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What is Liberalism ?

Liberalism and Nepal: 1

Introduction to Liberalism

Liberalism is a political and moral philosophy that focuses on individual freedom and individual progress. Or, liberalism emphasizes that the individual rights of the citizens of any state should be established and the government should be limited. Also, the government should play an important role in fulfilling the basic needs of the citizens.

There are many types of liberalism which are Classical liberalism, social liberalism and Neo liberalism. Their views differ on the role of government, markets and social justice. Some of the founders of liberalism are John Locke, Adam Smith, John Stuart Miller and Immanuel Kant .They developed liberal ideas such as natural rights, free trade, utilitarianism, and universalism[1]. Liberalism is related to democracy. It emphasizes the rule of law and human rights. Liberalism advocates political, economic, and social systems that place a strong emphasis on the autonomy and dignity of the individual.  The issues from freedom of any individual to the open market economy are fundamental values of liberalism. Some of the main values or principles of liberalism are as follow:

Individual Freedom

Liberalism promotes individual freedom. And it believes that every individual should be guaranteed inherent rights and freedoms. These rights include freedom of speech, religion, assembly, property rights, etc. Liberalism advocates that the government should facilitate citizens in exercising these rights. Also, the main argument of the liberals is that the government’s intervention in these matters should be minimal. The belief that the progress of the individual contributes to the progress of the state is the essence of liberalism. Its core belief is that a person should be economically autonomous, self-reliant and independent.

Rule of law

Liberalism emphasizes the importance of a legal system based on the rule of law. It means that the law should be applied equally to all citizens and the legal process should be transparent and predictable. Liberalism also adopts the concept of the rule of law. It emphasizes that no one should be above the law and the law should be applied equally to all. Transparency is maintained only if everything is done according to law. Therefore, governance should be done only through law and not by any particular person.

Universality and moral equality

All citizens are equal before the law. It is a liberal concept that the government should work to protect the rights of citizens. Even if the situation of citizens is not equal in terms of social environment and economic generation, every citizen should be equal in the eyes of the state. Liberalism believes that all of them should have equal opportunities in the affairs of the state and equal access to justice.

Limited Government

American writer and philosopher Ayn Rand said that “Government is an institution that has the power to enforce laws and policies of social conduct within a certain geographical area.”[2] According to her, the purpose of the government is to enable the social stability of the individual, to protect their interests and to control the mistakes such as one person harming another.

The important functions of government can be divided into three categories which are related to physical force and protection of individual rights. First- protecting individuals from criminals with the help of the police, second- protecting the state from foreign invaders using the armed services, and third- resolving disputes among individuals by absolute law through courts of justice.

Liberalism generally imagines a limited role of the government or the state. It believes that the government should work for individual freedom and comply with the rule of law. Or, the belief that the government should not interfere in the private life of individuals under this or that pretext is the essence of liberalism.

Free and competitive market

An important dimension of liberalism is economic liberalism, which takes the free market economy as an important means of promoting economic growth and personal prosperity. Therefore, the main component of liberalism is the free and competitive market under economic liberalism. Liberalism emphasizes that markets should be free and made as competitive as possible. Because the more competition is in the market, the more it benefits the common consumer.

On the other hand, free market promotes innovation, efficiency and economy. Its basic concept is that market is a voluntary transaction. Money is a voluntary means of transaction at every stage from the production of any commodity to its sale to the customer. It facilitates the transaction of capital, labor services and resources. At each stage, the terms and prices of the transaction depend on the independent advice of the demand side and supply side. At each moment, the transaction is freely and voluntarily chosen, so such a market is considered as “free”.

Economic growth

According to liberal values, the only way to reduce poverty in the world is uplifting the economic capacity of an individual. For this, the government can engage the private sector by adopting a policy to make people more productive and qualitative. In this way, the private sector increases production, creates jobs, and increases wages and salaries. Robert Anderson writes in his article, “Rich countries have increased the income of most of their citizens by increasing production, creating jobs, and increasing wages and salaries. I believe a little that the existing poor countries can reduce their poverty by any other means than this. Therefore, I believe that the relationship between the development of the private sector and poverty alleviation is natural.” So, Contributions of the private sectors are valued in governing the state, creating jobs and ending poverty. Its main belief is that the wealth of individuals contributes to the state.


Libertarian gives importance to the diversity and pluralism. They support a society where different beliefs, cultures and lifestyles can coexist. Tolerance and inclusiveness are seen as an essential part of a liberal society. In addition, under the liberal belief, property should be the right of the individual, not the state. If the property is owned privately, it can be effectively used and mobilized. Property ownership creates incentives and motivation for citizens to do something.


Liberalism is emerging as a multifaceted and evolving school of thought. It has a continuing influence on contemporary political thought. Liberalism prioritizes principles such as individual rights, equality, and the rule of law. Looking at the legacy and potential future of liberalism, it appears to contribute to a just, inclusive, and democratic global society. In particular, economic liberalization can contribute to creating a prosperous world and to ending poverty and creating jobs. Liberalization is the policy to increase the participation of the private sector in economic development by making the state’s intervention loose in the economy, simplifying procedures, and developing an environment of competition.

On the other hand, creating a comfortable environment for globalization can also be seen and understood under economic liberalization. Liberalism believes that economic prosperity of the country will be achieved by increasing competitiveness in the economy. According to the liberal values, employment is not created by the government, but by the private sector. That is, the important role of the private sector in gross domestic product and employment is envisioned. The economic growth of the state can be accelerated only because of the sincere activity of the private sector.


[2] Ideas of a free society