By Vexen Crabtree 2019
Liberal values can be divided into the social, political and economic. Some people may be socially liberal but not an economic liberal; others may be overall liberal, but not when it comes to political structures. (1) Liberal social values are those of fairness and equality1,2,3 without prejudice based on superficial features, the virtues of personal freedom and individuality2,3,4,5,6 (with restrictions against harming others7,2), generosity8, The acceptance of Human Rights2,3,9,10, open-mindedness8,11, rationality12 and reason13, secularism (giving no religious group special preference)10,14 and the worth of a social security net with guaranteed access to health services and education9. (2) Liberal political values include a government limited by constitutional boundaries15,16,17, that represents all of its people15 without giving preference to a particular religious, economic, racial or social group, that justice requires that all people are subject to the same rule of law18,19, and that governmental power isn't centralized into individual hands without checks and balances (the separation of powers)16. (3) Liberal economic values are those of free trade9,20, tempered by protections against irresponsibility and abuse.
The importance of education.
Fairness and equality1,2 of opportunity. This doesn't mean 'treating everyone the same' - it means treating people fairly, in accordance with their actions, without pre-judging people based on superficial or biased criteria. A fair society is the very first thing mentioned in the preamble to the Constitution of the UK's Liberal Democrats3.
Individualism2,9. Personal freedoms and human rights protect individuals from the sometimes-abusive behaviours of wider community. Compare with traditionalist religious cultures, in which 'the community' is protected at the expense of individual freedom (i.e., blasphemy laws restrict free speech and citizens are not free to choose their religion, in the name of protecting community traditions and ideas).
Justice9. Individuals, corporations, governments and their representatives are subject to the legal system, and no-one is immune from prosecution. In illiberal, totalitarian, dictatorial and right-wing systems, government officials often operate above the law, ruling by decrees that apply to others with no over-arching principles.
Niceness and being a good person.
Secularism - the removal of legal or social prejudice against anyone based on religion, by making the "public sphere" neutral, and removing special religious privileges given unfairly to specific religious groups14. This starts with the liberal notion of the separation of church of state10.
Social security: Government is responsible for creating a social security net and guarantee access to health services, housing, pensions and education9.
Toleration of others, and acceptance of diversity2,4,9. Tolerating other cultures does not mean letting them deny the rights of their own people. Their internal minority groups (for example, women and LGBT folk) will be protected by the host nation.
Some centralisation is required, but, the centralisation of power and influence is bad21. Liberalism sits halfway between the small-government of right-wing conservatism and the centralized economies of left-wing economics.
Government is representative of the people15 - not dominated by a particular religious, economic, racial or social group.
Free and open debate without political or ideological constraints15 - but people are still responsible for avoiding unfounded slander and hate speech, especially in avoiding movements that would restrict and remove basic human rights.
The rule of law18,19, policed by government, ensures that freedoms are protected to the greatest extent possibly but without allowing abuses and actions that restrict freedoms of others, and that all (including the powerful) are subject to the same systems as everyone else.
Separation of powers in government16; so that the parliament, the judicial system, the civil service, all operate independently with only clear and public levers of influence between them. This removes the risks of influential individuals being able to force their individual views across multiple departments - it allows the checks and balances against authoritarianism and popularism to work.23
Liberalism does not automatically require a democratic structure around it17, however, no other system of governance has engendered and supported consistent liberalism10. The very meaning of "democracy" has now come to imply a range of liberal values10.
The promotion of Free trade between individuals, corporations and across national borders9,20. Liberal trade requires the protection of individual rights, but the strange phrase "neo-liberal" has come to mean the opposite: the promotion of free trade at all costs24,25, and therefore ushers in the illiberal spectre of rule-by-the-powerful, as the rich can subvert and circumvent common morality and the common good, trampling on individual rights as they go.
Some regulation and monitoring of commerce is required in order to dissuade short-term gains being made at the long-term expense of humanity, and to prevent abuse (direct or indirect, conscious or accidental) by the powerful.
Economic and corporate decision-making should be done in a responsible manner.
Free-market capitalism is better than either state-controlled markets or unregulated libertarianism. Citizens and companies should be able to trade around the world without arbitrary restrictions.9
Current edition: 2019 Jan 27
Parent page: The Human Truth Foundation
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House of Commons (UK Government)
(2018) Disinformation and 'fake news´: Interim Report. Published by House of Commons (UK Government). Fifth Report of Session 2017–19 together with formal minutes relating to the report. Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed 24 July 2018. A briefing paper.