Pros and Cons of Liberalism

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Research Paper

In this essay, I am going to discuss different theories of government such as liberalism and communism. I am going to go into depth on how these theories operate as well as discuss how these theories affect societies. I will also go into depth on how these theories operate and also provide critique on what is wrong with them. I am often going to use examples of past or present governments that practice these theories and how it has affected them. The main objective of this research paper is to prove why I believe liberalism theory provides a more prospering society than the communism theory.

First, I will go into depth on liberalism and discuss how the ideology behind it. The theory of liberalism is based on the “call for freedom of speech and thought” (Gaus, 2003). Liberalism puts an emphasis on freedom and each individual having an even playing field. In the article, “Principles of a Liberal Social Order,” F.A. Hayek discusses how liberalism is the idea of limited government and enforcing laws that are necessary for society. The idea behind this is that it allows individuals to perform at a higher level than any other form of government or theory. In the article, Hayek is discussing spontaneous order and says, “A spontaneous order is based on rules which leave the individuals free to use their knowledge for their own purposes, and an organization or arrangement based on commands is of central importance to understanding the principles of a free society” (Hayek, 603). According to Hayek, liberalism provides individuals with the best opportunity to use their own knowledge to excel. The idea of liberalism focuses on a free market economy to give individual people the highest chance of thriving based on their own knowledge and determination.

According to John Mill, “As it is useful that while mankind is imperfect there should be different opinions, so is it that there should be different experiments of living; that free scope should be given to varieties of character, short of injury to others; and that the worth of different modes of life should be proved practically when anyone thinks fit to try them” (Gaus, 2003). Mills is essentially stating how everyone is different and each individual should have their own opinions for what they believe. However, people have the freedom to do whatever they choose, and some people will excel, and some people will fail. According to John Rawls, liberalism provides each individual with an opportunity to excel. This disregards how people were born physically, mentally, and economically. For example, a person who was born into wealth and a person born into poverty have an equal playing field to succeed. Rawls uses a principle called “Justice as Fairness” in which he says each individual has a right to basic liberties no matter the situation (Gaus, 2003).

The theory of liberalism has been integrated into a number of countries. For example, the United States has used the liberal theory in policies and beliefs over time. The United States has similarities to liberalism in the criteria of the economy, laws, and equality. Although not perfect, the United States tries to implement an economic market where people can thrive using their knowledge and abilities. The United States also employs laws of basic liberties that every individual should have. They also try to implement an equal opportunity where everyone has a chance to thrive, but it is not a perfect system. Germany has also applied theories of liberalism to their government. In the 19th century, Germany recognized and implemented policies that were similar to the United States. In a book named “German Expansionism, Imperial Liberalism and the United States,” by Jens-Uwe Guettel states “Of all the German colonies, only Southwest Africa had a sizable settler population. By 1903, slightly less than 5,000 Europeans lived in the colony, but the number tripled within a decade. As a result, the settlement of the American West was viewed as especially relevant for GSWA. Moreover, German observers attributed the success of America’s westward expansion to laissez-faire principles and the United States’ liberal political system. These reflections made American colonization practices especially attractive for liberal German expansionists” (Guettel, 2013). As a result, many places tried to implement the same principles that the United States had intact. The free market theory is the theory that was used a lot in governments. The United States as well as other countries implemented the Laissez-Faire Principle. The Laissez-Faire principle aims to have a free market, hands-off economy. This principle correlates with liberalism because both visions are to let the economy thrive without a lot of interference and regulation.

On the other hand, liberalism has some critiques as well. Critiques have stated that the liberal political theory often represents the liberal social practice that correlates with the Marxist ideology (Walzer, 1990). Critiques look at this theory as people who are isolated. People that are shielded and divided by rights. They believe liberalism divides people and leaves them isolated in a society whit no form of community presence. In this argument, critiques look at this theory as if it has no history. People do not share traditions because they only represent themselves (Walzer, 1990). Essentially, critics believe that since the theory of liberalism focuses on freedom that in result it leaves a gap in history. They believe this because the freedom of each individual is separate therefore there are no traditions shared between one another. For example, the critiques believe that certain values, religions, etc. are not shared in a liberal society. Whereas, in the communist theory, all the citizens have the same values and beliefs.

According to Karl Marx, the theory of liberalism is not rational because it is difficult to diminish the evil in society. He believes the only rational thought is to abolish society itself (Buchanan, 1982). Marx believes that the liberal theory opens the door up to a society where evil is abundant. The idea is based on in a liberal society people become greedy, exploit, and manipulate people and or things. As a result, Marx believes the only way to abolish evil is to abolish society itself. He also believes that “Only communism enables the full satisfaction of undistorted desires, and satisfaction is maximized only in a society whose members have such desires” (Buchanan, 1982). From a feminist and communist point of view, they believe the liberalism theory “Denies the embeddedness in the social world that is definitive of human life” (Hekman, 1992). This means that the theory of liberalism puts a division between men and women. Hekman states, “Due to the differing psychoanalytic development of boys and girls, boys are encouraged to develop masculine traits while girls are actively discouraged” (Hekman, 1992). Critiques believe the liberalism theory encourages one gender while discouraging another. As a result, this belief means that men are developed to have individuality while women are not therefore are not ready to live a separate life. Feminists and Communists believe that the theory of liberalism only prepares men for a life of freedom and individuality. Leaving the women to be unprepared and left isolated. Communist theorists also believe the equality of opportunity is not as even as it is in the communism theory. Communism's idea of equality is giving everyone the same things and everyone being equal. Whereas, from a liberal point of view equality is providing everyone with an even playing field of opportunity to succeed in their economy.

An argument against liberalism also states that Rawl’s concept of justice has major flaws. This is because his concept requires an essential concept to the community which his concept does not contain therefore Rawl’s concept is irrelevant (Hekman, 1992).

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Next, we will discuss the theory of communism only. Although there are communist leaders, communism itself has never been practiced. In this section, we will go into further depth on the communism theory and what it is. A book called “Communism and Political Culture Theory” by Gabriel Almond discusses how the theory of the communist system focuses on the experiment of attitude change. Almond talks about how communities are constantly watched, schools have rigorous teachings of the communist ideology, and in general, there are a set of rules and beliefs for the system (Almond, 1983). If any of these rules are disobeyed, there is severe punishment for those actions. Communism focuses on having the proletariat take over the classes in which they lead. The communism theory focuses on abolishing private property and having a profitable economy with the means of production.

To go more in-depth on the communism theory, we will discuss Vladimir Lenin. Lenin was a communist advocate and had a theory known as “Leninism.” According to “Leninism” by Neil Harding, “Leninism constituted the most comprehensive alternative to global capitalism and every variant of bourgeois society” (Harding, 1996). According to Lenin, the theory was a “society that forfeited its right to exist” (Harding, 1996). Lenin wanted to implement a whole new set of beliefs and values because everything else was “aged.” His philosophy was to take private property from capitalists for nothing in return (Fineberg). Lenin also implemented a policy called the “Tax In Kind” policy which took food and gave it directly to the state for redistribution to the people (Fineberg). Lenin proceeded to implement these actions too quickly which resulted in it to have repercussions. One of the ideas of that Lenin and the communism theory wanted was to help the proletariat class thrive. They believed the communism theory was the most rational way because the free market would not help the lower class excel. Marx and Lenin put an emphasis on building a party to overthrow the bourgeoisie and then nominating a dictator to take another step toward communism (Harding, 1996).

However, there are many critiques of the communism theory. One of the arguments that come with communism is the establishment of practicing communism. This is important because this theory has never been actually implemented. In an article by Gabriel Almond, he states, “The attitudes that communist movements encounter in countries where they take power are viewed as false consciousness. These attitudes are viewed as the consequences of preexisting class structure and the underlying mode of production. Communist movements either eliminate or seek to undermine the legitimacy of these preexisting structures and replace them with a new set of rules” (Almond, 1983). Almond goes on to discuss how the transformation to communism would take a long time if ever to implement. Burnham states, “According to Communists, the real problem is qualitative change – the change from water, the solid, into ice or gas. It is the change from a capitalist to a communist society. The revolution – that moment in the social process when the historical temperature reaches 212 degrees is the real meaning of the historical process, the real key, the real crux, and it is toward this that their attention is always invariably directed” (Burnham, 1952). Burnham continues by saying how communists do not want steady changes, they want to transition rapidly. This quote shows the argument of the transition might be the most key element of them all. If communists do not have the patience to make the slow changes to become what they envision then how will it ever work? Everyday citizen does not want their governmental system to be turned upside down in a day.

Critiques also argue that the communism economic theory is not effective. Instead of supply and demand setting prices, the government does, this can result in economic downfall and no competition. This economic system can also result in an underground market where individuals will trade for what they want because they feel as if they cannot obtain items through their government. The communist theory is also argued to lead to other downfalls. For example, crime and poverty are at the top of the list. Communism can lead to crime because when people feel as if they are trapped, they turn to survival mode. People will do anything to survive and if their governmental system is not working, they find other ways. Poverty is also correlated with communism. If the economy owned by the government runs out of goods, money, etc. then what will the people do? They could possibly starve as well as other things. Communism relating to these key elements is another setback for the theory of communism.

Lastly, I will discuss how liberalism is the best overall theory in comparison to the communism theory. The idea of the liberalism theory is based on freedom and equal opportunity. A liberal theory focuses on providing its individuals with the free market economy to provide the highest possible achievement of individuals through their own knowledge. According to F.A. Hayek, this allows competition to be the highest possible. The liberal theory aims to provide individuals with the freedom to do whatever they wish to do. I believe the liberalism theory is the most effective because it provides an overall theory that helps people excel at what they choose to do. It also provides an economy full of competition and profit which is one of the most important things to society. In a prospering society, it is significant that individuals be able to pursue and differ from things. A society that lets people flourish without restrictions is a thriving society. People do not like to be told what to do, it is human nature. The liberalism theory allows people to both agree and disagree with one another without repercussions. At the end of the day, I disagree with communist theorists on the idea that liberalism theory causes isolation. Yes, these individuals are allowed to pursue and believe different things, but it does not mean they do not share traditions. The communism theory of individuals being told what they need to do seems more isolated. People that are told what to do become depressed and isolated in general, I do not see how the communist idea of this can work. According to James Burnham, when discussing communism from the Marxist point of view, “True communism will succeed the Revolution, it will combine all the richness of civilization with the purity of primitive communism, but in a new way – not just the primitive ownership of everything in common, but an organization of society such that, though no individual has any special ownership interest in the means of production, all can have an abundance of individual and personal goods” (Burnham, 1952). The idea of this sounds good, but people become greedy, not everyone wants the same stuff as everyone else. People begin to want more and decide to rebel against the system. Also, the “abundance of individuals and personal goods” is hard to imagine as well. The economic ideology of a communist theory makes it where an economic decline is easily susceptible. As a result, it is possible that there could be a shortage of goods for the people.

The history of liberalism also proves to be more effective than communism. Whereas communism has yet to be practiced, liberalism has been implemented in many societies. Referring back to the United States from earlier, other societies were copying their Lassiez-Faire and liberalism principles. On the other hand, the communism theory has proved not to work. It is hard to maintain a thriving economy when free-market competition is taken away. It forces people to look elsewhere, for example, in the underground market. One of the most essential problems with the communism theory is that it often can lead to totalitarianism. Earlier in the paper, I discussed the transition of a certain system to communism. Transitioning from a capitalistic system to a communist system is near impossible. During the transition, the economy will start to decline because going from a free market economy to an economy that is owned by the government greatly decreases money flow. For example, the communist theory aims to own means of production. Over time, the economy will slow down because money is not coming and going. Also, there are many internal conflicts in a communist theory. For example, one of the biggest problems of internal conflicts is groups within the party, these groups usually represent a belief of their own (Kornai, 1992). Internal conflicts can also happen between the influence between ethnic groups and power between generations (Kornai, 1992). Conflicts like these are when totalitarianism starts to become what was communism. For example, Joseph Stalin was part of the communist party in the Soviet Union. He became in charge and pursued absolute power (Library of Congress). According to the Library of Congress, “Stalin had eliminated all likely potential opposition to his leadership by late 1934 and was the unchallenged leader of both party and state. Nevertheless, he proceeded to purge the party rank and file and terrorize the entire country with widespread arrests and executions. During the ensuing Great Terror, which included the notorious show trials of Stalin's former Bolshevik opponents in 1936-1938 and reached its peak in 1937 and 1938, millions of innocent Soviet citizens were sent off to labor camps or killed in prison” (Library of Congress).

In conclusion, I believe this proves that the theory of liberalism is a better alternative to the theory of communism. Liberalism promotes the idea of freedom and equality whereas the theory of communism wants everyone to be equal. Liberalism has been practiced and recognized to succeed. Whereas, the theory of communism has never been practiced and can lead to a totalitarian state. The basic ideas of liberalism are for the economy to thrive and for individuals to have an equal opportunities. On the other hand, the communism theory is a disadvantage to the economy because there is no economic flow. Communism’s idea is to provide individuals with equal opportunity, but the people are never allowed to grow. At the end of the day, liberalism is a more simple and effective theory compared to the theory of communism where the transition, in general, is a near impossible task in itself.

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Pros and Cons of Liberalism. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from
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