Liberalism and individual freedom

FNF Myanmar

The central value of liberalism is individual freedom. Liberals focus on individual rights and responsibilities. Every single person is important, has aspirations and has the ability to think, decide and fend for himself.

The liberal economist and philosopher Friedrich A. von Hayek takes a principled stand on this aspect of liberalism, saying in The Constitution of Liberty  that a “society that does not recognize that each individual has values of his own which he is entitled to follow can have no respect for the dignity of the individual and cannot really know freedom.”

Principles aside, experience also shows us that Individuals tend to act in their own interest and make decisions that are rational and based on common sense. When necessary they will cooperate with other individuals to do things they cannot do on their own.

Individuals are, according to liberals, usually better at deciding what is good for them than governments and bureaucrats are. This is not hype. Our democratic political system is based on the assumption that people know what is best for them and vote accordingly.

Would we want to have free and fair elections if we believe that people do not have this ability? Liberals go a step further. They believe that individuals are in a better position and better able to take matters into their own hands in most areas of life. They subscribe to the idea of subsidiarity, an extension of the concept of freedom.

(Source: Introduction to Liberalism Book (2018) by FNF Myanmar)