Liberal Values – a review based on Liberal International’s Manifestos

In this contribution, Tiago Dias from Portugal start from Liberal International Manifestos during the years to analyze what really being Liberal means, An interesting review about what being Liberal really means.


Last weekend I was at a national political meeting in in Portugal. There I could reflect on the Liberal Values that drive me to participate politically, which in turn has led me to write an article about them.

In a simple approach, political parties can be said to be groups of people with a common set of values and vision for society. And, although subject to variants and hardly inexhaustive,, one can name a list of few of these by way of example. They could include Primacy of the Individual and fundamental rights, Market Economics, Individual liberty, Equity, Environmentalism and International Cooperation, which are important topics for discussion.

Primacy of the Individual and their Rights means that Liberals understand the human beings are endowed with fundamental rights, which it is the State’s function to defend by social contract, such as physical and psychological integrity, civil rights, free association, public opinion and expression, as well as private property.

A comprehensive set of rights, freedoms, and responsibilities allows for the pluralism of beliefs and ideas, as well as the diversity in backgrounds, that nourish this richness of difference without distinction based on gender, race, age, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, disability, or any other personal or social condition.

Andorra Liberal Manifesto of 2017

Liberty means that Liberals cherish the idea that an individual person can choose. It is the cornerstone of human happiness and of a community’s well-being, and includes the choice of conscience and religion, the choice to do as one whishes with his property, the liberty of expression, and the liberty of choosing a career or professional path. It is not only a state of non-coercion by law or prejudice but also a state of capability to choose.

We believe that the conditions of individual liberty include the rule of law, equal access to a full and varied education, freedom of speech, association, and access to information, equal rights and opportunities for women and men, tolerance of diversity, social inclusion, the promotion of private enterprise and of opportunities for employment

Oxford Manifesto 1997

Environment means that Liberals are well preoccupied with the degradation of natural systems due to human living. While standing for liberty and market economics, they are aware that deregulation and anarchy can lead to irreversible damages that negatively diminish human health and welfare. Nevertheless, this never becomes a sacralization of Nature or other life forms which are not human:

Liberals reject laissez-faire exploitation of nature and, bearing in mind that man alone can take responsibility for the future of our planet, reject the view of those who put equal value on the lives of human beings and other living things.

Helsinki declaration on the Environment

Market Economy means that Liberals do not give way to a form of anarcho-capitalism or a form of socialist planned reform. They fight for places where all consumers can benefit from competition among different players for better and less expensive products, as well as those where producers can benefit from the needs and wishes of people.

22. The link which exists for liberals between a social market economy and liberal democracy also implies a constant battle against monopolies, cartels, restrictive trusts, restrictive practices and so-called “dominant positions”, open or disguised, private or public, except for cases authorised by law for justified and defined social needs.

-Liberal Appeal of Rome 1981

Equity means that Liberals are in favour of a fair and economically strong society. For, though social, natural and economic circumstances at birth are unequal, everyone should have access to a path that gives them possibility, by will and effort, to pursue their dreams and happiness. This implies both access to education and health services for young people and protection from unemployment and opportunity for entrepreneurship in adulthood.

11. We believe that a substantial part of the increased wealth available should be used to promote equality of opportunity, both for individuals and for nations all over the world. 13. It also requires the provision of the best possible educational facilities, physical as well as intellectual, humanist as well as technical, for everyone, irrespective of birth or means.

-Liberal Declaration of Oxford 1967

Cooperation and Peace means that Liberals are especially committed to compromises that involve all nations in mutual gains, and see peace as the most fundamental need between nations. For it is only when political agents put aside national political interests which shield interest groups that people can live in a prosperous world without disasters of war, destruction and untimely death.

War can be abolished and world peace and economic prosperity restored only if all nations fulfil the following conditions:

a) Loyal adherence to a world organisation of all nations, great and small, under the same law and equity, and with power to enforce strict observance of all international obligations freely entered into;

b) Respect for the right of every nation to enjoy the essential human liberties;

-Oxford Manifesto – 1947

Tiago Dias

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