The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Liberal Principles - Part 1
Leading from the Centre
We believe in a modern society founded on freedom and democracy, individual responsibility, social justice and community.

Britain has been built upon the enterprise and hard work of its citizens. In modern times, this has been underpinned by the freedom accorded to every man and woman, and by the performance of a dynamic free enterprise economy. The free enterprise system has ensured the dispersal of power and wealth, and has been a sure defence against the abuse of power by the state. It has proved to be the best system devised by humankind capable of combining the greatest degree of individual liberty with the greatest degree of individual prosperity. We recognise that there are occasions when it is appropriate for government to intervene - either directly or as a facilitator – when market failures occur, for example. We reject, however, the controls of the corporate state over people’s lives.

Freedom is also about the quality of life enjoyed by every man, woman and child in Britain, which can be measured by the:

- ability of individuals to acquire the education, skills and training they need to enhance their opportunities;
- way people behave towards each other;
- absence of prejudice and discrimination;
- level of income and material well-being of every person;
- absence of fear in our homes and communities;
- quality of the natural and built environment;
- level of toleration in our society;
- ability of government and society to recognise that some people are less able to compete in the market;
- range of choices people enjoy in their everyday lives.

Individual Responsibility
We believe that a prosperous, civilised and caring society can only be built if all its members share the aspirations of such a society. This means acceptance of a high level of individual responsibility for the economic and social well being of Britain, with the government adopting a role as a facilitator, or provider as appropriate.

We believe in promoting opportunity, incentive and responsibility over dependence and state welfare. In the economic sphere, government has a fundamental responsibility to ensure that individual initiative is not stifled by disincentives to hard work and enterprise. This, however, must never be narrowed to an exhortation to selfish aspiration. The greatest examples of individual responsibility are the sacrifices men and women are prepared to make for their families, their communities, society at large and less fortunate communities overseas.

We believe in building an ethos of duty, respect for others and compassion. This should be expressed by the actions of ordinary people, accepting individual responsibility for themselves and their fellow citizens – and is as much about the standards of everyday courtesy and manners as it is about performing heroic deeds.

Social Justice
We believe that social justice is about enhancing the opportunities and well being of all people in Britain; it means everyone having a sense of ownership and participation in the society in which they live. This must entail a particular focus on those in need, and the role individuals, voluntary organisations, government, local authorities and the private sector can play in meeting those needs. The concept of the welfare society, in which the responsibilities of individuals and organisations additional to government are emphasised, is one we prefer to that of the welfare state.

We recognise that continuing organic change in the systems of welfare is essential to meet new challenges but any reforms must preserve the concept of a safety net for those in need regardless of ability to pay. Our approach recognises the role of government in supporting individuals and families in need, in broad partnership. Ultimately, we believe a new social coalition of government, business, charitable and welfare organisations, and other community groups – each contributing their own particular expertise and resources – will address the social issues that directly or indirectly affect all members of society more effectively than through state welfare systems alone.

We believe that individuals develop, and receive the support they need throughout life, from the communities to which they belong. Community means recognition of the mutual dependence that underpins human life; it is the context in which people learn about rights and responsibilities, and how those rights and responsibilities are exercised. For most of us, the immediate community is our family, however constructed. For this reason, we believe that society should build an environment that is sympathetic to the needs of the family.

Other types of community include, amongst others, geographical localities, schools and colleges, friends, and religion. The workplace is also an important community for most people, and for this reason we emphasise the moral responsibility all employers have for the people who work for them. We believe that to encourage business to instil a greater sense of community, such as partnership and co-operation with employees, will transform the performance of business and provide a fulfilling environment for people to develop their working lives.

The International Community
We believe we should be an unashamedly internationalist party. We believe in the concept of partnership and community amongst the nations of the world, and the benefits these can bring in terms of international friendship, the spread of human rights and democracy, and economic achievement. This sense of a shared responsibility for the destiny of all the peoples of the world is fundamental.

For Britain, international co-operation includes intelligent participation in the European Union, NATO, the Commonwealth and the United Nations. We believe in working within and through all these international bodies to lend authority to the achievement of common goals when it is in our common interests to do so. By acting within and shaping those extended communities, we can tackle the needs of the developing world, the challenges of environmental change, promote democratic values and work to preserve peace and stability across the globe. We also believe that the wealthy nations of the world have a responsibility to help the poorer ones.

We believe that Britain must be a full and committed member of an effective European Union, in so doing enabling Britain to gain a greater measure of effective power in the world. We look forward to the opportunities afforded by our influencing of a more outward looking, but reformed, European Union and to the role it can play in strengthening global institutions such as the UN and the World Trade Organisation to promote peace, economic development and environmental stewardship.

The Political Community
We believe that partnership and co-operation should be used to change the mindset of British politics. Politicians of different parties should be prepared to recognise common ground where it exists and co-operate as appropriate to advance the interests of the British people. Government at all levels must foster a sense of partnership and unity throughout the United Kingdom. Constitutional change must be pragmatic and justified by tangible improvements in the quality and accountability of government.

Power should be centred on the local community whenever it is practicable. Government should be about empowerment and not direction. Parliament must be a meeting house for the nation and not the tool of the executive. The rule of law is fundamental in establishing a just and democratic society; politicians must be seen to uphold it.
posted by Apollo Project @ 5:44 pm  
  • At 24 August, 2005 21:05, Blogger Bishop Hill said…

    I've said it on a comments thread on this site before, but it is worth saying again. Quality of life is not freedom. Look up "freedom" in a dictionary and see if you can find anything about quality of life. You will find nothing.

    Take a look down your list of QoL issues. Level of income is not the same as freedom is it? Call it wealth and everyone will understand what you are talking about. Call it material equality if that's what you mean. But it isn't freedom. You can be absolutely destitute and absolutely free.

    Politicians need to learn to use language in the same way as the rest of us, otherwise we just end up wondering where else your actual meaning is different to the words you say.

    Freedom is far too important to get lumped in with quality of life issues. I hope you can see the danger of doing this. As a society we have to stay on our guard if we are to maintain our liberty. We risk taking our eyes off the ball concern ourselves with the "quality of the built environment" and all the time kid ourselves that we are defending freedom.

  • At 25 August, 2005 12:57, Blogger Patrick said…

    Bishop Hill is right. Socialists have tried to confuse the meaning of the concept "freedom", but liberals shouldn't fall into the same mistake. Even those liberals, who beside freedom see other values also important, should be able to distinguish freedom from those other values.

    As Isaiah Berlin said in his famous essay "Two Concepts of Liberty", Everything is what it is: liberty is liberty, not equality or fairness or justice or culture, or human happiness or a quiet conscience. If the liberty of myself or my class or nation depends on the misery of a number of other human beings, the system which promotes this is unjust and immoral. But if I curtail or lose my freedom in order to lessen the shame of such inequality, and do not thereby materially increase the individual liberty of others, an absolute loss of liberty occurs. This may be compensated for by a gain in justice or in happiness or in peace, but the loss of freedom - 'social' or 'economic' - is increased. Yet it remains true that the freedom of some must at times be curtailed to secure the freedom of others. Upon what principle should this be done? If freedom is a sacred, untouchable value, there can be no such principle. One or other of these conflicting rules or principles must, at any rate in practice, yield: not always for reasons which can be clearly stated, let alone generalized into rules or universal maxims. Still, a practical compromise has to be found.

    I also see the concept of "Centre", used in the subtitle "Leading from the Centre" a bit problematic. Centre is just something in between of Left and Right. It doesn't have an independent substance, it is dependent on the definitions of "Left" and "Right", and is just their average. If socialism is on the Left, conservatism on the Right and liberalism in the Centre, is liberalism just an average of conservatism and socialism? I hope not.

    Therefore liberals should ignore the Left-Right axis and refuse to place themselves into the Centre. Isn't plain "liberal" a good enough definition to explain one's political position? If not, one can always describe one's views more explicitly. But "Right", "Left" or "Centre" doesn't tell much of one's real ideas. For instance, Alan Duncan and Edward Leigh are both considered to be on the right side of the political spectrum, yet they have major differences on their thinking.

  • At 28 August, 2005 12:32, Blogger Peter Pigeon said…

    I have to say I have some sympathy for the Bishop Hill/Patrick/Berlin axis on this freedom issue. (T H GReen notwithstanding). But I am intrigued as to why Steve has suddenly come with this credo.

    On the "Centre" issue, of course I agree. Phil's "stringworld" post dealt with this.

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"What is Liberalism?: I should say it means the acknowledgment in practical life of the truth that men are best governed who govern themselves; that the general sense of mankind, if left alone, will make for righteousness; that artificial privileges and restraints upon freedom, so far as they are not required in the interests of the community, are hurtful; and that the laws, while, of course, they cannot equalise conditions, can at least avoid aggravating inequalities, and ought to have for their object the securing to every man the best chance he can have of a good and useful life." C-B.


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