Liberalism Untold Why A Genuine Liberal Thought Still Doesn’t Exist

  •  Leonardo Pompa    


From a political-philosophical standpoint, liberalism has its roots in its focus on individuals’ negative liberty, which entails the removal of any obstacle that might potentially hinder their actions. As Bobbio (1978) suggests, our agency can be limited at a social level by customary, legislative or moral norms. We can define the entirety of these norms as the nomos driving our day-to-day actions. Liberal thinkers usually argue that the state should regulate citizens’ lives as little as possible. From this perspective, they seem to be mostly concerned with setting people free from the invasive nomos of public institutions. However, is this political approach genuinely liberal? Based on the original, and thus genuine, meaning of the term nomos, the answer is no.

A real safeguarding of negative liberty should be aimed at the removal of any nomos curtailing people’s independence, not just the nomos of the state.

Within the context of the informal economy, for instance, poverty, marginality and precarious work have grown into veritable rules. When seen from this perspective, workers’ disadvantage is indeed a nomos regulating, restricting, and limiting individual agency. Why has liberalism failed to promote the removal of this kind of nomos that curtails people’s negative liberty with equal strength as that of the state? Is deregulation truly the solution to all the ills of the market? Should those who self-identify as liberals oppose or embrace a public nomos working against the spread of the nomos of job insecurity? This work claims that a genuinely liberal approach should be based on an etymological and broader understanding of the term nomos. It will also examine how private enterprises can favor the spread of this approach and safeguard workers’ negative liberty.

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