Talk:Classical liberalism

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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.[1] 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)

Dennis Johnson - I'm new to adding comments but would like to point out that Adam Smith was a neo-classical liberal and not a classical liberal because his book The Wealth of Nations was not based upon the Natural Right of Property as established by John Locke in the Second Treatise of Civil Government, Chapter 5. Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations relies on "ownership established by title" that was a remnant of the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings that Locke expressly opposed. Under Locke title is recognized based upon the "natural right of property" while under Smith "Title" exists without any relationship to the "natural right of property" based upon the physical labor of a person. Under Locke commerce, which is not a natural right, is additive so you have the "haves and have mores" but where no one has more than they need for their support and comfort. Under Smith you have the "haves and have not's" with no limitations upon the accumulation of wealth. Under Locke the distribution of wealth must be intentional while under Smith it's purely accidental because Smith's ideology is based upon greed where any benefit to society from commerce is unrelated to the intent of the capitalist (owners of enterprise). Locke and Smith are juxtaposed ideologically when it comes to property. Anyone that has read the Wealth of Nations (Smith) and the Second Treatise of Civil Government (Locke) knows that their ideologies are juxtaposed to each other. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:55, 20 July 2016 (UTC)

"Adam Smith was a neo-classical liberal" - uh, no.

"Neoclassical liberals combine a classical liberal commitment to economic liberty with a modern or high liberal commitment to social justice."[1] (talk) 05:45, 25 November 2016 (UTC)


  1. ^ Brennan, Jason. "Neoclassical Liberalism: How I’m Not a Libertarian". Bleeding Heart Libertarians. Retrieved 25/11/2016.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)

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)[2] 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

Agree. Indeed, if you're going to accuse classical liberals of opposing basic child labor and safety reforms, you ought to quote them doing so with dates and names for context. Early in the IR, children begged to work in these marvelous new industries because subsistence farming (their only other option) was generally more dangerous, more strenuous and provided less food. Like all such modern reforms, none of them happened until societies were rich and urbanized enough, thanks to productivity gains from industry, to afford them (note farmers still don't get a 40-hour workweek, as cows and chickens and corn don't follow the laws of men or industry, and farmers still use child labor). Classical liberals largely accepted and enthusiastically promoted these ideas by the time of laws like Keating-Owen, which passed with overwhelming support. 2601:246:4980:6A50:21C9:9952:6DAE:FC55 (talk) 22:10, 27 August 2016 (UTC)
Read the article. "Although classical liberals aspired to a minimum of state activity, they accepted the principle of government intervention in the economy from the early 19th century with passage of the Factory Acts." These acts gradually eliminated child labor and are in the article which you would know if you had read it. TFD (talk) 06:37, 28 August 2016 (UTC)
If you had read what I wrote, you would know I said there should be names, quotes, and dates for context where classical liberals are accused of opposing these ideas. The way that passage is written now elides critical context -- it makes it appear that social liberalism was responsible for these reforms against classical liberal opposition, when it's much more accurate to say both generally agreed during the early IR that such reforms were desirable but as yet unworkable, and that evolving conflicts tended to be over timing (i.e. classical liberals generally believed implementing labor reforms too soon would result in worse conditions overall due to the inefficiencies). 2601:246:4980:6A50:21C9:9952:6DAE:FC55 (talk) 19:06, 28 August 2016 (UTC)
No one is accusing classical liberals of anything. It was a paradigm that was modified and eventually abandoned and replaced by neoclassical liberalism and social liberalism. There is no need to say which person did what when, because we are talking about a paradigm that at one time had universal acceptance. This article is not about what U.S. libertarians believe in the 21st century. Note that their precursors, such as Meissner and Jevons explicitly rejected major tenets of classical liberalism, such as the labor theory of value. TFD (talk) 19:42, 28 August 2016 (UTC)
I'm not sure you understand which part of the article I'm referencing. Under "evolution of core beliefs" section it says "It was not until emergence of social liberalism that child labour was forbidden, minimum standards of worker safety were introduced, a minimum wage and old age pensions were established, and financial institutions were regulated with the goal of fighting cyclic depressions, monopolies, and cartels. Classical liberals opposed these new laws, which they viewed as an unjust interference of the state." That is extremely misleading as written, especially as there are no dates or quotes given. While it's nice that in the separate history section this is corrected or at least elucidated a bit, that passage is little more than a jeremiad against classical liberalism. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2601:246:4980:6A50:21C9:9952:6DAE:FC55 (talk) 19:49, 28 August 2016 (UTC)
I think I see what you mean. Classical liberals had supported many reforms throughout the 19th century although doing so clashed with their core assumptions and led to a split between social and neoclassical liberalism with the latter objecting to new reforms. I will try to phrase it better. However, since we are talking about different policies carried out at different times by different people in different countries, providing all the names, dates and places would be excessive and rightly belongs in the social liberalism article. TFD (talk) 20:25, 28 August 2016 (UTC)
I have made a few changes. TFD (talk) 20:49, 28 August 2016 (UTC)
Considering the plethora of classical liberalism primary sources, it is inexplicable that so much of the content in this article, e.g., assertions about classical liberals belief, etc. are taken directly from secondary sources like Hunt and Mayne. If the assertions are supported in primary sources, they should be cited that way. If secondary sources must be relied on, they should be broken out, as they rather seem to reflect the POV of that particular author. 2602:306:3641:8A40:2515:EDFA:231E:F1F1 (talk) 21:33, 8 August 2017 (UTC)
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."[3]

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)
"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." Sorry, but this is completely incorrect -- the modern classical liberal critique is precisely that very little of what modern governments do is aimed at protecting individual rights, and indeed that protecting individual rights may be the sole legitimate function of government. 2601:246:4980:6A50:21C9:9952:6DAE:FC55 (talk) 21:57, 27 August 2016 (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)


  1. ^ Brian R. Farmer (20 March 2006). American Political Ideologies: An Introduction to the Major Systems of Thought in the 21st Century. McFarland. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-7864-8052-4. 
  2. ^ Conway W. Henderson (25 November 2009). Understanding International Law. John Wiley & Sons. p. 297. ISBN 978-1-4443-1825-8. 
  3. ^ Gregg Lee Carter Ph.D. (4 May 2012). Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture, and the Law. ABC-CLIO. p. 583. ISBN 978-0-313-38671-8. 

A republic, not a democracy[edit]

An IP changed "representative democracy" to "representative republic" saying, "better understanding of United States . U.S. is not a democracy but a republic."[4] That is a popular talking point for some segments of the American Right. However, it has no bearing on whether classical liberals supported democracy and none of the leading writers of classical liberalism, who lived in a constitutional monarchy, advocated republicanism. Furthermore there are no sources that republicanism is an integral part of classical liberalism. I would note that the democracy advocated by classical liberals was more restrictive than what democrats would advocate today. TFD (talk) 19:16, 28 May 2016 (UTC)

Individual Freedoms in Definition[edit]

The first sentence and 'Meaning of the Term' for any Liberalism article should stress the concept of Individual Freedoms. In the sans-adjective 'Liberalism' article, Locke's "...each man has a natural right..." appears in the middle of the second paragraph. In this Classical Liberalism article, two labeled subgroups use the term, "to describe their belief in the primacy of individual freedom and minimal government." Even there, only some of them, as if any Individual can be Liberal, Classical or by any other adjective, without that belief.

My dad's 1966 American College Dictionary has Individual Freedoms prominently in the definition of Liberal; and the ism definition is based on it. Economics is not mentioned. In my 1995 Webster's College Dictionary, Liberal and Liberalism both have Individual Freedoms as a main criteria in the political definitions. Economics is still absent.

Collins: 1. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) relating to or having social and political views that favour progress and reform 2. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) relating to or having policies or views advocating individual freedom

Dictionary dotcom lifted from The American Heritage Dictionary: 2. a political or social philosophy advocating the freedom of the individual, parliamentary systems of government, nonviolent modification of political, social, or economic institutions to assure unrestricted development in all spheres of human endeavor, and governmental guarantees of individual rights and civil liberties.

Here's the point---------- Webster's now puts Individual Freedoms in economics. But, they do this with politics: c : a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties; specifically : such a philosophy that considers government as a crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities (as those involving race, gender, or class)

And, at we find American Heritage made a similar change, over to Autonomy. TheFreeDictionary lists several definitions by various dictionaries. It's their thing. To their credit, they use a 2010 Kenneman Webster's that still had political Individual Freedoms.

Autonomy is self generated. Classical Liberalism insists that our Freedoms were granted by Nature/Creator. Those become Rights; when The People form our Representative government; and we declare we will not infringe upon Individual Freedoms we were born into.

How does this affect real life? Leftists try to interpret the Second Amendment as a militia/collective right. The UN declares advocacy can be criminal incitement to violence, even upon ourselves, in the Istanbul Process, UN Res. 16/18. Climate Change skeptics are now under threat by advocacy for laws to allow government to jail them for the good of the planet. We're forced to buy insurance for services we never want or need, from people we don't care to enrich.

Let's compare the Second Amendment to the First. The People. That term is key. Unassembled, we The People have a right to peaceably assemble. That cements the idea that our rights are based on Individual Freedoms. Individuals may assemble here, there, or stay home with the right to assemble some other day. That's how I read The People in the Second Amendment, after the comma. Militia is an assembly. We're individuals who may attend, or not, always ready.

Here's an interesting item from a recent, well-written movie on Lincoln. Daniel Day Lewis played the part. I forget the title. In it, Lincoln uses metaphor to describe to his secretaries what he's doing. He asks if they knew Euclid's first postulate. No. "Any two things that are the same as another thing, are the same as each other." The obvious allusion was to two races being equal under the proposed 13th Amendment. But, I took something else from it. Euclid's 1st is so obvious, it shouldn't need to be stated. In life, we find Darwinian anomalous variation. In humans, one of those extremes is the will to power. Ideas are power. Words are ideas from origin to recipients. Those words must be guarded from manipulators who seek to erase good ideas for their profit. So, we must state the obvious, as Euclid knew was necessary.

I never made a change in Wikipedia. I won't start with this. I'll trust you good folks who read Locke, Smith, Hayeck, Voltaire..., to do the right thing. State the obvious. Individual Freedoms should appear prominently in any explanation of Liberalism -- early and often. Thank you. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Sammy4231 (talkcontribs) 17:41, 9 August 2016 (UTC)

The first sentence already says that classical liberalism supported civil rights, which is another expression for Individual Freedoms. Saying that people today who describe themselves as classical liberals advocate individual freedom does not imply that other liberals do not. Oddly, that conflicts with your request to add advocacy of individual freedoms to the first paragraph. TFD (talk) 18:52, 12 August 2016 (UTC)

Dismal Science[edit]

Publius1774 added, "Other scholarship has pointed out that the term "dismal science" was coined by critics of these classical economists who, as the leading school of economic thought at the time, were in strong opposition to slavery."[5] to the section on Say, Malthus and Ricardo. First, the source is unreliable, and the interpretion is questionable. It does not matter what the first usage of the term was, but the meaning of people using the term, unless we devote extensive space to it. The information is more relevant to another article. It implies that classical economists opposed slavery, when in fact they were divided and that their opponents supported it. Some classical economists defended it on the basis of property rights, citing Roman law and Coke while some conservatives and socialists (Pitt, Marx) opposed it. TFD (talk) 11:31, 19 October 2016 (UTC)

Deepak Lal[edit]

Per WP:BRD, I am contacting @The Four Deuces:, as to why the content regarding Deepak Lal, was removed, while the excessively long quotation of Alan Wolfe remains.--RightCowLeftCoast (talk) 06:13, 29 October 2016 (UTC)

The content which was removed has been cited by 121 different reliable sources, but apparently insufficient for this article on Wikipedia? Why?
To quote from the source which was removed, "The major votaries of classical today are American conservatives." It further goes on to say, "Having been silenced by the seemingly endless march of "embedded liberalism" since the New Deal, American conservatism has since the late 1960s regrouped,under Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush created a new powerful political movement. Thus, apart from the brief period of Margaret Thatcher's ascendancy in Britain, it is only in the United States that the classical liberalism tradition continues to have political force."

Classical liberalism has different meanings and the article is about an ideology that was prominent c. 1830-1848. Reagan did not bring back the gold standard, reduce government spending to 10% of GNP or deny that entrepreneurship contributed to wealth. He was influenced by neoclassical liberals such as Hayek and Friedman. TFD (talk) 06:27, 29 October 2016 (UTC)
Perhaps this was appropriate once, but the term "classical liberalism" has made a comeback as something akin to what TFD called neoclassical liberalism. The article needs to be updated accordingly: either re-titled to "Classical liberalism (1830-48)", or else have its content changed.  White Whirlwind  咨  07:54, 29 October 2016 (UTC)
In Property and Prophets: The Evolution of Economic Institutions and Ideologies, EK Hunt writes, "The resurgence of the classical liberal economic creed was accomplished by a new school of economic thinkers known as neoclassical economists." He names Jevons, Menger and Waltras.[6] It might be helpful to have a section on this. It is not clear whether it was a new ideology or a reformulation, but it definitely introduced a new set of assumptions and literature. That school would develop into neo-liberalism and libertarianism, both of which have their own articles. My main concern is that we do not confuse what modern writers who call themselves classical liberals mean with what early 19th century liberals believed. TFD (talk) 15:12, 29 October 2016 (UTC)

I think that quotation from Deepak Lal is perfectly fine to have. He's right, in my opinion. Reagan was the president closest to a classical liberal since Calvin Coolidge, and his brand of conservatism I would say is very similar to classical liberalism. Simply put, both Reagan conservatism and classical liberalism generally wanted maximum freedom. Don't get me wrong, there may be some differences between the two. But overall, they similar ideologies, especially in terms of economics. TheEfficientMan (talk) 02:14, 30 October 2016 (UTC)

Let's be clear. You mean maximum economic freedom, which classical liberals believe will automatically correlate with other freedoms. Rick Norwood (talk) 11:16, 30 October 2016 (UTC)
There appears to be a consensus here, that the reference of Deepak Lal should be integrated into the article, if there is some quibble as to how I wrote the sentence which was removed, lets work on that here.
Additionally, the point written by Deepak Lal, has backing by other reliable sources including this book written by Nikolai G. Wenzel & Nathan Schlueter ( Nathan Schlueter; Nikolai Wenzel (2 November 2016). Selfish Libertarians and Socialist Conservatives?: The Foundations of the Libertarian-Conservative Debate. Stanford University Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-5036-0029-4. American conservatism is a form of classical liberalism.  ), this book written by John Micklethwait & Adrian Wooldridge ( John Micklethwait; Adrian Wooldridge (2004). The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America. Penguin. p. 343. ISBN 978-1-59420-020-5. Whichever way you look at it, American conservatism has embraced a great chunk of classical liberalism-so much of it that many observers have argued that American conservatism was an oxymoron; that it is basically classical liberalism in disguise.  ), and this chapter written by James Kurth ( James R. Kirth (17 May 2016). "A History of Inherent Contradictions: The Origins and Ends of American Conservatism". In Sanford V. Levinson. American Conservatism: NOMOS LVI. Melissa S. Williams, Joel Parker. NYU Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-1-4798-6518-5. Of course, the original conservatives had not really been conservatives either. They were merely classical liberals. It seems to be the case in American that most-socalled conservatives have really been something else. This has confused not only external observers of American conservatism (be they on the European Right or on the American Left), but is has confused American conservatives as well.  ). This view is even embraced by those who don't view classical liberalism in a positive light including SFSU professor Robert C. Smith ( Robert C. Smith (9 September 2010). Conservatism and Racism, and Why in America They Are the Same. SUNY Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-1-4384-3234-2. Locke's classical liberalism is American conservatism, a conservatism whose core ideas went virtually unchallenged until the New Deal.  ). Moreover, Northern Texas University professor Milan Zafirovski writes that progressive liberalism is not classical liberalism (Milan Zafirovski (2008). Modern Free Society and Its Nemesis: Liberty Versus Conservatism in the New Millennium. Lexington Books. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-7391-1516-9.  ), which differs from the Alan Wolfe quote presently included in the article. I would also like to point out that to say "some modern scholars of liberalism" is a weasel term.--RightCowLeftCoast (talk) 17:58, 30 October 2016 (UTC)
It seems strange to jump from early neoclassical liberals, such as Spencer and Sumner, to Reagan. It might be better to divide the historical section. Also, not that Reagan's variety of liberalism is generally referred to as neoliberalism and is extensively discussed in that article. When mentioning that Reagan was inspired by classical liberalism, we should mention what aspects. He never returned the U.S. to a state where government spent less than 10% or GDP, the dollar was backed by gold, and there were no federal regulations or social spending. His ideology was more of a hybrid of neoclassical and welfare liberalism. While he saw welfare and regulation as contributing to dependency and inefficiency, he still maintained that government should place some role, even if reduced. TFD (talk) 03:16, 31 October 2016 (UTC)
@Rick Northwood I think classical liberalism actually advocates maximal economic, political, and personal freedom. Yes, I think that freedoms tend to correlate, but that doesn't mean classical liberals don't want maximums of other freedoms.
@RightCowLeftCoast I think you summarized it pretty well. But let me make this clear; those branches of "conservatism" which advocate for extensive restrictions on freedoms, such as protectionist policies on free trade and nativistic policies in terms of immigration are not classically liberal.
@FTD I agree that Reagan's ideology shared many characteristics of neoliberalism, and I think neoliberalism, as the name suggests, is just a revival of the economic perspectives of classical liberalism. I don't think it's that odd to jump from Spencer and other neoclassical and classical liberal thinkers, because Reagan conservatism and classical liberalism share many similar views, as I emphasized before. Perhaps that connection and/or other similar connections could be made in the article. I can understand that Reagan did not accomplish a complete rollback of the welfare state, but you must understand the United State's political context. Democrats controlled the House for his entire presidency and the Senate from 1986, the latter of which prevented Robert Bork's confirmation to the Supreme Court. Reagan was not a dictator; he could not roll back all of the welfare state simply because though he may have wanted to, he and the conservative movement did not have the political clout to do so. The Supreme Court was not conservative enough, and I already talked about Congress. Even if Reagan desired some, small though it may be, form of welfare state, it's important to note, he is not excluded from being a classical liberal. Classical liberalism doesn't advocate for zero governmental intervention in the economy. TheEfficientMan (talk) 21:41, 31 October 2016 (UTC)
Obviously government policies of 1830 would not work in 1980. The gold standard would prevent economic growth, a minimal welfare state would be required for urban society, totally unregulated banking would lead to economic breakdown, 10% tax rates would not support even the night watchman state. Reagan also thought the state had to break up monopolies, while classical liberals assumed the market would break them up. So Reagan had similar goals but different policies. OTOH, welfare liberals also had the same goals - individual freedom, economic growth and a belief in capitalism. It is misleading to represent that liberal ideology did not change as society changed and the U.S. transformed from a nation of farmers to a nation of the urban middle and working classes. TFD (talk) 15:20, 2 November 2016 (UTC)
@TFD I disagree. I think free markets work no matter what period we are in. One specific thing I will comment on is your statement about Reagan and monopolies. Classical liberals believe in a competitive free market, and if the government needed to step in to promote competition, so be it. Richard Epstein and Milton Friedman both have something to say about this in their books "The Classical Liberal Constitution" and "Capitalism and Freedom". Another thing I will comment on is your arguing that classical and modern liberals have the same goals. Perhaps this is so, but the effects of some modern liberal programs certainly restrict individual freedom and economic growth, and the collectivistic nature of some such policies (such as wage and price controls) belie what I see as a mistrust of capitalism. I would agree that the term "liberal" applied to different ideologies as time went on. But that does not mean that classical liberalism would defend modern liberalism as it exists today. On the contrary, I think it would be astonished at what some "liberals" intend to do. TheEfficientMan (talk) 00:00, 3 November 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────The theory that free markets need government intervention in order to work (as opposed to Keynes' view that they didn't work so intervention was required) was developed in the 1930s and was not part of classical liberalism. Where in classical economics did anyone propose a federal reserve bank or anti-monopoly legislation? The most you can say is that Reagan was inspired by 19th century liberalism. But so were the other kind of liberals. TFD (talk) 00:29, 3 November 2016 (UTC)

@TFD What you say about the origins of government anti-monopolistic action may be true. However, I would say a competitive free market is a principle of classical liberalism. I think that the classical liberals would be okay with some governmental promotion of competition. In addition, if you and I can agree that Epstein and Friedman are classical liberals (and according to this very website, they are), and since they both would agree with some sort of governmental promotion of competition, we can resolve our conflict. However, it's important to note that anti-monopolistic government action is not necessarily very often invoked by a classically liberal government, and need not spiral into an excessive governmental regulation of the economy. I would disagree with your sentiment about Reagan and say that as far as one can be in modern American politics, he was a classical liberal. I and RightCowLeftCoast (since I, and, apparently, he, have studied this topic somewhat extensively) can give you some info about the principles and contemporaries of classical liberalism; for starters, you can see the book "In defense of classical liberalism". Again, perhaps the modern liberals were inspired by classical liberals, but the effects of modern liberal policies have not been in line with the classical liberal tradition. TheEfficientMan (talk) 00:55, 3 November 2016 (UTC)
I cannot agree and neither can anyone else that Reagan had the same views as 19th century liberals. Where is the gold standard? Why are taxes and government spending 40% of GDP instead of 10%? Whatever happened to the iron law of wages or the labor theory of value? Howcome there were 10 big banks instead of thousands of small ones? Why are there 10,000 page free trade agreements instead of unilateral removal of tariffs? Some supporters defend his views by saying that they are the same as Andrew Jackson, but that is a big stretch. It could be that Jackson if he were to return today would be a conservative, but who knows. It's a different world and policies differ.
I don't know why you say that the effects of modern liberal policies are not in line with classical liberalism. They support constitutionality, individualism, capitalism. It all depends on what one thinks was important. Both liberals and conservatives revere Jefferson and Jackson, but take different things from both.
TFD (talk) 02:17, 3 November 2016 (UTC)
@TFD I went over the results of the Reagan Revolution above. Reagan was not able to accomplish all, or even many, of the classical liberal goals he undoubtedly would've liked to. He would've loved to cut spending, institute complete free trade, and possibly even bring back the gold standard, but he was not a dictator. The Democrats controlled half or more of Congress during his entire presidency, and the Supreme Court was never manned by enough conservatives to roll back the decades of progressive legislation and court decisions that had brought on the Reagan Revolution in the first place. As for Jackson, he was more a populist than anything, at least that I know of. So far as I know, no one has ever compared Reagan to Jackson. I certainly do not think modern liberal policies at all support constitutionality (the judicial activism in Supreme Court cases like Obergefell v. Hodges, for example), individualism (minimum wage laws restrict individuals' freedom of contract, for example), or capitalism (government ownership of businesses like Amtrak are certainly not private ownership of the means of production, for example). I certainly don't think modern liberals like Jackson, and I'm not sure about Jefferson, but I know for sure as a libertarian conservative/classical liberal, I do not revere Jackson, and I don't think Friedman nor Epstein would either. TheEfficientMan (talk) 02:53, 3 November 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────It doesn't matter what any of us believe, it matters what can be verified. We have shown, using multiple reliable sources that there is a view that American conservatism is classical liberalism, and the United States is the only nation that classical liberalism remains a political force. The view point that classical liberalism continues with the addition of Keynesian economics is already included in this section, with a rather lengthy quote, only referring to a single source. IMHO that is UNDUE WEIGHT. But I digress. I don't believe that any editor can say that the point has not been thoroughly verified, and thus the content should remain.--RightCowLeftCoast (talk) 03:09, 3 November 2016 (UTC)

@RightCowLeftCoast I agree. I apologize if I have made this page a forum. TheEfficientMan (talk) 03:36, 3 November 2016 (UTC)

RightCow's edit[edit]

I've corrected some of the typos in RightCow's recent edit. The list of libertarian scholars is too long; I suggest cutting it to only the linked names. There are problems with the quotes in the references that I can't correct, lacking the sources of the quotes. Each quote should be sourced. Rick Norwood (talk) 12:15, 31 October 2016 (UTC)

Thanks for the corrections. The quotes, are from the referenced reliable sources, and are directly from the sources themselves. As quotes, they shouldn't be a need to correct them, as they verify the sentences in the article itself.--RightCowLeftCoast (talk) 00:07, 2 November 2016 (UTC)

The correction needed in the Deepak Lal quote is to distinguish between the parts quoted from Deepak Lal and the parts quoted by Deepak Lal. This should be done using double quotes for the main body of the text, and in the text itself replacing double quotes with single quotes.Rick Norwood (talk) 14:55, 2 November 2016 (UTC)

United States section[edit]

User:The Four Deuces has created a United States section, I have created a United Kingdom section. I have made these sections as part of the History section, as that is where the content was originally. That being said, the United States section needs additional references. The first paragraph is largely barren of reliable sources. Also I am not seeing anything that directly ties classical liberalism to the gold standard, I am seeing that is was common prior its abandonment in the United States, but not that it is a pillar of the political ideology. See Barry Clark Professor Emeritus (21 March 2016). Political Economy: A Comparative Approach, 3rd Edition: A Comparative Approach. ABC-CLIO. p. 140. ISBN 978-1-4408-4326-6.  --RightCowLeftCoast (talk) 01:32, 5 November 2016 (UTC)

To continue my critique of the paragraph, this book contradicts what is written in the article, that progressivism had began to challenge classical liberalism in the United States as early as the late 19th century. Ronald Hamowy (15 August 2008). The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. SAGE Publications. p. 34. ISBN 978-1-4129-6580-4. . --RightCowLeftCoast (talk) 02:50, 5 November 2016 (UTC)

See William C. McNeil, "Money an Economic Change" in The Columbia History of the 20th Century, p. 284. "The gold standard represented the economic and monetary aspects of the classical liberalism articulated in the writings of such philosophers as John Locke, Adam Smith, and John Stewart Mill who valued free trade, the preservation of individual freedom, and governments that were chosen by the people and hadd few responsibilities other than protecting the rights of their citizens."[7] Clark is writing about modern classical liberals, also called neoliberals and libertarians, who as I mentioned reject much of classical liberal orthodoxy. Clark mentions that some modern classical liberals wish to return to the gold standard.
This article does not say that progressivism challenged classical liberalism, but mentions Bryan who was not a progressive but challenged the gold standard. However, the U.S. only adopted the gold standard in 1871. It is going to be hard to delineate between classical and non-classical liberals in the U.S. TFD (talk) 03:06, 5 November 2016 (UTC)
The article does say

The ideas of classical liberalism remained essentially unchallenged until a series of depressions...

and then goes on to mention a 1896 speech and the great depression. This is why I tagged the sentence which I quoted.--RightCowLeftCoast (talk) 03:27, 5 November 2016 (UTC)
This source on p. 10 says that Bryan was a classical liberal and elements of progressivism (Teddy Roosevelt) challenged the old paradigm. I think writing a history section about the U.S. will be difficult because liberalism never had any serious challenge from the left or right even in the colonial period and there are few leading intellectuals before the 1930s. In "Contending Liberalisms" for example, the author does not bother to incorporate U.S. liberalism into his analysis of classical liberalism, etc., but isolates it in a section, "The American Exception."[8]
TFD (talk) 04:21, 5 November 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Perhaps then we should structure the United States section as influence of classical liberalism on the United States constitution. Classical liberalism until the late 1800s. Challenges to classical liberalism. Decline of classical liberalism. Revival of classical liberalism via American conservatism.--RightCowLeftCoast (talk) 06:05, 5 November 2016 (UTC)

I think that it is too tangential to the article, since however classical liberalism is defined, it has had little influence compared with the UK, which had Locke, Smith, Ricardo, etc. Probably it is better to cover in Liberalism in the United States (not to be confused with Modern Liberalism in the United States). TFD (talk) 06:59, 5 November 2016 (UTC)
I strongly, but civilly, disagree.--RightCowLeftCoast (talk) 16:23, 5 November 2016 (UTC)
Who in 19th century American do you think was in the same league as Ricardo or J.S. Mill as a classical theorist, i.e., had influence beyond the borders? I can only think of Sumner. Do Mises, Hayek or Friedman mention any? Was Bryan a classical liberal or an opponent of classical liberalism? Can you provide any articles other than about the Reagan administration that outline classical liberalism in the U.S. that can be used as a guide? TFD (talk) 21:11, 5 November 2016 (UTC)


I've literally copy-pasted the text from the cited sources, The_Four_Deuces; why did you reverse them? (talk) 05:31, 25 November 2016 (UTC)

You are both right. The ideas of classical liberalism had already been developed in the 1700s, but the term (per Conway) wasn't used until the 1800s. – S. Rich (talk) 05:51, 25 November 2016 (UTC)
It was actually the term liberalism that developed in the 19th century. The term "classical liberalism" was developed retrospectively to refer to this period. The source used says, "Classical liberalism came about by building on the ideas already developed in the 18th century...."[9] It says later in this article, at Classical liberalism#History, "Classical liberalism in Britain developed from Whiggery and radicalism, and was also heavily influenced by French physiocracy, and represented a new political ideology." The main ideas were developed by Locke, Smith, Say, Malthus, Ricardo and the utilitarians, but those writers were sources for the ideology rather than proponents. The economic theories for example had not yet been developed when Locke wrote, while he adhered to the natural law theories from antiquity, rather than the positive law theories developed by the utilitarians. TFD (talk) 14:04, 25 November 2016 (UTC)

British/US spelling & tense agreement[edit]

Steelstarz has changed the spelling of "labourer" to "laborer" while retaining the "our" spelling for "labour" and "-ised" endings. They have also changed the past tense "believed" to the present tense "believe," while retaining other verbs in the past tense. In addition they changed "at prices they would pay" to "at prices they would be prepared to pay."[10]

Both variety of English and tense should be consistent. British English is preferable in my opinion, because most of the primary sources cited in the article, such as works by Locke and Smith, were written in British English and most writers lived in the UK. Past tense is preferable because many of the beliefs such as the Malthusian population theory and the iron law of wages are not generally held today.

TFD (talk) 04:44, 26 November 2016 (UTC)

I changed them because I feel US English is the most understood and recognized version of the language (outside of the UK). Also I do believe and correct me if I am wrong the places in which I changed believe did not include Malthusian population theory and Iron law of wages. If I am mistaken please let me know. If I did there is Neo-Malthusian theory though. As for Iron Law of wages I'm not well versed on that belief myself but from simple reading it seems to be a very common belief at least in the United States. Again please correct me if I am wrong. Thank you for letting me know you're issues with my edits and I would also be fine with going through the entire article and changing everything to present tense where appropriate if you are worried about consistency. Classical Liberalism at least in the United States has been gaining traction and has become a major political belief again so I do believe it should be in present tense not past tense. Thank you again and I look forward to you're reply. Steelstarz (talk) 02:07, 27 November 2016 (UTC)
See "Consistency within articles": "While Wikipedia does not favor any national variety of English, within a given article the conventions of one particular variety should be followed consistently." "Should I use American English or British English?" says, "The official policy is to use British (AKA "Commonwealth") spelling when writing about British (or Commonwealth) topics, and American for topics relating to the United States." It seems more fitting to use UK spelling. In any case, the spelling and grammar should be consistent. The editors of the War of 1812 chose to use Canadian spelling. It depends on what editors choose and we could see what they think about changing it.
The iron law of wages holds that workers' wages cannot rise above subsistence level, which in America anyway is not true. Lots of workers own homes, cars, pay for their children's education, take holidays and save for retirement. While libertarians today may call themselves classical liberals, they differ from them in a number of beliefs. Among them they believe the value of goods and services is determined by the market rather than labor. While libertarianism is mentioned in the article, it has its own article and should not overwhelm this one.
TFD (talk) 05:24, 27 November 2016 (UTC)
Thank you for clarifying, I think I understand now. Thanks again for you're patience. Steelstarz (talk) 23:06, 29 November 2016 (UTC)

Political freedom and democracy[edit]

An editor has re-inserted that classical liberalism advocates "political freedom with representative democracy into the lead with the notation "R U reveting what Hudelson says?."[11] He refers to Hudelson's Modern Political Philosophy, p. 37, which does not say this.[12] Hudelson makes no reference to political rights or democracy. Democracy was not a core liberal value, and democracy was rejected by most liberals until at least the middle of the 19th century or later. Most classical liberals rejected universal suffrage and at least to some degree supported slavery. Democracy was seen as a threat, since the majority could deprive the minority of its civil rights. I removed political freedom because it includes both political rights such as voting and civil rights which are already mentioned. TFD (talk) 07:38, 6 April 2017 (UTC)

What does the second reference (Dickerson) say? – S. Rich (talk) 18:22, 6 April 2017 (UTC)

First paragraph is incoherent[edit]

It reads: "Classical liberalism is a political ideology and a branch of liberalism which advocates civil liberties under the rule of law that emphasizes economic freedoms found in economic liberalism which is also called free market capitalism." The problem is that it is unclear which noun a relative clause starting with which or that attaches to -- thrice! Is this saying that classical liberalism "advocates civil liberties..." or that liberalism as a whole does? What is it that "emphasizes economic freedoms...", classical liberalism or the rule of law, or something else? What is "called free market capitalism": classical liberalism, economic liberalism, or something else? Maybe some commas would help (to distinguish restrictive from non-restrictive relative clauses) or some ands, but really this needs a complete rewrite.Linguistatlunch (talk) 17:23, 30 June 2017 (UTC)

Good call! I'll try to fix it. Rick Norwood (talk) 11:05, 1 July 2017 (UTC)
Done. Let me know what you think. (I removed Thomas Jefferson's name as unreferenced.) Rick Norwood (talk) 11:11, 1 July 2017 (UTC)

The Four Duces recent edit[edit]

You recently removed three referenced paragraphs on the grounds that they contained too much information. I'm not an expert on Classical Liberalism, but the paragraphs seemed on topic to me. I also note that there is a single sentence to the effect that sociologists dispute Classical Liberalism that seems very out of place. It should be either removed or moved to a section on "Criticism".Rick Norwood (talk) 11:33, 15 October 2017 (UTC)

I don't think it adds any new information. For example, the article already said, Smith "also opposed restrictive trade preferences, state grants of monopolies and employers' organisations and trade unions." The phrasing is misleading because the term class today has a different meaning than it did to Smith. Smith was referring to medieval classes, while in modern terms is refers to economic classes. And limited liability was not an issue for the founding fathers. GE, IBM, GM, etc. hadn't been founded yet, and it had not occurred to anyone that limited liability should be provided to corporations other than banks. And it's all sourced to the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
I'll remove the other sentence (it's about socialists btw.) There should be a section about conservative and socialist opposition to classical liberalism but should say more than that they opposed it.
TFD (talk) 12:57, 15 October 2017 (UTC)

Thank you for the clear explanation. Rick Norwood (talk) 11:55, 16 October 2017 (UTC)