Organization (of liberalism) refers to the existence and functioning of political parties. However, the essence of liberalism is currently burdened by generalities and the promotion of vague concepts. To revitalize liberalism and make liberal parties powerful and government oriented we need to change certain political priorities.
All policies promoted and supported by liberal political parties have to adhere to specific policy criteria. There have to be two root bases on which policies should be judged whether they are liberal or not. The one should be the promotion of less state intervention. It has to be finally recognized that the public sector is not any longer part of the solution but the problem itself. Limiting the state is a first step towards achieving reforms, unburdening the markets and thus approaching development and welfare.
The other should be the adamanant respect of freedom. Whatever limits a person’s ability to deal independently with his future and his life in general, should be refuted as non-liberal and condemned as conservative or social-democratic. All policies pursued should be evaluated and judged through these ideological guidelines.
The essential objective of organized liberalism is the defense of private property and the fostering of enterpreneurial activity of private individuals – easy access to money, guarantee of raw material, less state intervention (taxation/regulation), ample energy sources, and an available labor force. National competitive advantage relates to the low cost of goods. But all of these above issues have to be observed. Not only ie the guarantee of low labor costs. It goes without saying that respect of human rights falls within the scope of liberal policies. The above objectives, nevertheless, comprise the core of the human rights’ defense that liberals should struggle to uphold.
The idea of capitalism, within a framework of a liberal and democratic society, surpasses all other forms of effective social organization. History has proved it. Recent events (after 2nd WW), glorifying and justifying state intervention and purporting Keynesianism, have blurred and undermined it.
Free market capitalism (in the form of modern liberalism) confronted historically the landed aristocracy to promote the interests of commercial city vendors and the emerging at that time enterpreneurs. Faced later with the challenge of organized labor, liberals turned to ‘levellist’ (ie, pursuing equality be means of income redistribution) ideas promoting regulation of the economy to force the market to become “fairer”. This meant regulation and ‘distribution’ from above. It was the beginning of the decay of liberal parties and the termination of their relationship with government office.
Inevitably, this brought their downfall and long standing weakness. Conservatives and Socialists fought for the control of the (nunny) state and thus the commanding heights of the economy. Liberal ideas lost their distinctive power. Liberals became well wishers and worshippers of something not clearly observed.
There is a need for a return to the fundamentals of liberal thought. Separate roads have to be followed in relation to conservatives. Based on the suspicion of the state, they have to turn their back to consensus politics, fight without restrain for private property rights, uphold the privacy of individual life, believe in the inviolability of constitutional and human rights, and exclude from the eye of the state the control of economic transactions or the recording of private consumer habits and practices. Liberalism is a way of life-not just an ideology. There can never be two faced hypocrites. Liberals need to be firm in their beliefs and clearly different from all the others. This the only way to prove without doubt that liberalism is the most effective tool of development and for bringing countries quickly to the road of prosperity and welfare.
Let us observe some political features that distinguish liberal ideas from other ideological considerations:
In CONSERVATISM, Everything is forbidden, unless specifically allowed
In SOCIALISM, All is the responsibility of the state, which also defines what can be allowed or tolerated to be private.
In LIBERALISM. Unless specifically forbidden, all is allowed
Conservatism differs from liberalism because it is authoritarian, willing to use the state machinery to achieve predetermined ands. It believes in an omnipotent state able to “protect” its citizens even against themselves. This autarchic paternalism defines conservatism’s ideological profile. Whereas conservatives do not trust entirely the people and their free choices, liberals believe that man is the measure of all things. He is free to decide his future and realize unobstructed his destiny. Even if it differs from what others (who ?) believe that it is bad for him…
In all political considerations, as Lurwig von Mises has stated, there is only the choice between communal ownership and private ownership of the means of production. It is thus capitalism (everything privately owned) the only feasible system of social organization based on the division of labor which brings results and desirable economic and social outcomes. The productivity of the capitalist mode of production is the outcome of the capitalist mentality aiming to the satisfaction of man's wants; it is also a result of modern technology only in so far as the development of technology must, of necessity, follow from the capitalist mentality.
It was capitalism that created the technology, and not the other way round. Economic activity can no longer be carried on rationally once the prevailing mentality has reverted to traditionalism and faith in a top down authority. The entrepreneur, the catalytic agent, of the capitalist economy and also of modern technology, is inconceivable in an environment in which everyone acts on the basis of state plans and directives.
If one characterizes as unfeasible every system other than that based on private ownership of the means of production, it follows necessarily that private property must be maintained as the basis of social cooperation and association and that every attempt to abolish it must be vigorously combated. It is for this reason that liberalism defends the institution of private property against every attempt to destroy it.
The continued existence of society depends upon private property, and since men have need of society, they must hold fast to the institution of private property to avoid injuring their own interests as well as the interests of everyone else. For society can continue to exist only on the foundation of private property. Science has succeeded in showing that every system of social organization that could be conceived as a substitute for the capitalist system is self-contradictory and unavailing, so that it could not bring about the results aimed at by its proponents.
Liberalism does not claim that capitalism is perfect. It simply maintains that for the attainment of the ends that men have in mind only the capitalist system is suitable, and that every attempt to realize a socialist, interventionist, agrarian socialist, or syndicalist society must necessarily prove unsuccessful.
There are distinctive views that distinguish the policies of liberalism from its adversaries in specific political fields. In the economy, for instance, socialists have a set of beliefs very different from liberalism. They maintain that they support a market system in which, however, government regulates heavily the economy. Government must protect citizens from the greed of big business. Unlike the private sector, the government is motivated by public interest. Government regulation in all areas of the economy is needed to level the playing field.
Liberals however reject these views. They insist that public sector entities pursue sectoral interests very different from the aspirations of the average man in the street. Public organizations and enterprises serve the interests of their members with unions becoming the tool for achieving their specific ends. Liberals are convinced that the free market system, competitive capitalism, and private enterprise create the greatest opportunity and the highest standard of living for all. Free markets produce more economic growth, more jobs and higher standards of living than those systems burdened by excessive government regulation.
In the field of education the socialist view, at opposite ends to liberalism, is that public schools are the best way to educate students. Vouchers take money away from public schools. Government should focus additional funds on existing public schools, raising teacher salaries and reducing class size. The liberals, on the contrary, believe in school vouchers that create competition and therefore encourage schools to improve performance. Vouchers will give all parents the right to choose good schools for their children, not just those who can afford private schools.
Liberalism is rooted in a form of bourgeois or `possessive' individualism. Running through liberalism, in fact, is a persistent conviction that political stability presupposes a moral community of individuals who co-operate in the pursuit of common objectives. Early radicals and Whigs, notwithstanding their differences, shared the belief that private property tends to create in its owners the moral discipline and mutual tolerance through which a free and integrated political order is sustained.
At the present time the effort should be to battle heavy taxation and avoid at all costs the purpose of the public sector to allegedly achieve social cohesion through distribution of income and the pursuit of equality. All such efforts usually fail. Equality is never achieved. In the meantime however freedom is endangered. The effort should be to pursue policies that aim to the direction of establishing a social order in which freedom is without limits and equality is pursued without coercion. It is also important to establish the fact that religious beliefs influence the formulation of social culture which, in its turn, purports specific political values and attitudes. The protestant movement in Europe, for example, asserted the goal of happiness in this life and not in the next. This meant that protestant societies became active, businesswise and achievement oriented. They provided also a fertile ground for the emergence of democratic capitalism. If religion teaches passivity and the waiting for the afterlife there inevitably appear many obstacles to open societies and dynamic free markets. Clientele relationships are very probable to appear as well as mentalities asking for subsidies and government handouts.
The pursuit of equality cannot be normally included within a liberal platform. A desire for such a quest should remain within the political framework of socialist or social democratic parties. Populist and extreme rightist groupings claim also to work for attaining equality vis-a-vis capitalism. These therefore are not ideas relating to liberalism or to a society grounded on the respect of freedom. Liberalism cannot be a movement to simply copy ideas strong in western societies and attempt to implement them to a developing country setting without some clear understanding of their inner workings. Being a liberal does not mean someone who is ‘nice’. It means political fighters who want to change society by pursuing specific reformist policies.
It is also important to clarify that liberals are willing to defend human rights. But the human rights of all individuals. Not only of those who agree with their principles. If a society decides to enter a mental hospital by voting against democracy, freedom and tolerance it is the people’s right to do so. Who can decide that action has to be taken to protect them from themselves? It is at least ironic to believe that constitutions can avert tragedies since constitutions can easily be violated by those who claim to defend them.
Liberalism is not an abstract concept plunged in theory and well to do generalities. It represents obviously sectoral interests and the aspirations of various social groups. I insist that liberalism is not a concept for social debate and for helping people to feel nice. It is a fighting ideology aiming to conquer political power and implement its distinctive political program. Harold Laski, has said that liberalism 'in its living principle, was the idea by which the new middle class rose to a position of political dominance''. It is necessary that today’s liberals would discover a new footing, clarify their position, align their supporters and aim to regain power. Liberalism needs to be newly positioned in contemporary societies taking into consideration the problems of poverty, stagnation and peoples’ justified anger. To achieve this it has to be organized in politically efficient forms able to effect changes in the economics and politics of advanced as well in developing societies. They have to persuade voters that they are the key to attaining for the struggling publics success and welfare.
Organized liberalism can be an effective political tool for those aiming to bridge the gap between the west and the developing world. Provided that the concepts acquire meaning and that party organizations become instruments of change and reform.