Liberalism: Strengths and Criticisms

Liberalism is wide range of political ideologies and philosophies that primarily advocates that individual liberty and equality is the most important among all political goals (Hardin 1999: 41). Liberals give emphasis on individual rights and equality of opportunity on all aspects of life, especially in social and political issues (Tomasi 2000: 4). Tomasi views that although there are various strands of thoughts of liberalism, they generally agree to support constitutional liberalism (2000: 4).

Constitutional liberalism covers the support for basic right for freedom of thought and expression, limitations on the powers of state, and fair and equal electoral process, the latter is known as liberal democracy (Hardin 1999: 41). Liberalism can be traced back in the Age of Enlightenment where many political philosophers on that period discards institutionalized political thoughts on governance, such as the Divine Right of Kings, domination acquired by hereditary reasons, intervention of religion on government affairs and protection of private enterprises over the rights of the people (Tomasi 2000) .

However the two broadest forms of liberalism differ on some view. Classical liberalism opposes state restrictions and policies on business and the economy, with only force and fraud, as an exception. They also fully support free market capitalism. On the other hand, social liberals support some government restrictions for the interest of the general public (Avnon & De-Shalit 1999). Governance Liberals emphasizes the necessity of universal human rights and the rule of law in governance. They also vies liberal democracy as the best structure of government (Hardin 1999: 82).

When elected by the majority of the people, representatives should follow the tenets of the rule of law and their authority is limited by the constitution. These limitations give stress on the protection and respect on basic rights and freedoms of every individual. For the liberals, the will of the majority is the most important concept in governance (Hardin 1999: 84). They also advocate peaceful process for the resolutions of any conflict (Avnon & De-Shalit 1999).. Civil and Political Rights Liberals primarily supports protection and respect on the civil and political rights of every individual (Kautz 1995).

These rights are also protected equally by the law. Liberalism advocates the equality disregarding the race, color, gender, economic strata and class. Liberals in the United States and Europe supported pro-choice advocacies on the right of women over reproductive health, against domestic violence and fair treatment on workplace. Some liberals, most often also supports the rights of homosexuals. Most liberals are also arguing against racism in work, school and community. They are against discrimination on ethnic minorities and colored peoples (Avnon & De-Shalit 1999:81).