[T]he classical liberal response to the problem of language minorities has been to practice benign neglect, that is, to allow any group to organise their group life in the language that they choose. Since the language of the institutions and forums of the state results of past or present power, benign neglect must always be a reinforcement of that power. Together with blindness to group difference it favours the majority because it encourages a default language, which is always that of the majority.
Laissez-faire policies mean that the languages of power and prestige will eventually take over in all situations of contact. Benign neglect, and the accompanying claim of blindness to group difference, are always de facto support for the language of the group that is already dominant and, if this is not acceptable, then there must be some form of protection for the language of minority groups. As the French revolutionary, Lacordaire, pointed out, where no law constrains, the rule of might prevails:
Entre le fort et le faible, entre le riche et le pauvre, entre le maître et le serviteur, c’est la liberté qui opprime et la loi qui affranchit. [Between the strong and the weak, between the rich and the poor, between the lord and the slave, it is freedom which oppresses and the law which sets free.]
Sue Wright (University of Portsmouth, UK), Language Policy and Language Planning – From Nationalism to Globalisation, 2nd edition, Palgrave Macmillan 2016 (Lacordaire translation added by )