In the last week of August, a workshop on basic liberalism for the new staff members of the Regional Office of the Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation in Bangkok was conducted. The workshop was facilitated by Mr. Rainer Heufers, the former project director of FNF Indonesia who is now working as a freelance consultant and trainer. The group of the seven participants was composed of some who were working for the Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation a couple of years and for one, it was the very first day. The workshop aimed to impart knowledge about the values of liberalism to the staff and how they can promote these values in their daily work.
On the first day basic liberal values were identified and what characterises a liberal person. It was concluded, that a liberal person must be tolerant, open-minded, respectful, rational, competitive and self-responsible. But of course, there are many different shades and some persons are more liberal than others. Afterwards, Mr. Heufers introduced the participants into some of the great liberal thinkers such as John Locke, Adam Smith, William Legget, John Gray, John Prince-Smith and Robert Nozick.
Each participant then had to prepare one text and present it to the others and lead the following discussion. That way, the new staff learnt a lot about the main topics economic freedom, democracy, political freedom, the rule of law and good governance.
One important writing discussed was “The Market and the Individual” written by Adam Smith in 1776. Adam Smith explains that the pursuit of the personal wealth leads to the wealth of all. Furthermore, he declares that the economic freedom is based on a circle of capital, employment, savings and income. To create wealth, the state has to inject capital at any point of the circle. This leads to the people having more capital to investigate and the circle is becoming a spiral. This influence by the state is named “the principle of the invisible hand” by Adam Smith.
The next day, the system of natural freedom was discussed. This system is based upon the basic idea that the government has only three tasks to fulfill: to protect citizens from foreign aggressions, to protect citizens from injustices and exploitation for which it creates a judiciary. And thirdly, to create and maintain public institutions that will not be created by individuals for a lack of person benefits.
In addition, it was explained, that there are four universal principles characterizing the rule of law: First, the government needs to be accountable under the law. Second, laws need to be clear, publicized, stable and fair and protect the fundamental rights of the people. Third, the process by which laws are enacted, administered and enforced is accessible, fair and efficient. Fourth, the access to justice is provided by competent, independent and ethical adjudicators, attorneys and judicial officers who are sufficient in numbers, have adequate resources and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.
One of the highlights of the workshop was the visit of a Bangkok municipality court . In order to learn more about the appliance of the rule of law and the legal system in Thailand ,the workshop participants had the chance to talk to one of the judges. The conversation was very interesting and informative and the judge took a lot of time answering all questions and showing the FNF staff around.
Another highlight was an online conference with Mr. Lito Arlegue from the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) and Mr. Jules Maaten from the Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation for Freedom Philippines office. Mr. Arlegue and Mr. Maaten took their time to talk about how they promote liberal ideas in the Southeast and East Asian region.
To complete the liberal training, Mr. Heufers explained the different kinds of liberalism. Thus, the participants learnt about the differences and similarities between classical liberalism, ordoliberalism and neoliberalism that liberal differs from country to country.The subject matter of the workshop was overall separated into a balanced mixture between active and interactive learning. Group work and discussions ensured an entertaining and interesting learning process.
The FNF Regional Office Southeast and East Asia would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Heufers on behalf of all participants for this very informative and interesting workshop. Having more such activities in the future can be highly recommended.