Posted on October 23, 2022
By Nathalie MP.
I wondered what I would say if someone asked me what “being a liberal” meant to me. I’m going to start with an example that will probably surprise you because it doesn’t concern economics at all.
Two examples of constructivism
You think – guess – that organ donation is a brilliant idea that saves lives. It’s perfect, I also think it’s great. Things are starting to go wrong, however, because you’re so excited about the idea that you even think everyone should follow suit. In fact, ideally, everyone should be forced to donate their organs, because “it’s good”.
However, there are people who are less enthusiastic, even downright hostile, on this subject. Among the latter, some would like organ donation to be purely and simply prohibited, because “it is bad”.
Want to impose organ donation on everyone according to your own sense of right and wrong makes you a progressive constructivist. Those who, on the contrary, wish to ban it are conservative constructivists. The attitude of the liberal will consist in saying that the decision must be up to each person taken individually, not to a few “chosen ones” who imagine they know for others what should be done.
It is possible that over time the idea of the benefits of organ donation will gain more and more people and naturally impose itself in society as a whole, but it will be by evolution of individual decisions, certainly not by arbitrary determination of a “general interest” forcibly applicable to all members of society.
Liberalism is based on individual freedom
The first thing to remember from this example is that liberalism is based on individual freedom. The second is that a political regime that would limit itself to lowering taxes, and more broadly to organizing a pleasant environment for businesses while maintaining a coercive context and a moral order – progressive or conservative – everywhere else, would not be a liberal regime.
It turns out that the state is the typical entity that thinks it knows better than you what is right for you. Its representatives, however, are always only human beings like you and me. Nevertheless, having determined that such an action is “brilliant”, they will never stop wanting to impose it on everyone by disguising their authoritarianism under the defrocking of the strategist state and under the false activism of so-called “voluntary” policies carried out in the name of general interest.
In fact, the strategist State always and everywhere rhymes with cronyism, connivance, mismanagement and festival of deficits. The proof by Areva, SNCF, the Poitou-Charente region and Social Security. “Voluntarist” policies only reflect the weak support they arouse in society, to the point that they have to be imposed in an attempt to keep them alive.
As for general interestit is a pretentious concept aimed at drowning the whims of a few in an expectation allegedly shared by all citizens without exception.
Liberalism only validates what works
On the economic level, as I have had occasion to write on several occasions, liberalism has nothing to do with a predetermined ideological construction. It has grown little by little through observations of what works and what doesn’t.
Very quickly it became apparent that protectionism and all the limits imposed on competition do not work ; that there is no point in wanting to maintain unprofitable activities at all costs; that the regulatory requirements of the State hamper exchanges and creativity; that the ever-increasing burden of taxation to satisfy rents or expensive lifestyles weighs on the harmonious economic development of all classes of society.
Liberalism wants to limit the power of the state
In general, liberalism opposes any power arbitrarily imposed from above. On the contrary, it is a question of limit the power of the state to let each individual choose his own way of life, both personally and economically.
Far from imagining that “everything is permitted”, liberalism considers that the individual is a responsible being who respects the integrity of people who are not him, and that of property that is not his. Freedom is total within the limits of respect for the natural rights of freedom, security and property. The State is there to enforce these principles and ensure respect for the law and contracts between people.
But the state is not there to dictate our daily conduct. It is quite curious to think that we are still considered capable of buying a car, clothes or food – although we are not lacking in advice and injunctions of all kinds on these subjects, but that we would be incapable of choose health insurance or a school for our children apart from what the State is willing to grant us in these areas where it hardly shines.
Give back to the individual the power to decide for himself
The fundamental idea of liberalism is to restore autonomy and decision-making power to individuals on the basis of two observations: he who knows best what suits him is the individual; the one who acts most effectively is the one who has a direct interest in the matter for which he is acting.
This ambition is not nor “murderous”, nor “excessive” because it is deployed within the framework of respect for the natural rights of freedom, security and property. The only limit that does justice to all men passes through the respect of property and people, the only role of the State that does not constitute an abuse of power consists in enforcing it.
Rather than resigning ourselves to being the docile robots of the authoritarian whims of the few, whether progressive or conservative, would it not be exciting to contribute to the positive evolution of the world by cultivating our personal talents, by using creativity and showing curiosity in all possible areas, within the essential limits of respect for people and their property?
* Note that since January 1, 2017, the standard that applies in France in this area is default acceptancewhich amounts to advancing on the path of obligation without the express consent of the deceased.
Article originally published on April 3, 2017.