chapter  3
15 Pages

Liberalism in Theory

WithPeter L. P. Simpson

For classical liberalism had adopted a primarily laissez-faire attitude, the attitude of letting people do pretty much what they wished and of intervening only to protect freedom. Under the pretense of laissez-faire, liberalism was enabling the owners of capital and the means of production to take to themselves alone the bulk of the profits from businesses and factories. For men, both in liberalism's understanding and in fact, naturally pursue their ends, whatever these are, as much as they can, and this inclination, being always there by nature, always needs coercive restraint by the liberal state so that the means used stay within the limits imposed by liberal theory. This chapter concludes that the societies are rather low down on the scale of moral worth and that not much can now be done to make them decent. Socialism, or the state ownership of the means of production, seemed thus to be justified even by the principles of liberalism itself.