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2008/9... Is there a future for Liberalism in South Africa Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Avishkar Govender, South Africa Oct 29, 2008
Human Rights   Opinions
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We understand Liberal values to be Peace and Human Rights, Constitutional Democracy, Universal Suffrage, Radical Subsidiarity and Individual Initiative; Indivisible and Individual Human and Environmental Freedoms, Rights and Responsibilities; Tolerance, Mutual Respect, Multicultural Pluralism, Dialogue and Learning; the Rule of Law and Open Democratic Civic Participation; Transparency and Accountability; an Equal Opportunity Open Society; Free Enterprise in an Open, Competitive, Market Economy; and Consultative, Responsive, Localised Government.

We understand the priorities of Local Government to be to ensure that the populace have equal access to Housing, Security, Healthcare, Nutrition, Welfare, Education, Opportunity and Growth; so that each and every individual may be able to develop to their full potential; if they so choose.

We understand Liberalism to be the belief in and practise of these values; and the application of these values to the arenas of public policy making, public governance and the private lives of the individuals.

So when we ask what is the future of Liberalism in South Africa we have to begin by looking at where Liberalism in South Africa has come from and where it is now?

Liberalism is inherently a cause of action which seeks to liberate the individual from bondage and servitude; thus enabling the individual to choose for themselves the paths which they take in their lives.

As such the cause of Liberalism has arisen whenever people have sought to overthrow, among other things, the tyranny of absolute dictatorships; the shackles of slavery and the ignominy of immobile social classes.

Liber means “a free man” as opposed to a slave; and it is clear that from this word came the word “liberty”; it is also clear that the concept of Liberty is closely related to the principles of Liberalism.

As the political, social and economic revolutions of our time have moved from rebellion against serfdom to rebellion against tyrannical governments; liberalism has always been at the forefront; demanding changes which would increase the extent of personal liberty.

So it is no wonder that Conservative, Communist, Socialist and Nationalist rhetoricians have all come to “steal” certain principles from Liberalism and to parade them as their own values. Many principles have been stolen; particularly the ones which make tyrants look like democrats.

But none of these instances have seen Conservatism, Communism, Socialism and Nationalism adopt the principles of Radical Subsidiarity, Individual Initiative, the Rule of Law and Open Democratic Civic Participation; and as such they have never been unable to realise the full value of a free enterprise driven market economy.

It is also not surprising that Neo-Conservatism which is the philosophy of greed and exploitation has come to be misunderstood as “Neo Liberalism”. Categorically; there is no such thing as neo-liberalism, it is a fallacy concocted by pseudo-left fashion activists; who have lapped up the plagiarism of certain Liberal values by the neo-conservatives; and have all been duped into believing the myth of neo-liberalism.

In response the malicious accusations of the pseudo left; which have falsely held that Liberalism does not care for the weak and the disadvantaged; Liberals in South Africa, and elsewhere, have tried to illustrate the “Social Dimension of Liberal Policy”. Again this has led to the creation of another myth; that of social liberalism. Social Liberalism does not exist; because the values of Liberalism itself satisfy the objectives of a “Socially Equitable” Liberal Democracy. Neo liberalism, social liberalism and social justice must be disregarded as the fallacies which they are in order to move forward with any debate on the future of Liberalism itself.

I refer you at this point to an essay entitled “2007/8 Do we need a new definition of Liberalism in South Africa?”

Therefore Liberalism, as it is defined at the beginning of this discussion, provides the means of equal opportunities; and through this provides the basis for people to improve the quality of their lives, if they so choose.

As such it is important at this point to suggest that Liberal policies may be best implemented by Liberals themselves; provided that such Liberals are focussed on their Liberal principles. It is most evident that Liberal governments which fail; do so by failing to adhere to their Liberal principles; in the implementation of public policy.

In addition to which it is also clear that there is a Liberal way of doing things which actually realises the goals of Liberalism within the context of the private lives of people and outside of the public space; and that here again it is incumbent upon Liberals to adhere to their Liberal principles in respect of the choices and decisions which they make in their daily lives.

However it is also important that Liberalism defends itself against having its values and policies hijacked by conservatives, socialists, nationalists and communists; and from being misrepresented as something which it is not. In order to do this, Liberals have to be vigilant that they do not allow people to hold denigrate the cause of Liberalism.

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Avishkar Govender

Avishkar Govender is a South African
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