What made you go from liberal to libertarian

Why our country needs liberal forces and why Lukas Bärfuss is wrong

At the end of the year, Lukas Bärfuss, writer and intellectual, expressed his concern in a three-page article in the Sonntagsblick that a libertarian political caste is leading our country, our state, our society not only to the abyss, but beyond. The rules of the majority would no longer be recognized, institutions would be called into question, in sum - this is how it should be interpreted - the law of the stronger applies. He demonstrated this using the example of the vote on the No-Billag initiative. The arguments of the proponents show how democratically legitimized rules are no longer accepted.

It remains to be seen whether the No Billag initiative is the appropriate subject for a fundamental debate on the state of our country. But the thesis that Lukas Bärfuss puts forward is worth discussing. He consistently uses the adjective "libertarian" to describe the malaise that he sees as existing.

Fatal mixture of "liberal" and "libertarian"

"Libertarian" is often used as a swear word by those circles who see the good for society in the greatest possible equality to be brought about by the state, in a comprehensive care mentality, and in a state that has a solution for every life situation . In many cases, firstly, no distinction is made between liberal and libertarian and, secondly, everything that does not correspond to one's own ideology is labeled with it.

Apart from the fact that one might think - if one listens to the arguments of the supporters as well as those of the opponents of the No-Billag initiative that the fate of Switzerland depends on the outcome of the vote on March 4th - Lukas Bärfuss is threatened even anarchy, it is remarkable to what extent “liberal” and “libertarian” are mixed up in this discussion. It is indeed true that there are libertarian circles behind No-Billag, and one may and may find that worthy of support or condemnation. On the other hand, it is out of place to reject everything that smells of less state and more personal responsibility at the same time, or to use the welcome opportunity to lump libertarian and liberal views in the same pot and thus show how very much these values ​​would damage our country.

Why it takes liberal forces

As a Chamber of Commerce, we advocate a liberal framework. For the economy in particular, such retrospectives prove to be more suitable, more promising and more fruitful than regulated, interventionist systems, even in the historical and, above all, system-comparing retrospect. This goes hand in hand with our conviction that a free (economic) system is ultimately to the benefit of everyone and increases the welfare of society as a whole. It would be libertarian to completely deny the importance of public structures, whereas liberal means to recognize the importance of a strong state.

Economic activity is successful where there is security and a stable framework and where property is protected. These are tasks that are incumbent on the democratic constitutional state and are thus sanctioned by the democratic society through laws. Liberal structures enable the individual to advance independently, but also take responsibility for the weak. This is based on the conviction that social security also contributes to stability and must be borne by the general public. Libertarian structures, on the other hand, which reject regulatory state principles at all, could ultimately also mean anarchy, a situation that is undesirable not only for society but also for companies.

The question that one has to answer every day in the liberal system is not how the state structures can be made to disappear completely, but rather the question of which structures are justified, how far-reaching they can and should be and where their limits are. The answer to this question also arises from this: There must be limits where the individual is restricted in his independence, whose development possibilities are curtailed, where the incentive to advance is taken away from him.

Freedom model for success in danger

We have a responsibility to our state, so I don't disagree with the anti-libertarian shouts. Let us take care of our institutions, but let us not exaggerate them, let us not allow them to become fed up and complacent and to spread themselves too far. As a business association, we do not advocate libertarian concerns. But we consider it our task to point out again and again that we are in the process of leaving our liberal system step by step, to cut this piece by piece, to let it get smaller and smaller, to give it up more and more in favor of additional regulations instead of agreements between self-responsible individuals, and ultimately at the expense of our freedom.

That's not what No-Billag is about, dear Lukas Bärfuss. But that is what many other issues are about, which today - as an economy in particular, but also as a society - ought to move us much more, because much more is at stake. And: In a democratic system it must also be allowed to discuss and vote again and again about which limits, which rules, which regulations we want. That is what it is all about today, and that is what our country needs liberal forces.


Thoughts on the New Year from Director Regine Sauter on the occasion of the New Year's event of the Zurich Chamber of Commerce on January 8, 2018