Freedom in Doubt
A few days ago I had the pleasure of participating in the awards ceremony for the “Caminos de la Libertad” (Roads to Freedom) essay contest that Grupo Salinas organized for the third consecutive year.
With German meticulousness, Dr. Ulrich Wacker, the director of the liberal Friedrich Naumann Foundation , detailed seven concrete theses on freedom. I think they are especially relevant given the current stat of affairs:
First. Freedom is a fundamental right. It is limited only by the freedom of others.
Second. Freedom always respects Man’s belongings. Individuals must be free to decide about anything they acquired with their own efforts. The right to property is one of the most important conditions of freedom. Without the right to self-determination, without the right to property and without the right to privacy, people are vulnerable to other individuals or collectives and lose their independence.
Third. Freedom requires law. Law is the condition that ensures that no man can abuse his freedom to infringe on the freedom of others. To prevent arbitrariness, the state must impose law as a neutral body. But the state itself can be a great threat to freedom. To preserve legal order, constant attention, independent civic responsibility and carefully constructed institutions are all required.
Fourth. Freedom promotes education. Individuals can only develop in freedom. This is the only way they can approach the ideal of the independent citizen, aware of him/herself. When the individual’s development is at the mercy of the whims of those in power, he/she is exposed to frequent indoctrination; not only the dignity of mankind is lost, but society as a whole also suffers. When individuals are not allowed to use their knowledge for themselves and they lose their critical capability, the culture, economy and life opportunities are all paralyzed. That is why freedom and education are inseparable.
Fifth. Freedom makes a better society possible. It is a moral commandment that puts forward respect for our fellows as unique individuals. It simultaneously builds the basis for a prosperous, peaceful society. All models of society not based on freedom appeal to paternalistic instincts. However, actually, freedom has always been superior to that. Suffice it to observe migration throughout the world to understand the desire people have for freedom. Utopians think that one or another totalitarian country is a better world. However, millions and millions of people have preferred to flee from an apparent utopia and have chosen greater, real freedom.
Sixth. Freedom is the basis for a society’s well-being. Only where people act freely among themselves without abusing their positions will they achieve a balance of their interests. The market economy, based on a free contract, concerns itself with individuals’ needs and interests being efficiently coordinated within the framework of a complex society. Therefore, freedom is also a social issue. Improving society has always been one of the aspirations of freedom and liberals. In poverty, freedom becomes an illusion. For this reason, liberals fight to establish conditions in which freedom can reign. But even in times of fear and extreme need, freedom is and always will be an important value.
Seventh and last. Freedom unites the world. Freedom makes it possible for different people to live together and cooperate productively; it transcends artificially drawn borders. Globalization is a desired consequence of a libertarian society. Free trade is not only something that involves the relationship among states; it is part of personal freedom itself. The goal of a freedom-based policy is to strengthen freedom itself. This is a step toward a real universality of freedom and true peace in the world. The greatest ideal of freedom is to turn us all into citizens of the world.
I thank Dr. Wacker for his eloquent words and for being with us. He concluded by asking us to appreciate the value of the force of freedom, and to fight to include the liberal creed as one of the principles of the governments of the world: In dubio, pro libertate, or “In case of doubt, freedom.”