Seven Guiding Liberalist Principles
Protecting the rights of the individual must be the highest value of society, to foster mutual tolerance and respect towards the cultivation of the dignity of every person.
There are many different types of society. Historically, the idea of a society where everybody has the same basic rights was seen as irrational. After all, everybody knew that some people were meant to rule and others were meant to know their place and follow the rules imposed on them. Even today, Orwell’s line, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” is instantly recognisable in many societies.
It took the unique conditions of social and political upheaval in 17th and 18th century Western Europe for a new way of thinking to emerge. New ideals, new moral frameworks, new societies – they all followed. And the key principle was that each individual citizen was a contributing member of society, whose individual rights and responsibilities were paramount. Rights such as freedom of expression and assembly. Such as the knowledge we are all born free, and equal in dignity. Such as the right to life, liberty and security. And especially, equality before the law. No bias, no discrimination, on any grounds whatsoever.
Property rights that begin with personal self-ownership and private property create the most productive societies.
All constitutional democracies, regardless of their concepts of the meaning and importance of individual or collective economic equality, agree on certain key principles. Economic freedom, the right to equal opportunities for citizens to improve their material wellbeing through their own individual efforts, is one such principle. Economic freedom includes the ability to own your own property and your own business, without undue interference from corporations or governments. It includes the ability to choose your own career path, to change jobs whenever and however you want, to work where you choose.
Constitutional democracy is the best way for a free citizenry to maintain a state and resist tyranny.
As Churchill said in 1947, “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms…”
There’s a wide range of types of democracies in the 21st century. Totalitarian democracies abound, usually in identarian or collectivist flavours. Technocrat democracies are the new kid on the block, with the EU one of the key implementers – this is where an “expert” gets parachuted in to run a government on the grounds that only the technocrat elite know best.
In the UK, we’ve had a constitutional monarchy since 1688 and with it a constitutional democracy that has grown and evolved over the centuries. The powers of government are limited by law and are derived from the consent of our citizens through votes cast in local, regional and national elections. Importantly, the fundamental values of a constitutional democracy line up with a focus on individual rights and our other Liberalist principles.
Freedom of Speech
Freedom of expression is a necessary and fundamental pillar of a free society.
Freedom of speech is inextricably linked to both freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Simply put, no society functions properly where its citizens are prevented from expressing themselves freely, or from attending meetings of like-minded people. Unfortunately, there is a growing tendency by governments worldwide to censor its citizens and, in some cases, such as Canada’s C-16 Act, to actually insist on the use of certain language where failure to do so is punishable by law.
As Liberalists, we stand against the encroachment by government and corporations on our rights to freedom of speech, expression and assembly.
People possess agency and should be treated as such because treating people like victims becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
As a wise man once said, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Individual rights are the greatest power a citizen can have, but citizens in a democracy also have responsibilities. Including the responsibility to take control of their own lives, to help build on the existing democratic foundations so that the next generation shares in those rights, too.
And individuals can’t do that if they are lumped together into collectives based on race, creed, sexuality or any of the other groupings that make up the 21st century victimhood hierarchy. If you tell somebody they are powerless often enough, that only the chosen few can speak for the many, they stop trying. The result? A generation that is depressed and has lost its way; a generation that doesn’t believe they can survive without the overarching “Nanny knows best” diktats of the political elites. We believe in the great power of the individual.
We believe that when those individuals band together voluntarily, they can move mountains. It starts with taking responsibility for your own life. Because without that first step, we have no democracy.
Each individual should be governed by the same laws as their peers without arbitrary discrimination and be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a fair trial.
Blind justice is a fundamental pillar of UK law that goes back centuries, even though it took time to evolve into today’s version, where every UK citizen has the same rights. Too often, we see social media mobs acting as judge, jury and executioner when perceived offenses take place, pressurising companies and public bodies to act in support of the “correct” moral framework. Even worse are the increasingly draconian “hate crime” laws, based on vague and shifting definitions of “hate” and “offence”, deployed by state agencies worldwide. We believe that a constitutional democracy with a rule of law foundation should not be enacting laws that presume its citizens to be guilty until proven innocent on appeal.
Everybody is free to practice their religion, or not, as long as it does not interfere with the rights of others.
In the UK, our constitutional monarchy is unusual because the monarch is also the head of the Church of England, as well as the titular Head of State. We still have bishops in the House of Lords. Since the mid-19th century, though, there’s been an increasing separation of government and religious institutions. In fact, the term “secularism” got invented in 1851 by a British Victorian agnostic.
Today, secularism means many things to many people. As a nation that includes worshippers of 6 major and many minor religions amongst its citizens, with just over 40% saying they are agnostic or atheist. We feel that a secular society should support the right of its citizens to practise their own faiths and philosophical disciplines. This means, however, that the government should treat its citizens equally, regardless of their personal beliefs, and that specific religious groups should have no undue influence over government policy.
Selected Photos © A Bradley; used with permission