Liberalism and Its Critics Essay
Liberalism is a political philosophy based on liberty and equality, meaning that the market has to be free, and people should be given their rights and freedoms. This would facilitate the realization of the economic and political ambitions. Some of the principles that liberalists uphold include free and fair elections held periodically, respect for human rights, provision of various freedoms, free trade where the government’s involvement is minimal, and respect for individual property meaning that private ownership of property is valued principle. Based on its assumptions, the government should never interfere with the market, as its role is to provide an enabling environment for individual fulfillment.
This implies that the market should be left to operate according to its internal logic where manufacturers of goods and services check on the customers. Based on this, producers will never manufacture products that customers are not ready to consume. However, liberalists underscore the fact that consumers are faced with various health complications, and this calls for government’s intervention through licensing and general regulation. Whenever an economy encounters economic challenges, such as recession and financial meltdown, the government has to come in to save companies facing financial problems.
Once normalcy is restored in the market, the government should withdraw completely and allow free movement of goods and services. Several scholars supported the views of liberalism, but the 18th and 19th-century theorists conducted extensive studies to challenge the position of the philosophy. Karl Marx was one of the philosophers who opposed liberalism arguing that the system is based on a defective policy that allows the rich and the powerful in society to own the means of production while the poor do not benefit from economic activities. The scholar was concerned with market blindness as regards to inscriptive features, the exchange value of goods and services, and the idea of free trade.
For Marx, liberalism, which he termed as capitalism, is based on three principles, one of them being exploitation in the sense that it promotes the unequal distribution of wealth in terms of production and distribution. In this regard, he came up with various assumptions to justify the exploitative nature of capitalism. First, he observed that the main actors are the economic classes, but not individuals, companies, organizations, or states, as liberalists would argue.
The idea of private property is to blame for the formation of classes since it ensures that people have unequal power. Based on this, he opposed the idea that the system promotes natural property rights since because the rich, the bourgeoisie, are given a chance to own everything while the poor, the proletariat, only own their cheap labor. Private property facilitates the effective exploitation of one class.
Additionally, exploitation takes place in four main stages including, private ownership of property, and formation of the working class, conversation of labor into a commodity, which can be bought and sold, leading to alienation, and finally extracting the surplus-value. Because of this exploitative process, the system cannot be sustained and is deemed to collapse, given the fact that turning labor into a commodity is short-term (Marx and Engels 61).
Continuous exploitation of the working class raises consciousness to the extent that the poor will one day rise to demand what rightfully belongs to them, and this will be the death knell of capitalism. In this case, he concluded that the bourgeoisie participated in forging a weapon that would kill him or her. Intensive competition works against the capitalists because profits will fall and many employers will demand more from workers while some will reduce their wages, leading to unending conflicts.
Since human beings will be inefficient and unproductive, the bourgeoisie will opt for a cheaper source of labor whereby technology would be considered the best option, as it would ensure the surplus-value is increased. This will result in intense production, leading to insufficient markets, and the producers will be forced to search for new markets abroad. The convincing adverts will be designed to encourage people to buy what they do not need leading to the culture of consumerism. Since this will not ensure sustainability, the bourgeoisie will continue exploring options to ensure growth because many companies will be forced to shut their operations in case they do not adopt policies that guarantee productivity. According to Marx, this will bring in the new principle of capitalism, which is to grow using all available means, given the fact that many businesses will be under threat.
Based on this, many organizations will be focused on capturing the markets by concentrating on certain production lines to create a monopoly. To achieve this aim, the services of the state will be critical. Marx suggested that the state is simply made up of a committee of the ruling class. Several methods will be employed to soothe the masses, including the use of religion and the mass media. Liberalism insists on freedom, but Marx predicted that this does not aim at realizing the interests of the poor, but instead, egalitarianism is one of the instruments of capitalism that guarantees subordination and oppression.
Before the emergence of divergent views on economic development in the 18th and 19th centuries, various economic scholars had clarified that the only way to achieve development was through liberalism. David Ricardo was one such scholar who engaged in thorough research to establish the effectiveness of the philosophy. One of his main ideas was a comparative advantage, which was based on the liberalist assumption. Before the 17th century, the only economic philosophy held in western societies was mercantilism, which advocated for international trade, as this enabled states to gain wealth.
However, Ricardo came up with a different perspective that focused on comparative advantage, meaning that states had to specialize in what they produced (Ricardo 88). For this to flourish, states had to come together for trading purposes, what was popularly referred to as the free trade. In his analysis, he suggested that states had to engage in trade even though their levels of development were different.
Additionally, the state needed not to produce everything because it could obtain some goods and services from other parts of the world. He gave an example of the trade partnership between England and Portugal, which proved that a state could benefit even though it does not have adequate resources to compete. This view challenges the ideas of Marx that capitalism and the free-market economy are exploitative because studies confirmed that Portugal benefited to some extent. However, later studies confirmed the Marxian approach that capitalism will never benefit the poor, as the trade between the two countries killed the flourishing textile market in Portugal.
In his analysis, Marx was of the view that the proletariat should be allowed to run the economy whereby they are protected against all forms of injustices meted out by capitalists. Ricardo could respond to this claim by observing that protectionism will never guarantee development in the sense that it kills the agricultural sector. In Britain, the government protected farmers by implementing the Corn Laws that taxed agricultural products from other countries. Through the law, the government imposed taxes on agricultural products forcing property owners to rent their plots out to merchants.
Consequently, the price of land went up, something that benefited landowners instead of rewarding the industrial capitalists. Many property owners in the country were known to squander their resources instead of investing. Based on this, the British economy was unable to develop for several years, and in 1846, the law was repealed. Therefore, it is true that protectionism, as suggested by Marx, is unhealthy for the economy. The proletariat is incompetent to run the economy since its wishes and desires are based on the fulfillment of basic needs while the bourgeoisie aims at self-actualization.
The merging of England and Scotland was the beginning of the British Empire in 1496 when the first kingdom was formed. However, this was not an important kingdom at the time since nothing was achieved economically and politically. The second British Empire, which existed between 1835 and 1815, was the main kingdom in the history of the world. Between 1815 and 1914, Britain was the most powerful empire the world has ever seen.
The kingdom developed ambitious economic and political policies that would help it achieve national interests globally. In the same period, various scholars in the country engaged in research to establish the most effective system that would guarantee economic growth. The ideas of John Locke and Stuart Mill were employed to develop economic policies that would help in the management of the empire. Mill was of the view that certain factors must exist in case the government wants to enable a smooth production system (Mill 23).
The two main factors that determine to manufacture, according to Mill, are labor and natural objects. In the production system, labor is viewed as an important agent, even though not all forms of labor are needed in the manufacturing process. Through labor, through main utilities are generated, and the first one is the object for human use, which produces material goods. The second form of labor enables service delivery, and doctors and teachers fall under this category. The last category of labor is the one that ensures pleasure and entertainment, even though this form of labor does not bring about productivity.
Mill underscored the fact that labor alone cannot guarantee success in economic matters since other factors have to be considered, including the capital, which is defined as the accumulated stock of products of labor. Mill talked about distribution, and he went on to note that the distribution of goods and services is determined by competition, tariffs, slavery, slave ownership, wages, and rents. Through the ideas of Mill, the British Empire embarked on an ambitious program of annexing various regions globally with the aim of securing markets for products and services, as well as accessing cheap labor and raw materials. The empire was producing goods in mass, while markets were limited. Similarly, other countries in the continent were manufacturing products in large-scale, and the empire could not easily dispose of the products (Turpin and Tomkins 44).
This forced it to seek markets in overseas economies, including Asia and Africa. Mill noted that labor is an important aspect of production and since the British government was facing challenges in finding laborers to work in the fields, it had to seek the services of the locals in colonies and protectorates. In this regard, the ideas of Mill were uniquely suited to the circumstances of the British Empire during the 18th and 19th century. However, they cannot be applied in modern society because many things have changed, particularly given the fact that the sovereignty of states respected. Additionally, labor cannot be sourced without costs because of the development of the labor market.
On his part, John Locke discussed the role of government by observing that it has the power to act collectively. The community decided to surrender its power to one universal actor, which is the government, and its main role is to oversee the welfare of each person. Since the government represents the public good, any regime that is indifferent to the sufferings of the majority has to be removed and replaced with a working one. Locke claimed that man exists in a state of nature, meaning he has inalienable rights (Springhall 89). Based on this, people own their labor, and they have a right to work in the organization of their choice at an agreed payment.
Regarding private ownership of property, no person should harm another simply to take up wealth. The ideas of Locke seemed to oppose the activities of the British Empire, but the only idea borrowed was the legitimacy of government (Locke 112). The regime instructed people to respect the authority and never to question the decision of the government, particularly in the colonies and protectorates..
Locke, John. Second Treatise of Government. Boston: MobileReference.com, 2010. Print.
Marx, Karl and Engels, Fredrick. The communist manifesto. New York: Wild side Press LLC, 2008. Print.
Mill, John. Principles of Political Economy: And, Chapters on Socialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. Print.
Ricardo, David. On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004. Print.
Springhall, John (2001). Decolonization since 1945: the collapse of European overseas empires. Palgrave, 2001. Print.
Turpin, Colin and Tomkins, Adam. British government and the constitution. Cambridge University Press, 2007. Print.
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