Liberation inc. is an incubator of think tanks, new media sites, campaign organisations and other groups that aim to promote liberalism as a solution to modern, global challenges like Climate Change, pandemics, automation and the future of work, and AI and the rights of ‘digital citizens.’
For a long time, liberalism has been squeezed into a shrinking middle of the simplistic left vs right spectrum. As politics has polarised, this squeeze has intensified and now, too often, it is the opponents of liberty that define what liberalism means.
Whether it’s Orbán in Hungary, Bolsonaro in Brasil, Duterte, Putin, Trump or even Boris Johnson in the UK, ‘illiberal democracy‘ is a rebranded and popular model of control for the new wave of populist ‘strong men’ politicians. They attack the ‘liberal elite’ and the ‘liberal media.’ They deceive and gaslight their voters, they set up ‘alternative’ sources of information and purveyors of alternative ‘facts’ – they employ armies of bots and fake accounts to amplify, promote and normalise these harmful narratives. They control the information that voters see (illiberal) and then send voters to the polls (democracy.)
Of course, when opponents of liberalism have defined what liberals stand for, it’s no surprise that many people become disaffected with liberty.
Libertarianism or the heavily marketed ‘neo-liberalism’ (by which is often meant ‘classic liberalism’ rebranded) are often put forward by small state, right-wing fundamentalists as ‘liberal.’ Neither of those models have answers to global challenges like Climate Change where strong government intervention is required.
But liberalism and liberty can offer those solutions.
Liberalism that is concerned with freeing people from climate injustice, freeing people to live without fear, freeing people to live to their potential and freeing people from inequality, injustice and oppression – that is a liberalism that exists and it demands:
- government action – not small state, ‘laissez faire,’ hands off policies
- international collaboration – not global competition
- a mix of equality and empowerment for all – not state or oligarch domination
- government that is readily accountable to the people, from increasing openness, transparency and empowering local democracy
That is a liberalism that can be the answer to our modern, global challenges.
The difference is that liberalism with strong government action is internationalist, cooperative and, above all, transparent and accountable. It may be local, distributed and easily accessible by the public – or it may be supra-national, transparent and still accountable to the public.
We live in a time where existential crises are a fact of life. Have you stockpiled in case of Brexit? Or in case of Covid19? Is your job under threat because of digitalisation, automation or globalisation? Will the next decade hit you with floods, earthquakes, famine, drought, storms, or a pandemic or anti-microbial resistance or a bioterrorist event? Will your children be competing with genetically engineered classmates or AI?
There is a need for strong, clear, government intervention in all of these things. But if the end point is not a liberal one then we are simply replacing the threat of maniacal machines with maniacal governments or substituting the climate run awry with CEO’s run amok.
We must strive for equality and we must strive for personal empowerment and we must ensure we pursue technological advancement and have strong government intervention where it’s required – but all of these must be done within the framework of human liberty, of ‘freedom from’ and ‘freedom to’ and freedom as the end goal. These are our values and the values shared by our member organisations.