Does Freedom Equal Responsibility?

Autumn of next year will mark an incredible twenty years since I entered high-level politics — when for the first time I became the mayor of the city of Ostrava. Two decades of experience have also passed for my maternal party ODS. Although I do not recommend looking back at passed time, the current turbulent political scene caused me to evaluate the past twenty years. For me this period has been unbelievably long. I have changed physically quite a lot, but internally I have still the need to search for truth and justification for my opinions. However, I feel that to be able to accept the system established after 1989, two decades are a short period of time.

In thinking, I see many things that we have not achieved as representatives of the right-wing political spectrum on the Czech political scene. I wonder if we did not focus too much on our vision of the capitalistic world, and at the same time underestimate the explanations and persuasions about the justification for such a system. I am deeply convinced that the fundamental ideas about liberty and responsibility of a human being are still at the centre of right-wing political views.

But perhaps we have only managed to support that part of personal liberty, without increasing personal responsibility. I know how this is difficult to explain to people, as I know about solidarity in complicated situations. Solidarity is needed when people have health issues, suffer accidental tragedies, or leave abandoned children, among other problems. Solidarity in hard times is part of the democratically perceived world. And it is difficult to explain that a system based on the principle of minimizing public expenditure, on ensuring the basic administrative functioning of the state, also leaves enough finances for the solidarity we need.

Over these two decades people have become used to a certain standard of living, without the perception of how much financial pressure has increased. Expenditures were usually provided by increasing the debt of the public budget. In fact, that is the essence of the problems that Europe is facing; over many decades there have been political efforts to create a more secure life, guaranteed by the state, and these efforts have gained popularity with voters. Such a system worked, until it became obvious that the mentioned securities were financed not only from the balanced public finances (which could have been possible), but they were financed by loans, taken to pay for the promises. Therefore many European countries are dealing with their accumulated debts, which were largely caused by long-term debt-financing, which paid for the promises of better lives. Some countries drew loans for more than their economic performance. Now the consequences have arrived, and they have brought economic problems on a global scale.

With these developments in mind, I return to my initial reflections about the essential political discussion—the direct connection between the personal liberty and responsibility of a human during his lifetime. I believe that such a political debate is a never-ending debate between right-wing and left-wing politics. Currently such discussions are returning, and they are crucial. Today’s situation requires communication from the highest levels on our vision about the functioning of the state. On one hand it is necessary to communicate the economic possibilities of the state – what the state, under current conditions, is able to finance. On the other hand there are the ideas of the political parties. The parties need to decide what solution models they will present to their citizens. It is obvious that promises, covered by debt, will no longer be possible, because they will not be accepted by the rules of the financial world. Such a scenario would mean an immediate loss of trust, and this would lead to similar situations known in Greece, Spain, Portugal and others.

We do not live on an isolated island. Opening up the discussion on social solidarity, personal responsibility, people’s social securities and all related subjects will be crucial for us, and it will determine the future prosperity of our nation. Political parties need to clearly explain to their citizens how they view the future functions of the whole system. Personally, I will always be interested in the balanced relationship between liberty and personal responsibility. I would like to point out that it is necessary to inform the public about the possible dangers of limiting personal liberty, due to higher administrative controls, increasing social securities, and controlling many other things. This may be the second time, since 1989, that such a question for our society has held such importance.

By Evžen Tošenovský

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Category: CONTRIBUTORS, Evžen Tošenovský