ABSTRACT

Economic liberalism represents one of the most enduring traditions seeking to explain the nature and dynamics of economic life. Its roots lie in European liberalism which developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as a social and political movement, critical of institutions such as the absolute monarchy, feudalism, aristocratic privilege and religious faith. Liberalism took as its major political and intellectual premise the sovereignty of the individual. The argument was that individuals had the capacity to reason and were therefore best able to express and pursue their own interests without the intervention of absolute monarchs, aristocrats or priests. The goal of liberalism was a society of autonomous, free-standing individuals, able to make free and rational choices according to their personal dispositions and conscience.