What Is the Difference Between Classical and Modern Liberalism?

Classical and modern liberalism vary in several ways: classical liberalism emphasizes a smaller role of the central government in citizens’ lives, and advocates the dual values of private property and private life, while modern liberalism supports an active role of government and advocates fair treatment and strong social support for all members of society. The development of classical liberalism dates back to the 18th century and emphasizes freedom in several aspects for all citizens, including freedom of personal property management, economic endeavors and money management. Modern liberalism, also called socialism, discourages holding private property when doing so disfavors certain segments of the population and calls for government supervision of domestic economic affairs.

Even within the categories of classical liberalism and modern liberalism, different subgroups and factions exist. Classical liberalism, for instance, divides into left-leaning and right-leaning groups. Some advocate for a virtually non-existent government presence, preferring giving citizens full control on affairs concerning their personal properties and economic transactions. Others support minimal government intervention, accepting government oversight for some economic stability and tax collection. The 19th century brought a revision of the classical liberal theory, with advocates accepting the change of power from a federal government to individual state governments. Modern liberalism advocates closing the gap between rich and poor, supporting agencies like social welfare and equal rights, which equally distribute rights and protection for all citizens.