Democracy and the neo‐liberal promotion of arbitrary power

Liberal political thought has traditionally been hostile to the arbitrary power of rulers. It has, however, qualified this hostility through its promotion of what Locke calls ?prerogative?, the need for rulers to act in defence of the public good ? but on occasion outside the constraints of law. Liberal thought has tended to overlook the arbitrary powers of citizens and private organisations. This is due, first, to its commitment to individual liberty. But it is also due ?more substantially ? to the belief that private agents and corporations, even when not constrained by law, are none the less subject to the non?legal sanctions and rewards imposed by the market and other aspects of civil society. Neo?liberalism is not rendered distinctive by its promotion of arbitrary power, since this has always featured in liberal government. Neo?liberalism is distinguished rather by its promotion of arbitrary powers across the full range of organs of governance ? from departments of government, through publicly and privately owned corporations, to ostensibly non?governmental bodies like charities, churches and so on. This advance in liberal promotion of arbitrary power has significant implications for the evolution of contemporary democracy
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