A PROPER UNDERSTANDING of liberalism must include perceptions of the term within both a historical and a contemporary setting. Historical, or classical liberalism, has been used to describe both a political and an economic school of thought. The foremost proponents of classical liberalism were Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, and John Stuart Mill. Politically, classical liberalism evolved as a response to tyrannical governments that attempted to control the beliefs and consciousness of individuals, going so far as to mandate particular religious beliefs. Economic liberalism grew in response to mercantilism, which dominated economic European policies with its goals of furthering the interests of property owners at the expense of the general population.

Classical liberalism was based on the assumption that human beings ...

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