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To what extent do liberals disagree over freedom?

The principal disagreement among liberals is between negative and positive freedom. Classical liberals believe in negative freedom. This is viewed as the absence of external restrictions on the individual, allowing freedom of choice. The key idea si that the individual is 'free from' constraints to do as they wish. State intervention should therefore be minimal.

In contrast, modern liberals believe in positive freedom. They disagree with the unfairness created by negative freedom, particularly towards those who are disadvantaged. Instead freedom for modern liberals should reflect the freedom to achieve your true potential, the idea that you should be 'free to' do things. Social disadvantages (such as poverty, diesase, lack of education) are seen as the main threats to personal freedom. The state is therefore a potentially useful body with both a positive and empowering role to help individuals achieve their potential.

There are similarities between both sides however, as both believe that the state can interfere with freedom. Modern liberals differ becuase they see those who are disadvantaged as unable to achieve true freedom in the classical liberal sense, and so build upon negative freeom to create an idea that gives freedom for all. Beyond overcoming social disadvantages, however, the state should take a small role in society, similar to the classical liberal stance. Furthermore, both sets of liberals do not support absolute freedom. They share a belief that people should enjoy the maximum amount of freedom possible as long a this does not infringe on the freedom of others. 

Natasha L. GCSE Politics tutor, A Level Politics tutor, GCSE Spanish ...

10 months ago

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