A Summary of Liberal Fundamentals
Speech delivered by Dr. Ronald Meinardus* at the launching
of the book “Liberalism – A Primer,” Quezon
City, 12 April 2005
We have assembled to launch a book, or booklet, and this is cause
of celebration. The liberalism primer may look undersized and small
– compared with many other books in the market – but
to use an idiom from my own language – “the spice lies
in the brevity.”
Many books are published, but this book has a special importance.
The word primer already alludes to the fact that this is a basic,
fundamental piece of literature. All along, the intention had been
to come up with a book that would summarize the fundamentals of
the liberal ideology or in other words: the ideological fundamentals
I am very happy that this aim has been achieved, and liberals in
the Philippines now have a point of reference and orientation.
This orientation is important, yes crucial, as there continues
to be a lot of uncertainty about what liberalism actually means.
This is more than an academic problem. Because liberalism is contrary
to dogmatism, it does not offer simple solutions to complex challenges.
Often liberals of various shades take differing positions on crucial
matters. This is not only the case in the Philippines but typical
for all liberal organizations.
I hasten to add that this openness to discussion, the opposition
to dogmatism should not be misconstrued as ideological fuzziness
or lack of principles. We liberals have clearly defined principles.
And as the primer makes clear – some of these are not negotiable:
- The freedom of the individual (combined with responsibility)
- Human rights and the rule of law
- Equality of opportunities and the belief in the market economy
In my discussions, I often hear this is common sense. Indeed, also
our political opponents from other camps have hijacked parts of
the liberal program. While this is commendable on the one side,
often these ideological hijackers are not sincere in their “liberalism;”
they may pick certain elements of the liberal agenda and leave others
* A conservative may be in favor of the market economy, but at
the same time a proponent of the death penalty. Is he a liberal?
I would say no.
* A socialist may be for human rights, but at the same time against
the right to own property and the idea of a free market. Is she
a liberal? I would say no.
The timing of this publication is very fortunate. The primer is
being launched in a period of enthusiasm and optimism in the liberal
In a political sense, the liberal forces are expanding. In this
process, the Liberal Party (LP) has assigned a clear role to the
NIPS, the liberal think tank. FNF is proud to be associated with
the liberal think tank for many years – and I would like to
renew our commitment to support the Institute in the future in its
important task of promoting the liberal agenda. This is mainly an
educative effort – in which the production of printed materials
(such as the primer) play a crucial role.
As the representative of the liberal Foundation, I follow with
admiration the developments in the liberal camp. I am impressed
by the comprehensive strategic plan of the LP – and the commitment
of the party leadership to come up – in step three of a four
step process – with clearly defined party positions on key
In this regard, the Philippine LP is far ahead of other political
parties (with the exception maybe of the parties to the left). But
compared with liberal parties in other Asian countries the LP still
has a long way to go before it is termed a platform-based political
formation. All the more, the clear commitment to work in this direction
should be highlighted.
One crucial condition for programmatic work and discussions in
the political party is the knowledge of the common ideological roots.
Unlike in other parties, this is very well available in the liberal
camp. This is where the primer comes in.
I hope that it will not only be considered by those who have set
out to reformulate the LP’s platform of government –
an effort that the Foundation has expressed its intention to cosponsor
– but also by many, many Filipinos who are not (yet) attached
to the liberal family. The more people read the booklet the better.
In my three years in the Philippines, I have come to understand
that a majority of Filipinos treasure liberal values. In my eyes,
strategically this popularity of the liberal paradigm is the single
most important condition for the growth of organized liberalism
in this country.
*Dr. Ronald Meinardus is the former resident representative
of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation Philippines