanks. And no one has presented any good reason why it should not be included. TFD (talk) 16:40, 27 June 2015 (UTC)
I added the source and also clarified that it is extreme neo-classical liberals who advocate this. The noun of the preceding sentence is classical liberalism while the object is neo-classical liberalism, so the pronoun "it" in the Social Darwinism sentence wasn't very clear as to who actually advocates for Social Darwinism. I also think it would be better to indicate the prevalence of this "extreme form" that advocates Social Darwinism. Just saying it's the "extreme form" doesn't really tell us much about its mainstream acceptance. Abierma3 (talk) 20:23, 27 June 2015 (UTC)
It should be removed because classical liberalism has not only continued in its present form, but has also developed into social liberalism. The paragraph emphasizes just one flavor of liberalism at the expense of others. It certainly doesn't belong in the introduction. Rjedgar (talk) 14:02, 22 September 2015 (UTC)
Classical liberalism has not continued in its original form. For example, the labor theory of value is widely abandoned and libertarians are more likely to read Austrian economists than Ricardo. TFD (talk) 17:31, 22 September 2015 (UTC)

Private landlords and privileged monopolies[edit]

And editor has added private landlords and privileged monopolies the first first sentence that says classical liberalism limited the power of the government.[45] I think it is out of place and will remove it. There is nothing in the article about it and it is not clear that they actually did this, and I will remove it. Also, I am also putting back the reference to economics being called the dismal science, since it is often discussed in reference to Malthus' theories.[46] TFD (talk) 00:49, 9 December 2014 (UTC)

Text of my edit: "Classical liberalism is a political philosophy and ideology belonging to liberalism in which primary emphasis is placed on securing the freedom of the individual by limiting the power of the government, private landlords, and privileged monopolies."

There cannot be any controversy on this matter from those who have actually read Smith, Locke, Ricardo, and John Stuart Mill.... so I don't see what is wrong with citing the writings of those philosophers (who *are* mentioned in this article) as evidence to support my assertion.Whomyl (talk) 02:20, 9 December 2014 (UTC)
You cannot use a reference such as "Primary sources: Smith, Locke, Ricardo, and John Stuart Mill", you need specific page numbers. And you need secondary sources that establish the significance of that view to classical liberalism if you insist on putting it into the very first sentence of the article. Furthermore, the lead is supposed to summarize the article and there is nothing in it about that. TFD (talk) 02:39, 9 December 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for the tips. For now I'll settle for this note in the talk page, but later I may add sources. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Whomyl (talkcontribs) 10:27, 9 December 2014 (UTC)

I can find more like this for most of the classical liberals you might be interested in. Would that help?

"Land, which is a necessity of human existence, which is the original source of all wealth, which is strictly limited in extent, which is fixed in geographical position. Land, I say, differs from all other forms of property in these primary and fundamental conditions.

"Nothing is more amusing than to watch the efforts of our monopolist ["land monopolist"] opponents to prove that other forms of property and increment are exactly the same and are similar hl all respects to the unearned increment in land....

"They tell us of the profits which are derived from a rise in stocks and shares, and even of those which are sometimes derived from the sale of pictures and works of art, and they ask us - as if it were the only complaint: "Ought not all these other forms to be taxed, too?"

"But see how misleading and false all these analogies are. The windfalls which people with artistic gifts are able from time to time to derive from the sale of a picture - from a Vandyke or a Holbein - may here and there be very considerable. But pictures do not get in anybody's way. They do not lay a toll on anybody's labour; they do not touch enterprise and production at any point; they do not affect any of those creative processes upon which the material well-being of millions depends."

- Winston Chuchill

Whomyl (talk) 09:54, 12 December 2014 (UTC)

How does that help? It is taken from The People's Rights, which was part of a 1910 social liberal trilogy - the other two, written by Lloyd George, were The People's Insurance and The People's Budget. TFD (talk) 16:32, 15 December 2014 (UTC)
Are you saying Churchill was not a classical liberal? That's fine if you are. I can find examples from most classical liberals denouncing private monopoly of land rent and suggesting that all or most taxes be placed directly on title-holders. My question is this: what sort of evidence/language would fit the requirement?Whomyl (talk) 09:02, 16 December 2014 (UTC)
Whatever he actually believed, the pamphlet was written to advance a social liberal agenda and as a Liberal minister, Churchill introduced the welfare state into the UK. Examples btw are useless. You need to show that the views are part of classical liberalism. Different classical liberals can held different views on different issues. TFD (talk) 15:42, 16 December 2014 (UTC)


An editor changed the source of a statement that Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations was the primary economics textbook at least until J.S. Mill's Principles from A critical history of economics (2002) to the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter's History of Economic Analysis (1954). He writes, "I added a more primary source (Mills uses Schumpeter as a source for these facts),"[47] No page number is provided.

I do not think this is the correct approach. Certainly modern writers rely on earlier writers who rely on even earlier writers. As this happens more recent writers decide which parts of earlier writing are still valid and are therefore more reliable than the sources they use.

TFD (talk) 02:31, 19 December 2014 (UTC)

The Mayne reference.[edit]

Does the Mayne reference connect Social Darwinism and Classical Liberalism? If so, should it come after that sentence? Rick Norwood (talk) 18:08, 26 January 2015 (UTC)

Here is the link. He connects social darwinism with neo-classical liberalism, which does not seem to be a controversial comment. To the IP who keeps removing the reference, social darwinism is the theory that the government should allow strong people to succeed and not subsidize weak people who fail. It has nothing to do with socialism or evolution or atheism and was not advocated by Darwin or socialists. TFD (talk) 18:28, 26 January 2015 (UTC)

Your definition of social Darwinism does not go far enough. Some believers in Social Darwinism sterilized women they considered likely to produce inferior children. Rick Norwood (talk) 12:42, 27 January 2015 (UTC)

That's eugenics. Herbert Spencer (who coined the phrase "survival of the fittest") and William Graham Sumner, the two most prominent neo-classical liberals and two most prominent social darwinists never advocated that. Social darwinism is an analogy, not a biological theory. It merely says that laissez-faire eliminates the weakest, not that therefore it also eliminates future generations of the weak. TFD (talk) 16:41, 27 January 2015 (UTC)

Unsourced additions to lead[edit]

An editor has added to the lead that classical liberls opposed "privileged monopolies" and several other changes. My objection is that none of the additions are sourced. Sources are always required to ensure that material is accurate and significant and it is always incorrect to change material that is already sourced without using that source. TFD (talk) 04:49, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

Cause and Effect[edit]

Current text:

  "The philosophy emerged as a response to the Industrial Revolution and urbanisation in the 19th century in Europe and the United States. 

This places "industrial Revolution and urbanization" as cause, and classical liberalism as effect.

  "Classical liberalism is built on ideas that had already arisen by the end of the 18th century, including
   ideas of Adam Smith, John Locke, Jean-Baptiste Say, Thomas Malthus, and David Ricardo.

This places classical liberalism prior to the Industrial Revolution and urbanization.

The effect cannot precede the cause. In contrast, Von Mises argues in "Human Action: a Treatise on Economics" that classical liberalism (capitalism) preceded and was a cause, not an effect, of the industrial revolution. This view, since it is plausible, should be placed more prominently than the current text, which is self-contradictory. (talk) 23:41, 22 March 2015 (UTC)

The relationship between liberalism and Laizzez-faire economics is complex, but I agree that it came before, not after, the Industrial Revolution, as is clearly seen by the events of 1776 in largely agricultural North America. Rick Norwood (talk) 11:31, 24 March 2015 (UTC)
I replied earlier, but Mark camp removed my comments.[48] It is not contradictory to say that classical liberalism was a response to the industrial revolution, which is dated 1760-1820 or 1840, and that it built on ideas that had already arisen. Nor does Mises equate liberalism with capitalism. Liberalism is an ideology that supports capitalism, which is an economic system.
It is questionable whether Alexander Hamilton was a classical liberal and the emergence of classical liberalism in the U.S. more likely dates from the revolution of 1800 or Jacksonian democracy. But Hamilton, Jefferson and Jackson all drew on ideas that were current in Great Britain.
TFD (talk) 13:11, 24 March 2015 (UTC) It is unacceptable to remove comments by another user unless they constitute libel or other disruptive behavior. Reading TFD's comment which you removed, I think what he said is more to the point than what I said above. Below are the comments by TFD which you removed:Rick Norwood (talk) 13:25, 24 March 2015 (UTC)

I guess it was not clearly stated, but it is not contradictory. We would say for example that reaganomics emerged as a response to keynsianism and built on ideas that had already arisen by the end of the 19th century. Capitalism and liberalism btw are distinct concepts and Mises clearly distinguishes between the two. TFD (talk) 00:18, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

Social Darwinism[edit]

TFD: Not that I'm doubting what you say, but I think a quote from Mayne would clear things up. Not everybody has a copy of Mayne handy. Rick Norwood (talk) 12:05, 25 March 2015 (UTC)

Mayne writes, "The more extreme neo-classical liberals advocated social Darwinism, whereby the 'survival of the fittest' should apply to social and economic life as well as wildlife." (p. 124)[49] It is a non-controversial statement in a non-controversial textbook. The term has nothing to do with socialism or eugenics or atheism, as some editors think. TFD (talk) 15:03, 25 March 2015 (UTC)

Thanks. Rick Norwood (talk) 15:16, 25 March 2015 (UTC)

Critical References not Appropriately Cited.[edit]

In general, a large part of the article cites sources that are critical of classical liberalism. The Hunt, Mills, and Richardson references, for example, are opinion-based, privately published sources. They are not illegitimate or bad sources, but they are not reliable to define classical liberalism at first glance. Their use needs to be published under a part of the article that is labeled as criticism specifically. Otherwise, the article becomes a sort of straw man. A look a where these references are made shows a few clear examples of bias. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Tim7878902 (talkcontribs) 15:13, 17 April 2015

They only appear critical if you happen to disagree with what the classical liberals believed. Note that no one today believes what was orthodoxy circa 1830-1848. TFD (talk) 15:54, 17 April 2015 (UTC)

Religious deviance[edit]

"Classical liberalism was often associated with religious dissent and nonconformism." An editor changed the word "dissent" to deviance saying:

  • "History: Religious dissent is a misleading phrase. Religious deviation better presents that they wanted to turn away from current religious beliefs, not discard religion altogether."
  • "I'm not challenging what word is commonly used. I'm saying that dissent has a negative connotation today. Dissent is commonly associated with "discard" which is not what classical liberalism wanted at all."[50]

I cannot agree with those arguments. The term Dissenter does not have a negative connotation, while the term "deviance" does. Nor is it accurate. While Liberals dissented from the authority of the established Anglican and Catholic churches, in some cases, such as Scotland, Holland, Switzerland, Canada and especially the U.S. (and possibly England and France too), they were in the majority, hence not strictly speaking deviant.

TFD (talk) 01:48, 20 May 2015 (UTC)

The bedrock of Liberal support came from the English Dissenters, later called Nonconformists. Hence "dissent" is the correct word to use.--Britannicus (talk) 09:11, 20 May 2015 (UTC)

McConnell citation[edit]

A recent edit cites McConnell's popular textbook for the claim that small government best guarantees individual liberty. But this is the point of contention between believers in classical liberalism and believers in modern liberalism. The former believe that small governments have greater individual liberty. The latter believes that governments which act to protect individual rights have greater individual liberty. This article should not, in the lead, take sides on this serious and much disputed question.Rick Norwood (talk) 01:35, 24 May 2015 (UTC)

The source is too tangentially related to the topic and mentions it too briefly to be useful. Furthermore it does not support the edit. TFD (talk) 01:46, 24 May 2015 (UTC)
@Rick Norwood: "McConnell's popular textbook"? Did you even look at the citation I added? It's a book review in the HLR....
@The Four Deuces: Epstein (2014), which is strongly related to the subject, quotes that line directly for his definition of the "classical liberal tradition": would you prefer I cite it from that instead?  White Whirlwind  咨  02:17, 24 May 2015 (UTC)
The source is too far removed from the topic (it is about legal interpretations of U.S. constitutional law) and the author does not appear to be referring to the same topic. And while he quotes McConnell, he says the Founding followed classical liberal principles. But the principles mentioned are from "Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Madison and Montesquieu." They leave out Smith, Malthus, Say and Ricardo. The general view is that classical liberalism was only complete when these other authors were included, but it is irrelevant to his book, because those authors concentrated on social sciences, rather than law. One exception would be Bentham who wrote about both social science and law, but he is not mentioned. TFD (talk) 02:54, 24 May 2015 (UTC)
@The Four Deuces: So, you'd prefer the lead summarization be sourced from a more general source on political science? I can live with that, I suppose I've required the same from editors working on Chinese topics. Epstein (2014) is too valuable to be completely eliminated though, as Epstein is the preeminent expositor of classical liberalism in modern U.S. academia (and abroad, I'm told). How best might it be implemented, do you think? This article is pretty solidly stuck at B-class, in my judgment, and needs a good bit of work, the lead in particular.  White Whirlwind  咨  05:10, 24 May 2015 (UTC)
I read up on Epstein. He wrote a book called, Skepticism and Freedom: A Modern Case for Classical Liberalism. He was writing about what other writers might call libertarianism. He takes some aspects of classical liberalism, rejects others, and calls himself a classical liberal. The following for his views on "classical liberalism" is limited to libertarians. TFD (talk) 20:38, 24 May 2015 (UTC)
@The Four Deuces: Epstein has been pretty vocal about his interpretation of the distinction between classical liberalism and libertarianism and his attempts to be on the classical liberal side of that line. Richard Posner's review of Epstein (2003) calls him a "Hayekian liberal", not "libertarian", by the way, so I'm not sure that your assessment of that book is correct. I've been looking through political science sources for good definitions of classical liberalism for use in the lead, but haven't found any that satisfy me yet. I'll keep looking in my spare time.  White Whirlwind  咨  16:39, 26 May 2015 (UTC)
Hayek was a neo-classical liberal - neo-classical liberalism is mentioned in the article. They rejected some core elements of classical liberalism,and many called themselves classical liberals. But that is not the topic of this article. TFD (talk) 16:14, 27 May 2015 (UTC)

Modern influence[edit]

I switched the name of the "Relationship to modern liberalism" section to "Modern influence" and tagged it for NPOV. Besides this paragraph focusing on modern liberalism, there is practically no mention of the influence classical liberalism has today. While classical liberalism and modern liberalism share part of a name, classical liberalism is highly influential on modern conservatism. This needs to be discussed (and any other modern political, philosophical, etc. beliefs that classical liberalism has influenced), so that is why I marked it as NPOV. Below are some sources that might be beneficial in helping to improve this section:

"Classic liberalism is one of the dominant ideologies within both conservatism and the Republican Party of th early 21st century."[1]

"...nineteenth century classic liberalism still has a hold on the mindset of many of the country's leaders, especially among the ranks of the Republican Party."[2]

"Today, adherents of classic liberalism have come to be known as conservatives."[3]

I also think the beginning of the section could be improved by paraphrasing the long Alan Wolfe quotation. I will try to get around to some of these improvements when I get a chance, but I would appreciate if others could help out on this section also. Right now, the article reads as if the classical liberalism ideology is archaic with no lasting influence or prevalence, when in fact it remains notably influential. Abierma3 (talk) 11:08, 25 June 2015 (UTC)

Classical liberalism can mean many different things, and you need to ensure that you are using the term consistently. That could explain why Farmer used the term "classical liberalism" instead. This article does explain how classical liberalism forked into neo-classical and social strands and indeed already explains the influence of classical liberalism on neo-classical liberalism, which dominates not only U.S. conservatism but government policies throughout the world.
Incidentally, this article presents a global perspective not just U.S. There are other articles specific to the U.S.
TFD (talk) 15:10, 25 June 2015 (UTC)