Concept of Liberty with Regard to Burke

Burke's Beliefs on Liberty and the Role of the Monarchy

Burke posits some of his beliefs about the nature of liberty, the nature of the state, and how the two relate in Reflections on the Revolution in France. The publication by Edmund Burke in 1790 was intended to be an intellectual critique of the French Revolution. Burke firmly believed that the worth of the governing agency, in this case the monarchy, should be upheld with regard to the power of the state and the individual’s civil freedoms and that the people had no right to call into question the reasoned basis for the monarch’s authority. Burke’s argument in Reflections on the Revolution in France is centered on his belief in the monarchy which had been appointed by the divinity. In turn, Burke purposes that liberty can only be attained and maintained at the rule of the king and queen, and furthermore that revolutions such as the one France had undergone, would jeopardize this liberty.

Burke's Rejection of the French Revolution and Rationalism

Burke argues that the French Revolution, founded on concepts of rationalism, did not hold into account the complexities of the human community. Considering the enlightenment as an affront to the institutions that had held the European continent together for so long, he vigorously rejected the proponents of the same such as Rousseau and Voltaire. He continued to affirm that true liberty amongst the people could only be attained when they all swore fealty to one king and queen. Moreover, Burke suggests that without the monarch system, society would be plunged into chaos which would in turn negate even the most basic of liberties. Needless to say that Burke’s political stance was characterized by loyalty to the crown and the subsequent denouncement of any opinion or concept that rivaled this.

Burke's Predictions on the Loss of Liberty and Rise of Military Rule

Burke, in Reflections on The French Revolution cites that the French Revolution would have dire effects on the liberty of the citizens living within the state. To this end, he affirmed that in the absence of a monarch to control the military, marshal law would exert the military’s power over the population. Consequently, Burke also cites that when this happens, the people will have lost all their constitutional and human rights and will become instead, subject to the rule of military law. Reflections on the French Revolution then touches on a consideration that from the rubble and chaos that the revolution brought, a popular military leader would arise, one who would become more of a dictator than a fair ruler. It is noteworthy that Lafayette and Napoleon would later prove Burke’s theory right. From Burke’s criticisms of the French revolution, it is clear that he was a conservative individual who considered it true that liberty could only be achieved by the rule of the monarch, which had divine backing instead of a democratic system which was based on the then scholarly reason.

Hume's Definition of Liberty and Its Relation to the Constitution

Concept of Liberty According to Hume

Hume, in his discourse on Constitutionalism and the Redefinition of Liberty, explicates the concept of liberty with regard to the constitution. To this end, Hume brings to light several key aspects of liberty; liberty existing between civilians and liberty between the individual and the government. While most constitutional documents take care of the first concept of liberty, the latter is not emphasized. The Constitution, brought into power the nation-state, central and fundamental to which, was democracy. However, democracy has often been trumped by mob rule, and even in a democratic society, the majority in numbers often get to have their way. Hume affirms that even in the ancient days of Rome and Greece, individuals had rights as members of the state, rights which were inalienable and universal. However, the citizens were themselves prey to the power of the state.

The Separation of Powers and the Abuse of Governmental Power

The earliest attempt at abuse of power by the government was with the separation of power. The governing entity would be comprised of three parts the judiciary, the legislature and the executive, all of whom were independent of one another and as such, remained true in the fulfillment of their duties. Where once there were monarchs ruled by one bloodline, the world was now embracing democracy and with it, the division of power amongst the three arms of government. While this served to reduce the extent by which the government took advantage of their citizens, government officials would later come to invent the red tape to cover up their illegalities. This came in the form of bureaucracy which lengthened the process by which government offices could be held accountable.

The Distortion of Liberty in Parliament and the Influence of Self-Interest

Hume further explores the concepts of liberty in parliament. Seeing as the legislature is responsible for making and amending the rule of law, they have to be observed through some level of scrutiny. Hume notes that though morality offered a good guiding hand to human action, however, where the course of action is dictated by the majority as is the case with parliament, moral authority becomes diminished. In this respect, the majority will always opt for actions and undertakings that reflect their self-interest as self-preservation is a powerful motivator. Hume explicates how this can distort the concepts of liberty which governmental agents apply to themselves, and by extension, the bills they choose to convert into law.

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