The Friedrich Naumann
Foundation has a new name and logo. It reads:
Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung für die Freiheit or the Friedrich
Naumann Foundation for Liberty.
For liberals, as the name implies, the key value on which society
is based upon is freedom or liberty. However, in Germany as in many
countries around the world, the value of freedom is increasingly
under attack. Many people lay more stress on equality of outcomes,
or on the emotionally charged but ill-defined “social justice,”
or “security,” while being suspicious of individual
freedom. It is noticeable in the resistance to open markets and
competition, but also in the zeal to regulate and control what people
can say in public, how they dress, behave, what food they eat and
who they associate with. The “War on Terror” has produced
a suspiciously eager response from governments around the globe,
among rich and poor nations alike, to expand police powers and curb
This is a worrying trend, and one that seems to ignore the lessons
of history. Socialism collapsed less than 20 years ago. Not due
to external forces, but (to quote Marx with tongue firmly in cheek),
due to its own inherent contradictions. Asia was swept by a tide
of democratization after 1986 when the Philippines started it all
by toppling the Marcos dictatorship. There were good reasons for
that. Dictatorships underperform. Restrictions on economic freedoms
end up impeding growth and perpetuating poverty. Lack of political
freedoms means no restraint on rapacious governments.
By contrast, political freedoms reduce the potential abuse of power
by governments. It limits the time power can be exercised. Economic
freedom empowers the creative spirit. Competition directs resources
and energies towards their most efficient use and spurs innovation.
The rule of law safeguards individual freedom from infringements
and ensures that political and economic freedoms are exercised within
clear and enforced bounds. A truly free society thus needs all three
institutional elements. Leave one out, and the others are in danger.
The historical and philosophical case for individual freedom in
all areas of life is strong. But freedom often terrifies people
because it is inherently unpredictable. It will produce unexpected
change and will keep on changing society. For people and cultures
that value stability and certainty, this is a hard thing to accept.
For people who value sharing and community, the competitive spirit
and the pursuit of wealth feel somehow wrong.
Maybe freedom is ingrained in the human spirit, but it battles
with human instincts that have been conditioned over the millennia.
Maybe we have to keep fighting between our heart that values stability
and harmony, and our brain that tells us that no one has the right
or the ability to impose a master plan on society. Society is constructed
anew every day by individuals. The human spirit will make and remake
it forever. No one can know where it will lead. All we can do is
channel this creative energy so that no one is crushed in the process;
No one is excluded, and that all have access to its opportunities.
The one thing to avoid is stifling it. That way lies stagnation
This is why we want to remind ourselves and our partners that our
work is not just about liberal policies or democracy or human rights.
It is, ultimately, about what we believe the human condition to
be on a very fundamental level. It gives us a yardstick by which
to measure all our work.