Why is MN so liberal

Liberalism is also a question of character

How should the independent individual assert himself in a collectivized, increasingly opaque society? That is the question that arises for all liberals right now. The answer: think about your own virtue.

The liberals have to be imagined as generous people. He doesn't preach. He doesn't want to teach. He wants to learn and achieve. Privileges are frowned upon. But nobody should be able to prevent him from doing his thing. He loves competition because it gets the best out of him. And he values ​​the wisdom that lies in human action. Although he trusts his reason, he also knows how limited it is and how unpredictable life is. He is not afraid of chance, but tries to use it because it reminds him that everything could always be different.

You rarely hear him complain or moan. He does not like the victim position, even if it has hit him hard. He prefers to ask himself what he can do with what others do with and with him. He distrusts all collectivisms and salvation teachings and always thinks from the perspective of the individual who affects the world, others and himself.

In short, the liberal sees himself as an individual who is responsible for himself. On the one hand, this means taking responsibility for what triggers what you do. But it also means in a comprehensive sense to respond to what you think, say or do yourself, i.e. to reflect on yourself and at the same time to know that you are shaping yourself through every single act. Personal responsibility, understood in this way, is the other side, one could also say: the philosophical core of freedom.


A self-reliant life, as it has been described by thinkers of liberalism since the Scottish Enlightenment in the 17th century, is only possible under a rule of laws that apply equally to all. The individual must be able to assess the consequences of his or her thinking, saying and doing and must never be at the mercy of other people or the state for even a second. In the West, after hard battles, freedom rights, the rule of law, a market economy and democracy prevailed.

These institutions are - to use the formulation of the Scottish philosopher Adam Ferguson - the result of human action, but not human intention. They have proven themselves because they enabled most people to have a better, in other words, a more dignified life. They have given the West - and ultimately the whole world - tremendous freedom and undreamt-of prosperity.

A major argument of the Liberals of all time has centered around these institutions. And this argument went like this: Since humans are neither angels nor animals (as Blaise Pascal once wrote), but humans, they need an order that makes harmful behavior unattractive and rewards valuable behavior. Self-interest should work for the benefit of all. It was Immanuel Kant, one of the greats of the liberal tradition, who created a catchy phrase for it: Even in the case of "a people of devils", a good state constitution ensures that the result of its collective action is as good as if all "angels" would be.

The liberals were never advocates of unscrupulous selfishness, as the socialists assumed, but it was the other way around: on the one hand, they wanted to respect the freedom of the individual and, on the other hand, promote an order that also worked with people who were morally beyond doubt. Man educates himself when he acts independently, because he is capable of learning and becomes wise from damage. Liberal democracy and the market economy continue to be rightly invoked in Sunday speeches as civilizing achievements. But it is just as true that they have fundamentally changed their face in the past few decades.


The state no longer regulates the lives of its citizens only through general laws, but sets its own goals and prescribes what the good life should consist of. It privileges individual social groups over others, be they women, families or homeowners, and it promotes certain economic sectors more than others - the farmers, for example, educational institutions or high-tech companies. Anyone staying illegally in a country is tolerated, meanwhile tax offenses are punished harshly. The collectivization of social life has assumed unimagined dimensions. Citizens are looked after from cradle to grave. The fiscal quota in the western states is 50 percent and more - Ludwig von Mises once called this "semi-socialism". In the economies of the supposedly free countries, the state has become the most important economic actor. Freedom of contract and the protection of property apply de iure, but de facto they have long been restricted to such an extent that ordinary citizens need legal assistance if they want to keep an eye on things.

The liberal institutions lose their stringency, one could also say: their virtue. And the liberals? You have to rediscover the virtues. For them a completely new question arises: How should the self-reliant individual assert himself in a collectivized, increasingly opaque society? One thing is clear: Sunday speeches are no longer enough. It's about doing something yourself.


"Virtue" comes from "good". This is to be understood as a role model attitude that has proven itself in everyday life - for oneself and for others. Nassim Taleb puts it nicely in his new book “Skin in the Game”: “Laws come and go; morality remains. " So the liberal begins with himself and works on his attitude, on the coherence of thinking, saying and doing. He thinks freely. He says what he thinks - even if he shocks sensitive souls. And he does what he says, even if it is uncomfortable for himself. He is not afraid to contradict himself - he sees himself as a curious person who is constantly learning.

In everything he has skin in the game. He always weighs up and looks intrepid into the future. In doing so, he develops his own aesthetic sensorium for symmetry: Upside and downside in life and business should always be in a reasonable relationship to one another. Anyone who has a lot more downside than upside has been pissed off. Those who have more upside than downside may be particularly skilled. But maybe he also lives at the expense of others, so immorally. The liberal learns more from his own mistakes than from the wisdom of others. He's trying. He diversifies. He distrusts all forms of collectivism and centralism. He supports the poor next door instead of philosophizing about poverty in the world. He knows that virtue cannot be bought, only practiced. And he treats other people with the same respect that he gives himself. Because whatever he does, it has an effect on him.

So is the liberal retreating into the private sphere? But on the contrary. He is as belligerent as he is fearless. But he has understood: personal responsibility means the rejection of the tyranny of the all too easy. The liberal likes to have it easy, but that doesn't make it easy for himself.

What does liberal mean?

rib. Freedom: It is still a central point of reference in political debates. Only, their reputation has suffered. She's coming under pressure from all sides. The question is urgent: What does freedom mean in a globalized digital world? Under the title "What does liberal mean"? authors look for answers and outline approaches to liberalism for the 21st century.