Governments need to be held accountable to ensure that they don’t overstep their mandate and encroach on civil and individual liberties. A political ideology that best achieves this (holding governments accountable) is liberalism. A political ideology is a combination of ideals, principles, and doctrines that guide a social movement and political activity in a community. The concept of ‘best’ as it is indicated in this paper’s thesis, indicates a political ideology that offers the most optimal benefits to the community where it is practiced. Democracy as a form of government has emerged as the winning form of government in the modern world. A political ideology of liberalism existed as a radical ideology from 1680 to 1800. The period as expressed by Bronner (2005), was the epoch of the democratic revolution. Liberalism, as an ideology had one advantage, it never perceived the idea of liberty as static. Instead, it continued to question the arbitrary and authoritarian institutional exercises of power. Liberalism best supports democracy because democracy is a concept that is under perpetual revolution. By calling authorities into question, its support for justice and fairness, and upholding of individual and civil liberties, the political ideology of liberalism supports the ideals of democracy.
Democracy addresses the needs of the community through constantly changing and reinventing itself (reforming) and this is an important point of intersection with liberalism. In his description of liberalism and revolution, Croce wrote, “… liberty, far from excluding revolutions, necessarily contains them, since it is itself a perpetual revolution, constantly altering, in greater or less degree, the framework of rights and constitutional arrangements in force (Brooner, 11).” On this, Croce is applauding liberalism for its revolutionary nature. It allows for the continuous amendment of the framework of rights and constitutional arrangements to ensure that there is conformity with societal needs. This quality of avoiding being statistic provides ensures that liberalism offers democracy an opportunity to remain consistent with the times and the situations that the constituents are facing. It makes democracy to be responsive and reflective of the situation at hand.
Liberalism advocates for a state and public authority that has limits. It means that systems of governance are important in that they bring order to nations where otherwise, people in authority are likely to misuse the power given to them by citizens through democracy. Habermas wrote, “In the first modern constitutions, …, they guaranteed the society as a sphere of private autonomy and the restriction of public authority to a few functions (Brooner, 8).” Having a restriction on public authority and at the same time autonomy to the private sphere provides confidence to the citizens that the law of fairness is enforced and the probability of using state power unfairly is eliminated. Habermas also observed that the same oversight on public authority is possible through having it safeguarded by laws laid out in constitutions. It is the citizens who decide whether to pass or suppress the laws by offering or denying support to the constitutions.
Liberalism has allowed citizens of his society to achieve the deepest and most reasonable basis of social unity available to citizens of a modern democratic society. In light of this statement, citizens can only get to a position of preserving liberty when power is bestowed upon them to do so. Liberalism allows equal access to rights and freedoms regardless of the power bestowed on some. Rawls, on the concept of justice and fairness, wrote, “Justice as fairness is intended as a political conception of justice for a democratic society, it tries to draw solely upon basic intuitive ideas that are embedded in the political institutions of a constitutional democratic regime and the public traditions of their interpretation (Broomer, 16).” Liberal constitutions deny public officials, branches of government, the government, and states autonomy by ensuring that there are means put in place to keep them in check. Liberalism ensures that fairness is entrenched in the social systems, political institutions, and the constitution itself to guard against the abuse of power by those in power. In the absence of liberalism, leaders would have the freedom to act as they wish without putting into consideration the impacts they have on citizens making it a suitable match for democracy.
Liberalism is at the forefront of ensuring that civil and individual liberties are safeguarded, a concept that is well accepted by democracies. To support the view that liberalism safeguards civil and individual liberties, Rawls wrote, “The course of democratic thought over the past two centuries or so makes plain that there is no agreement on the way basic institutions of a constitutional democracy should be arranged if they are to specify and secure the basic rights and liberties of citizens and answer to the claims of the democratic equality when citizens are conceived as free and equal persons (Brooner, 17).” The lack of agreement on how to arrange basic institutions in a democracy to ensure that the right and liberties of citizens are ensured is an indication that liberalism is continually concerned with the liberties and freedoms of individuals. The lack of agreement is a political discourse that individual constitutions must work on for the betterment of their constituents. The recognition of rights and liberties, and equality through the recognition of citizens as free and equal persons is the single most important strength of liberalism, and it's transmitted onwards to democracy.
Liberalism can be said to form the foundation of democracy through its attitude of calling authorities to question, its support for justice and fairness, and its upholding of individual and civil liberties, the political ideology of liberalism supports the ideals of democracy. Habermas, Croce, and Rawls gave liberalism much thought and analysis and demonstrated the efficacy of political ideology in supporting democracy. Democracy, which is centered on justice, fairness, rights, and freedoms, provides an excellent measure of how well a purposed democracy is doing. Liberalism, having been around for several centuries, has proven its worth. It is only fair if it is recognized as the best in supporting democracy.