The liberal state can be explained as an opposition of the individual against the norms of custom, tradition, and religion (Barry et al 2001, p. 3). As a result, the liberal inherently distrusted the imposition of any authority over the individual and the forces of the marketplace. Democracy is a means by which members of a community could ensure equality while working to achieve common goals and aspirations.
Liberal democracy can be defined as a political system in which the application of state power is curtailed in several specific ways. The first, most important constraint is the clear separatior if the private and the public realms. Any explicit attempt to merge the two is considered illegitimate. Liberal democracies are also political systems in which any application of political power must be sanctioned by law and a certain degree of equality before the law is accorded all citizens. Political power is subject to popular control through regular, open, and reasonably fair elections in which at least two parties compete for power. Finally, while there may not be a constitutional separation of secular and clerical authorities, the former has prevailed over the latter, at least in recent times. (Bell 2006, p. 123).
The main criteria used to defined the state as liberal democracy are the rule of laws and supremacy of constitution, voting rights and equality of all citizens, civil liberties and minority rights, independent judiciary and parliamentary power, independent media and religious freedom, subordination of military to the state power and freedom and autonomy of movements and assassinations. The examples of liberal democracies are France and Austria, Jamaica and Poland. Following Plattner (2007, p. 41), the general will of the community could force men to be free. Far from seeking to defend the liberty of the individual from the power of the state, the essence of democratic thought is to capture and employ the power of the state to benefit the community as a whole. Phrased another way, if liberalism proclaims the primacy of the individual, democracy demands the subordination of the individual to the collective welfare of the whole. Liberal values are not, of course, the only desiderata. There are ideals which others share, of unity, efficiency, order and security. In addition, all societies today, whether democratic or non-democratic, pursue the secular grail of economic growth, and democracy is likely to be judged not only by its merits but its performance. Some account, therefore, had to be taken of the relationship between political reform and economic freedom--a liberalization of markets and the spread of local wealth to match the dispersal of political power (Barry et al 2001, p. 43).
Civil society corresponds to liberal democratic society in its political aspects and to the pluralistic society of voluntary associations and private corporations on the other. Civil society entails the freedom of contract and the market economy. The private ownership of property and the freedom of contract and the organization of the market economy around them, are necessary conditions for civility in society. Seen in the crudest terms, civility and the market seem to be antithetical to each other--one altruistic, the other egoistic, the one inclusive, the other exclusive--but in fact they are mutually dependent. The very anonymity of the market, its relative disregard for the primordial and personal, is a necessary condition of the extension of the collective self-consciousness to the inclusion of unknown and unseen persons (Bell 2006, p. 13). Political scandals in the modern world can be understood only by developing an appreciation for this ambiguity concerning the use of political power-an ambiguity