Liberal values can be divided into social, political and economic. Historically, as a set of recognizable ideologies, liberalism derives from The Enlightenment1,2, but it wasn't, and still isn't, an homogenous character trait: Someone who holds liberal ideas in one domain doesn't have to be liberal in another. An individual may be socially liberal but not an economic liberal; others may be liberal overall, but not when it comes to political structures. Human rights and decency is the output of liberal social work. Democracy is an output of the liberal political project and is the only contender to authoritarianism3, and, free-market-capitalism is the result of liberal thinking on markets4.
Liberal social values are those of fairness, equality2,5,6,7, personal freedom and individuality6,7,8,9,10 (with restrictions against harming others6,11), generosity12, The acceptance of Human Rights6,7,13,14, open-mindedness12,15,16, rationality and reason17,18, secularism (giving no religious group special preference)14,19 and the worth of a social security net with guaranteed access to health services and education13.
Liberal political values stem from democratic principles and include a government limited by constitutional boundaries20,21,22 that represents all of its people20 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 law23,24, and that governmental power isn't centralized into individual hands without checks and balances (the separation of powers)21.
Many of these relating to freedom, democratic powers, compassion and rationalism can be said to have first been pushed into the political sphere during The Enlightenment.
An emphasis on education. Crime, poverty and prejudice are all linked with low levels of education. The push must be to improve universal education, no matter the wealth of the parents.
Fairness and equality2,5,6 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 Democrats (2018)7.
The acceptance of Human Rights6,7. Liberalism itself "starts with the assertion that all human beings have equal moral worth" and are therefore due equal rights2. Concepts of free speech and freedom of belief are liberal ideas13,14.
Individualism6,13. 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).
Justice13. 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 groups19. This starts with the liberal notion of the separation of church of state14.
Social security: Government is responsible for creating a social security net and guarantee access to health services, housing, pensions and education13.
Toleration of others, and acceptance of diversity6,8,13. 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.
Understanding other people before coming to judgements16. In the modern era, influenced by anonymous fast-firing banter online, many have forgotten the importance of listening and learning from others. It's more important the bigger the disagreement and the wider the cultural difference.
Political equality: "Liberal democracy is built on the rights of individuals to enjoy an equal degree of choice and agency in determining their collective political lives" (Fukuyama 2018)26).
Some centralisation is required, but, the centralisation of power and influence is bad27. Liberalism sits halfway between the small-government of right-wing conservatism and the centralized economies of left-wing economics.
Government is representative of the people20 - not dominated by a particular religious, economic, racial or social group.
Free and open debate without political or ideological constraints20, noting that we're all responsible for avoiding unfounded slander and hate speech, especially in avoiding promoting movements that would restrict and remove basic human rights.
The rule of law23,24, 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 government21; 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.29
Liberalism does not automatically require a democratic structure around it22, however, no other system of governance has engendered and supported consistent liberalism14. The very meaning of "democracy" has now come to imply a range of liberal values14.
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 0restrictions.13. Socialist governments have often wanted to manage and fix market prices (usually at a low rate) and extremist nationalist regimes and libertarians have sought to deregulate, allowing monopolies and other market-distorting commercial practices led by extremely wealthy business leaders and corrupt government-linked politicians. Both those routes undermine free-market-capitalism, especially in the medium and long-term. Centrist liberals hold that the only sensible route is to have some regulation to prevent market distortion and keep markets as free as possible for as many as possible.
The promotion of Free trade between individuals, corporations and across national borders13,25. 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 costs30,31, 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. Liberals argue that government involvement should be minimal but enough as required to prevent abuse (direct or indirect, conscious or accidental). In particular, there should be as few subsidies and trade barriers as possible (both internal and international). Legal frameworks should be as small as required to prevent market distortions such as monopolies and manipulations made by rich and powerful businesspeople and business-linked politicians, who are typically associated with right-leaning political parties; these will tend to undermine free-market capitalism through non-market means. The only markets that have seen long-term good health are the free-markets of liberal democracies.
Economic and corporate decision-making should be done in a responsible manner; the powerful and influential, whose decisions impact more people, should be under greater scrutiny.