Policy or programme designed to redress historic injustices committed against racial minorities and other specified groups by making special efforts to provide members of these groups with access to educational and employment opportunities. AFFIRMATIVE ACTION attempts to provide immediate remedy for past discrimination and prevent discrimination from taking place in the future. It promotes EQUALITY by recognising that when people are in unequal positions treating them the same perpetuates systemic inequalities.
The opposite of RULE OF LAW, ie, an environment in which there is no LAW, LAW is ignored, LAW is not applicable or applied to all people within its jurisdiction or different LAWs are applied in similar cases. Too many LAWs or contradictory LAWs may have the same effect of promoting ARBITRARINESS.
The ability to freely determine one’s own course in life. Referring to territory within a STATE: a clearly defined region within a STATE with far-reaching powers of self-government. The STATE retains overall SOVEREIGNTY and some important responsibilities (eg, the legal system (including the CONSTITUTION), overall security (including defence) and relations with foreign STATES).
The distribution of power in a system such that no one ESTATE may overwhelm others. This is achieved through mutual control. Acts by the Legislature, for instance, are subject to judicial review. The legislature may vote a government out of office.
An inhabitant of a country who is recognised to have full rights, including all political rights, who has a corresponding set of obligations to fulfill and who is entitled to protection by the government. A resident who is not a citizen also enjoys rights and has obligations to fulfil – but they are not as extensive, eg., rights would not include a right to a passport and, usually, the right to vote and to be elected into office; obligations would not include military service or serving in a jury.
A FIRST GENERATION of HUMAN RIGHTS compiled during the 17th and 18th centuries that aim to defend individual freedom against the power of the STATE. They include the rights to equal treatment before the LAW, to security, to protection against ARBITRARY RULE, to ownership of property, to freedom of conscience, expression and opinion.
A term frequently used in modern political discourse often meaning little more than PLURALISM.
Originally the term had a very specific meaning. In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville delineated three realms of society: 1) the STATE, which comprises the system of formal political representation, courts, bureaucracies, police and army; 2) CIVIL SOCIETY, which essentially comprises the system of private and economic interests; and 3) political society with its political associations such as local government, juries, and political parties and its civil associations such as churches, schools and commercial organisations. In recent times de Tocqueville’s third category, political society, has become the basis for a newly constructed concept of CIVIL SOCIETY.
The tendency has been for ex-Marxists and non-Marxists alike to stress the specifically non-economic and non-state dimensions of CIVIL SOCIETY and to focus attention on civic, cultural, educational, religious, and other organisations operating autonomously from the STATE itself. There is, hence, no single correct definition of what CIVIL SOCIETY is.
Liberals tend to see CIVIL SOCIETY as the realm in which individuals act and interact independently of government and the STATE. The STATE assumes tasks only when individuals – by themselves or in co-operation with others – cannot (see SUBSIDIARITY). The liberal concept of CIVIL SOCIETY presupposes limited government.
Liberals see CIVIL SOCIETY as the counterpart of government. The STATE is subservient to CIVIL SOCIETY. The vision of a CIVIL SOCIETY is one in which society is tolerant of diversity, religious and political, and in which the STATE does not impose any comprehensive doctrine. A characteristic of this vision is RULE OF LAW – an institution that restrains both government and individual citizens in their conduct.
CIVIL SOCIETY is characterised by the institution of private property. Private property is seen as an “enabling device” allowing individuals with different goals to pursue such goals without recourse to a collective decision-making procedure.
Liberal is committed to a market economy and competition is a defining feature thereof. When we talk about the liberalisation of markets we are talking about promoting competition as a means creating a more prosperous society. Competition may be seen as a liberal value. It requires that an equal playing field exists for all market participants to buy and sell products and to develop and implement ideas and strategies to maximise their respective returns. Competition is also a very important tool in combating the formation of monopolies whose primary goal is to prevent participants from challenging the dominant position of a particular player or group of players – hence the important of “competition policy”.
Government by the people, either by them directly, or through elected representatives (REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY). Commonly used in a broader sense: a society which favours equal rights, freedom of speech, a fair trial and tolerates the views of minorities.
The process of removing or simplifying legal and administrative constraints on the economy and entrepreneurial activity – often with the intent of allowing markets to operate more freely and smoothly and hence to become more efficient or with the intent of opening up new areas of trade. Deregulation is different from liberalization because a liberalized market, while often having fewer and simpler regulations, doesn’t preclude the possibility of strict regulation in order to protect consumers' rights or to en sure competition through anti-trust regulation.
Additionally, we should distinguish between deregulation and privatisation which refers to a process of transferring state-owned enterprises into private hands with a view to improving performance, providing a service to the public as well as reducing a government's workload in public provision.
DIRECT DEMOCRACY refers to a system whereby CITIZENs influence government directly (ie, not only through elections). Plebiscites / referendums / constitutional initiatives (USA) are the instruments of DIRECT DEMOCRACY. They may be consultative (a government is not obliged to act) or mandatory (a government must put the CITIZENs’ decision into effect). Cf, REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY.
Education is a fundamental democratic value that allows for the development of each individual and the society to which it belongs. Education involves the transformation of the individual and improvement through the acquisition of knowledge. Education has conceptual, skills- related, moral and attitudinal dimensions. To educate oneself is a responsibility of all citizens and members of society.
The Age of Enlightenment was an 18th century movement in Western philosophy. It was an age of optimism, tempered by the realistic recognition of the sad state of the human condition and the need for major reforms. The Enlightenment was less a set of ideas than it was a set of attitudes. At its core was a critical questioning of traditional institutions, customs, and morals.
The era is marked by such political changes as governmental consolidation, nation-creation, greater rights for common people, and a decline in the influence of authoritarian institutions such as the nobility and Church.
The Enlightenment occupies a central role in the justification for the movement known as modernism. A variety of 20th century movements, including liberalism and neo-classicism, trace their intellectual heritage back to the Enlightenment. The movement points to reductionism and rationality as crucial aspects of Enlightenment thinking, of which it is the heir, as opposed to irrationality and emotionalism. Seen from this perspective, the Enlightenment represents the basis for the liberal stand against superstition and intolerance.
The Enlightenment is held to be the source of ideas that are crucial for the self image and workings of contemporary society: the commitment to freedom, to democracy and to reason.
Capitalism refers to the economic system where the means of production are privately owned and are exploited solely for profit. In a capitalist economy government intervention is minimal and pricing is essentially controlled by the 'invisible hand' of the market. 'Laissez Faire' or 'let do' is the norm of free markets. It is believed that markets and trade function best when there is little or no state intervention and only minimal taxation (no more than absolutely essential). A capitalist economy ensures that through free and fair competition profits are maximised for the producers and consumers get the best quality product at the best possible price.
Free trade is a market-based principle that requires that the exchange of goods and services between or within countries is unobstructed by government-imposed restrictions and controls. Free trade enhances competition and breaks down local protectionism. And also enhances the profitability of local industries by enabling them to shop around for better deals, and thus helping them to reduce their costs of production and improve the quality of their goods.
In the most general terms, free trade contributes to the achievement of an optimal distribution of resources, creation of job opportunities and enhancement of productivity and economic efficiency that results in higher average living standards both at home and abroad. As Adam Smith wrote in 1776: “It is the maxim of every prudent master of a family, never to attempt to make at home what it will cost him more to make than to buy.”
Political freedom is the absence of interference in the sovereignty of an individual. The members of a free society have full dominion over their public and private lives. The opposite of a free society would be a totalitarian state that restricts political freedom in order to regulate almost every aspect of behaviour. In this sense ‘freedom’ refers solely to the relation of men to other men, and the only infringement on it is coercion by men.
Freedom of expression is commonly known as freedom of speech but embraces a wider arena of different forms of expression. It includes one’s rights to embrace ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers as well as expressing them non-violently using different forms of expression (speech, writing, visual and/or auditory means) without being subjected to different forms of censorship or other forms of suppression, prevention, or threat.
Compiled and edited by Dr. Stefan Melnik, a senior advisor to the Friedrich Naumann Foundation as well as political communication trainer, editor and author of many books on liberalism. Names of outside contributors are respectively mentioned under the terms.